From a strict ideological stand-point, Steve Best is less “dangerous” than me…
One of 50 billion reasons we support militant direct action: Park rangers at Zakouma National Park, in Chad, Africa, investigating the hacked face of a 20-year-old elephant.
By Jason Miller
In light of my close alignment with Dr. Steve Best, the spurious and maliciously defamatory accusations leveled against Steve by Gary Francione (an ostensible ally since he labels himself a vegan abolitionist), gross misrepresentations of my own philosophical positions, and false allegations about my praxis, I decided it was necessary to clarify some of these matters.
I started forging close ties with Steve in May of 2008 when I did an extensive interview with him and published it on my radical blog, Thomas Paine’s Corner. Just as Steve was back in 2001, at the time of our interview I was an anti-capitalist thinker and activist who was just beginning to embrace the Animal Rights Movement. We hit it off well in the interview, and recognizing that we were kindred souls, we unconsciously developed a mentor-student relationship. Which makes me a living, breathing contradiction to the venomous and false allegations made first by David Martosko of the abominable Center for Consumer Freedom (an Orwellian named entity that fronts for the interests of the likes of the tobacco and alcohol industries—they’ve even attacked MADD) and now by Gary Francione. Both have falsely claimed that Best recruits for the Animal Liberation Front and encourages people to engage in militant actions.
To those who believe these ridiculous attempts to assassinate Steve Best’s character, read this very carefully: Steve Best and I are close allies; I’ve been privileged to have had Steve as my mentor for almost two years; Steve and I have co-written a trilogy of essays that were published in book format; Steve is a senior editor with my blog, Thomas Paine’s Corner; I have taken the philosophy that I have learned under his tutelage and put it into practice via above-ground, legal and aggressive activism; and, pay close attention here, STEVE BEST HAS NEVER ENCOURAGED ME TO ENGAGE IN MILITANT DIRECT ACTION OR ILLEGAL ACTIONS OF ANY KIND. How absurd it would be to swallow the notion that Steve would recruit his mainstream, speciesist philosophy students at UTEP to join the ALF but neglect to attempt to draw me, one of his most passionate pupils, who is a vegan abolitionist and who is deeply embedded in the Animal Rights Movement, into his “web of intrigue.”
Like my mentor, I have chosen the path of writer, thinker, counter-propagandist, and above-ground, legal activist, Through Thomas Paine’s Corner, I write and publish critical essays and articles on a vast array of topics (actually publishing far more pieces composed by others than I do of my own). Bite Club of KC, the local grass-roots animal rights activism group that I started in July 2009 is the means by which I take my activism from my blogs/Internet network to the streets.
My philosophy is militant in that I do support direct action, but my activism (creative, relentless, and uncompromising as it is) does not involve ALF-type actions or *violence. Critics of nearly all stripes, the FBI, local law enforcement, some members of the media, and the oppressors and exploiters whom I’ve confronted have distorted my position, accused me of thought crimes (as far as I know, those don’t exist, YET), and treated me as if I presented an immediate physical threat–poised to mount an armed insurrection, or to “go postal,” at any moment. While I’m an ardent supporter of the Second Amendment and would fight to the death to defend those I love, human or nonhuman animals who were under attack in my immediate vicinity, or myself, the destruction of the tools of exploiters or acts of violence are not tactics I employ to evoke the social change that our movement seeks.
[NOTE: *By violence, I mean harming or killing a person. Without reserve or much nuance, I support destroying the tools of exploitation and freeing imprisoned nonhuman animals, just as Steve does. We both reject the notion that such acts are violent.]
Being a high profile activist and simultaneously engaging in illegal actions (not including civil disobedience–that I’ve done and would do again) strikes me as a nearly certain way to neutralize oneself via imprisonment or death. I don’t like thinking in dichotomies, but in this instance, the sensible viewpoint is that one is either an above-ground, legal activist or an underground, illegal activist. Having faced harassment, surveillance, investigation, intimidation, and arrest for forceful and persistent legal activist endeavors, I am well-acquainted with the insidious nature of the Green Scare. And my experiences are proof of the assertion that many in our movement and in other social justice movements have made: We need a firewall between legal activists operating in the public eye and those who engage in underground acts for which the corporate state would persecute them.
L to R: Rod Coronado, Steve Best and Gary Yourofsky
With respect to my personal ideology, I even went a step beyond my mentor. I joined Jerry Vlasak, long-time activist, trauma surgeon, and lead press officer with the North American Animal Liberation Press Office, and Gary Yourofsky, long time activist and vegan educator extraordinaire, in philosophically supporting potential violence against an egregious, recalcitrant, and irredeemable nonhuman animal torturer or murderer.
Having taken that position, I find it almost infinitely ironic that anti-abortionists have killed several abortion doctors over the last couple of decades. Yet animal rights activists (who have never killed a single human) receive the label of “terrorists,” while murderers like Scott Roeder somehow conveniently avoid that moniker. That simply shows the deep prejudices, hypocrisies, tendencies toward far right wing ideologies, and grossly misplaced priorities which are inherent in this Calvinists/capitalist socio-cultural morass in which we find ourselves. Were I a zealous anti-abortion advocate, I might publicly applaud Roeder’s act, as some in that movement have. However, it’s troublesome that they’ve done so surprisingly free of public condemnation, marginalization, investigation, or arrest while those of us in the Animal Rights Movement who have even spoken or written of the potential use of violence to defend nonhuman animals have been scathingly rebuked, vilified, and even investigated by the FBI.
While I have not, and will not, call upon people to engage in acts of violence (nor engage in them myself), as a thinker as well as an activist, I recognize that it is unrealistic, ahistorical, and myopic to believe that the Animal Rights Movement will make the impact we seek to make without perpetrating violence—as every social justice movement in history has, excepting the movement for people with disabilities (they had a vast groundswell of public support that negated the need to forcefully advance their agenda).
We are opposing powerful moneyed interests who stand to lose a great deal of their money if our movement succeeds; deeply rooted social and cultural elements that reinforce and perpetuate anthropocentrism, dominionism, and speciesism; a legal system that protects the “rights” of nonhuman animal torturers and murderers, and a tidal wave of people who like the taste of meat too much to give a damn about the pain and suffering of other animals.
While laws like the AETA are evidence that the Animal Exploitation Complex does view our movement as a serious threat to its profits, to evoke a paradigm shift of the magnitude we seek will probably require more drastic measures. Besides the Green Scare-driven corporate-state repression for such things as freeing minks, destroying vivisection labs, chalking side-walks, chanting, using bull-horns, wearing T-shirts, and running aggressive campaigns to oppose deer culls will eventually push the movement into a position where activists become violent. You’d better bet the pro-choice side takes the anti-abortion movement seriously. And it’s obvious that anti-abortionists have become so frustrated with using legal means to evoke social change that they have become willing to engage in violence.
Unlike the anti-abortion movement, the Animal Rights Movement has not become violent. Which means that my views on that subject are of little importance at this point. That hasn’t stopped a number of people from scrutinizing them and attempting to define them more for me. As those individuals speculate and conjecture, allow me to do my own defining, starting with some hypothetical questions.
Would I call for an act of violence against an egregious animal exploiter? No.
Would I commit said act myself? No, for the reasons I mentioned earlier in this piece.
Would I philosophically and morally support said act, were it to happen? Yes.
Would I hypothetically contemplate ways in which our movement could become more radical and violent and whether or not it would be morally problematic if we did? Yes, as I did here.
Would I ideologically support violence against large segments of the human population (i.e. poisoning the meat supply or blowing up an office building)? No, my position is very nuanced and I would only lend my moral and philosophical support to an act of violence against an incorrigible and blatant nonhuman animal exploiter.
Would I support an act of violence against an everyday person for being a speciesist “meat” eater, wearing fur, or supporting vivisection because they’ve been brain-washed to believe it’s essential for ALL medical advances? No.
Baby pigs whose heads were slammed against the floor
To sum it up in a tangible, concise way, I philosophically support a form of potential vigilantism (employed only after exhausting other available means to stop the perpetrator) against morally rapacious and repugnant individuals whom would never be stopped nor brought to justice by our speciesist, corrupt, bankrupt and broken legal system. As an anti-speciesist and a parent, I view nonhuman animals in much the way I view young human children–vulnerable, exploitable, defenseless, easily manipulated and easily tormented or killed. Who among you wouldn’t support and applaud the killer of a child torturer and murderer whom the legal system could not touch?
My ideological support for hypothetical violence committed by the Animal Rights Movement is very narrow and specific, yet I maintain it. Note the irony that despite having a bigger platform, more experience in the movement, and a more far-reaching voice, from a strict ideological stand-point, Steve Best is less “dangerous” than me. And neither of us engage in violence (let alone commit acts of sabotage that don’t result in human injury or death) or encourage others to do so.
Given the above, why is Steve under scrutiny and under siege?
And furthermore, considering the fact that we, as a species, slaughter 50 billion nonhuman animals each year and torture countless others; the fact that said nonhuman animals lack much capacity to defend themselves from our species; the fact that they have no ability to speak for themselves in a language that we understand; the fact that they feel physical pain, suffer emotionally, and value their lives, just as we do; and the fact that it is quite possible for the human species to exist without inflicting suffering and death upon nonhuman animals (making their torment and death abjectly immoral), my philosophical support of violence against individual mass torturers and murderers of nonhuman animals is restrained. And Steve’s philosophical support for acts of sabotage and freeing the oppressed is even more restrained in the face of the nearly overwhelming malevolent barbarism of this ongoing human war on other animals.
Meanwhile, kudos to my mentor, Steve Best, for integrating animal liberation and anti-capitalist/anti-oppression philosophies into the unified pursuit of total liberation of human animals, nonhuman animals, and the Earth and for supporting underground militants who carry out the laudable and necessary task of freeing the oppressed and destroying the tools of their exploiters. And a pox upon the house of Gary Francione for his McCarthyesque tactics intended to destroy Steve’s career and land him in prison.
Dr. Steve Best is TPC’s Senior Editor of Total Liberation. Associate professor of philosophy at UTEP, award-winning writer, noted speaker, public intellectual, and seasoned activist, Steven Best engages the issues of the day such as animal rights, ecological crisis, biotechnology, liberation politics, terrorism, mass media, globalization, and capitalist domination. Best has published 10 books, over 100 articles and reviews, spoken in over a dozen countries, interviewed with media throughout the world, appeared in numerous documentaries, and was voted by VegNews as one of the nations “25 Most Fascinating Vegetarians.” He has come under fire for his uncompromising advocacy of “total liberation” (humans, animals, and the earth) and has been banned from the UK for the power of his thoughts. From the US to Norway , from Sweden to France , from Germany to South Africa , Best shows what philosophy means in a world in crisis.
Jason Miller, the Senior Editor and Founder of TPC, is a tenacious vegan abolitionist and animal rights activist who lives in Kansas. He has a boundless passion for animal liberation and anti-capitalism. Addicted to reading and learning, he is mostly an autodidact, but he studied liberal arts and philosophy at the University of Missouri Kansas City. In early 2005, he founded the widely read radical blog, Thomas Paine’s Corner. Jason is an accomplished, prolific essayist and his writings on social and political issues have appeared on hundreds of alternative media websites over the last few years. He is a press officer for the North American Animal Liberation Press Office, a founding member and regional director of the Global Anti-Hunting Coalition, and the founder of Bite Club of KC, a grassroots animal rights activist group which he started in Kansas City in 2009 and through which he and his allies give animal exploiters some serious hell. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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