Response to Sunday Mail article 06/08/06


6th August 2006

Oh no! What are those dastardly animal terrorists up to now? Blowing up Edinburgh University room by room? Breaking the legs of old ladies? Sacrificing babies for Molekh? With the inflated rhetoric of the Mail, one cunjures up an vision of the ‘researchers’ shivering under their desks whilst the university crumbles beneath them. Watch out Osama! To warrant this level of hysteria from the Mail, the animal rights ‘extremists’ must be doing something really, really bad. Right?

Err..not quite. This ‘terror campaign’ consists of posting the addresses of ‘researchers’ online, which have since been removed. That’s it. It’s questionable whether any campaign has been ‘launched’ and readers can decide for themselves whether this rather limp gesture constitutes a ‘chilling terror campaign’ – the news of which the Mail, with its guttersnipe hubris, trumpets as an ‘exclusive!’.

I would suggest that there is no ‘campaign’. The choice of words is not accidental – ‘launch’, ‘campaign’, ‘splinter group linked to the ALF’ – they suggest a level of organisation, of strategy, which is incommensurate with this nothing story. A handful of people posting names and addresses on the ‘net (to swiftly be removed) hardly constitutes a ‘splinter group’ (sic) launching a campaign of terror, does it? This level of discourse by the Mail, juvenile as it is, indicates both malignity and stupidity.

“The facility uses the animals to research cures to genetic and infectious diseases which kill millions every year.”

Oh, of course it does. The Sunday Mail need not bother questioning this. After all, since when has tabloid journalism been about critically engaging one’s mind? If someone in a white coat says it is, it must be so. Animal research is all about saving babies from cancer and it is purely adventitious that Blair, in his latest diatribe, read as though he was almost wetting his pants in excitement when reciting how much money pharmocracy creates for the UK.

I am not arguing against vivisection (that’s not the point) but I am suggesting that, if the Sunday Mail writer had anything approaching an analytical mind, he’d realise how utterly vacuous are the claims of vivisectors.

So, Edinburgh University says: “We use animals only in research programmes of the highest quality, when their use is justified on scientific, ethical and legal grounds, and when no alternatives are available”. Well, we’ve never heard that before, have we? There has never been a vivisectionist, in the history of vivisection, who has argued otherwise. Proclamations of noble intent are empty expressions. So why do journos like Steve Dinneen – behind this hogwash in the Sunday Mail – always fail to even doubt them? Is it because he’s not really thinking? That his is group thought? You decide.

It doesn’t help when the NAVS has nothing of worth to say. To be fair, the National Anti Vivisection Society (NAVS) might have offered something more substantial only to see it redacted by the Sunday Mail. NAVS argues that “they’re probably driven by the excitement of doing something slightly illegal”. Not only is this a trite, infantile understanding of direct action (as a sociologist, I have an academic interest in direct action from the Rebecca Riots onward) but it also totally misses the point: “doing something illegal?!” What?

When contacted by the Sunday Mail, NAVS should have had the foresight to see a stitch up and should have pointed out that nothing which can be thought of as illegal, if we call this a democracy, had actually occurred. Organisations like the NAVS are, justifiably, frustrated that its important work – e.g. my mate’s a primate – is sidelined. Its response to this is, usually, to saddle up with the clowns, the creeps and the goons writing about animal rights issues for various worthless rags like the Sunday Mail so that, even if it’s being totally ignored, at least NAVS isn’t being grouped in with the ‘terrorists’! NAVS really needs to learn when it is being used.

All in all, the Sunday Mail’s ‘exclusive’ is a nothing story: it is shorn of content, it is absent any analysis, it is gutter press journalism to shame any two-bit scribbler. It presents a predictably hysterical portrayal of direct action – “a chilling campaign of terror”, no less! – while totally failing to question anything that the pro-vivisectionist say. The fact that we have seen this so many times before, that this article was so formulaic in content structure, and in ‘thought’, I think permits my accusing the author of group-think. He’s not thinking for himself. He’s just reheating lazy cliches and hackneyed arguments within the frame of a pathetic easyspeak.

There is an irony is this given that the Sunday Mail is the kinda rag which will tomorrow argue that we should all know the addresses of ‘kiddy fiddlas’. (This is a glib point. I might be wrong here.) If the Sunday Mail does argue thus, I’m sure Netcu Watch readers will be ready to charge the Mail with waging a ‘campaign of chilling terror’, etc.

This isn’t just about being pro/anti vivisection. It’s about wanting our journalists in the mainstream media to stop being such servile, docile… fools. This goes beyond vivisection. Minus a few exceptions, the journalists in this country seem to have long sold their souls to Power, in spite of their laughable pretense of being ‘free thinkers’, etc.

If we had serious journalists, we would not have this murderous war in Iraq, for example. But that’s another topic.


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