AR-FAQ - #91

#91 Doesn't extreme activism give the AR movement a bad name?

This is a significant argument that must be thoughtfully considered. In essence, the argument says that if your actions can be characterized as extremist, then you are besmirching the actions of those who are moderate, and you are creating a backlash that can negate the advances made by more moderate voices. The appeal to the "backlash" has historical precedent. Martin Luther King heard such warnings when he organized civil-disobedience protests against segregation. Had Dr. King yielded to this appeal, would the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts have been passed? Dave Foreman, writing in "Confessions of an Eco-Warrior", points out that radicals in the anti-Vietnam War movement were blamed for prolonging the war and for damaging the "respectable" opposition. Yet the fear of increasingly militant demonstrations kept President Nixon from escalating the war effort, and the stridency eventually wore down the pro-war establishment. The backlash argument is a standard one that will always be trotted out by the opponents of a movement. Backlash can be expected whenever the status quo is challenged, regardless of whether extreme actions are employed. The real question to ask is: Does the added backlash outweigh the gains achieved through extreme action? The answer here is not clear and we'll leave it to the informed reader to make a judgement. Two books that might help in assessing this are "Free the Animals" by Ingrid Newkirk, and "In Defense of Animals" by Peter Singer. The following argument is paraphrased from Dave Foreman: Extreme action is a sophisticated political tactic that dramatizes issues and places them before the public when they otherwise would be ignored in the media, applies pressure to corporations and government agencies that otherwise are able to resist "legitimate" pressure from law-abiding organizations, and broadens the spectrum of activism so that lobbying by mainstream groups is not considered "extremist". DG

My doctrine is this, that if we see cruelty or wrong that we have the power to stop, and do nothing, we make ourselves sharers in the guilt. Anna Sewell (author)

If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favour freedom, and yet deprecate agitation, are people who want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the roar of its many waters. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Frederick Douglass (abolitionist)

SEE ALSO: #87-#90