Fighting for animal liberation and an end to speciesism
"ARZone is facilitating and exacerbating the confusion about animal ethics by acting as a showcase for new welfarists, who are presented in a format that does not allow for any effective challenging of their claims.”
~ Gary Francione, writing at the Abolitionist Approach forum.
In your opinion, Professor Francione, in your opinion. Now, I realize that in the circles you run, your opinion is gospel, but out here in the real world, thank goodness, it isn’t. So, let us examine the claim, bit by bit.
“ARZone is…a showcase for new-welfarists”
What is a “showcase for new-welfarists”? I don’t know what Francione means, but typically, a showcase is a place where something is put on display, in its best possible light, so as to help the sale of the thing. Is that what ARZone does?
When we have guests on who disagree with any of our views, and we ask them questions which highlight those disagreements and call them to explain them, is that putting those guests forth in the best possible light? Whether the guest answers a question to our complete satisfaction is another matter altogether, and it’s one every interviewer and debater has faced. But questions are asked, and follow-ups are asked, and the transcripts are read and commented on. The guest’s ideas are challenged and debated, whether during the chat or afterward. So, no, there’s no objective standard by which one can claim that ARZone acts as a “showcase” for anyone, as that term is normally understood. Others, like Francione, will still claim it, but it’s just their opinion. It isn’t a fact.
Does ARZone “facilitate and exacerbate confusion about animal ethics” even if it is not acting as a showcase for “new-welfarists”? I’m not sure how. Unless one assumes that the visitors to the ARZone website will be unable to follow the chat and read and understand the conversation, then it seems that people will be able to see when a guest dodges a question or answers incompletely or incoherently. Given that site traffic is almost as high for the two days following the chat as it is on the day of the chat, it appears that many people are taking the time to digest the information gleaned from the chats. Francione himself took part in a conversation on the site in the days following Robert Garner’s chat, both as part of a live discussion in the main chat room, as well as in the comment thread of the transcript to the chat. He knows how the process works. How that process is supposed to facilitate and exacerbate confusion eludes me, and so this part of the claim has no objective basis either. It isn’t a fact.
Perhaps the part of the claim which gives it its force is this: “new welfarists, who are presented in a format that does not allow for any effective challenging of their claims”. But that’s already been addressed. It is true that guests are asked questions and that they are often not asked follow-ups, but they are available to be asked, and whether it is in the chat itself, or in the ensuing discussions in the comments to the posted transcript and elsewhere, challenges are made. It is entirely possible as well that our members realize that some guests are not going to be very forthcoming in their responses, and that follow-up questions to them may not be useful. If that is true, it indicates that challenges are unnecessary, because the challenge is implicit – ARZone is an animal rights website and social network, and our members are typically knowledgeable and supportive of animal rights – they are confident enough in their own views to let some things go unchallenged during the chat. We are a civil bunch after all.
There is an argument to be made that a better way to question guests would be to “hold their feet to the fire” and press them on issues until they “break”. I guess if there was a way to lock the door to the chat room so guests had no choice but to stay and answer badgering questions, that would be an option. But, as I am sure Francione knows from experience, when one doesn’t want to continue a debate, one can always just walk out of the room. So, while the format isn’t perfect, it does allow for the guests to be challenged, and challenged they are. It may be an open question about how well guests are challenged, but to say that ARZone doesn’t allow for ANY effective challenging of its guest is just flat wrong. It isn’t a fact.
In summary, while it is Francione’s opinion that “ARZone is facilitating and exacerbating the confusion about animal ethics by acting as a showcase for new welfarists, who are presented in a format that does not allow for any effective challenging of their claims”, it is only his opinion, it is not based on any clear objective standards, any fair reading of the record, or any reasonable appraisal of the entirety of the website.
Francione makes one more claim, and this one is quite insidious. He says, about ARZone: “It is just one of a million little entities out there that carry water in one way or another for the dominant new welfarist machine, which is led by the large groups.”
ARZone is a “little entity”. I guess, since ARZone’s membership is nearly eight times the size of Francione’s forum, we shouldn’t take that to mean little in size but instead, of little significance. I’ll ignore the obvious condescension; if I were to dwell on every petty insult from Francione, there’d be no time for anything else in life.
“Carry the water” is a term that means, roughly, do the dirty work for someone else, someone more powerful who needs servants (i.e. waterboys). Oops, I said I would ignore the insults!
Anyway, ARZone, because it hosts some guests who hold views with which we disagree, and because, in Francione’s opinion we don’t sufficiently interrogate those guests, therefore we are actually working for, acting as the servants of, the dominant new-welfarist machine. Is that not an outrageous charge? It seems to me it is. I can understand Francione’s disagreement with the efficacy of ARZone’s methodology (although a little generosity with respect to those efforts wouldn’t kill him, would it?). But this is nothing short of ridiculous. Because ARZone doesn’t meet Francione’s standards, he is accusing ARZone of being complicit (with those nefarious “large groups” no less) in the continuation of the use, abuse, and misuse of nonhuman individuals. This is a serious charge, and it is one he should retract.
Gary Francione’s views and opinions about ARZone and the work being done there are not grounded in any objective facts or supported by any fair review of the body of work produced by ARZone over the course of the last 13 months. The conclusions he reaches, based on his unfounded views and opinions, are false. His characterization of ARZone as supportive of and working together with new-welfarists is misguided and mistaken. His claims about ARZone can be,and should be, dismissed.
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