It has been said that the only way to effect real change in important socio-political debates is to be very aggressive and unapologetically rude in making arguments. Civility and politeness are the hobgoblins of the Western Heternormative Colonoracist Patriarchy. I personally feel that there are indeed times and places for such a thing, but I don’t agree with the concept … which seems to be afoot more often than not in in this corner of the blogosphere … that in-your-face goatfuckery (I hope I’m using that new term correctly) is the ONLY way, or at least usually the BEST way to make an argument.
This thread at DrugMonkey blog is a good example of how goatfuckery(?) can be counter productive. In that blog post, DrugMonkey (a diligent defender of animal-based research and critic of the so-called “animal rights” movement) takes issue with Kirshenbaum’s call for photographs of animals kissing that she might use in her forthcoming book on the science of kissing. DrugMonkey calls her request “An incredibly stupid move for one who is otherwise a crusader against anti-science.”
Primates kissing. It is not always cute.
DrugMonkey’s argument is based on a very valid concern, though the essence of his argument is probably flawed in ways that do come out in the discussion on that blog post. However, I would argue that the tenor of the discussion, established by the goatfuckeristic nature of DrugMonkey’s post, is unduly negative and less good will come out of this discussion than might have were DrugMonkey more civil in his approach. Dr. Kirshenbaum is not unreachable or predisposed to ignore valid criticism, or to answer vague questions about what she is up to. (There is some discussion on DrugMonkey’s post regarding the problem of keeping one’s cards to the chest regarding the content of a book not yet published.)
I think it is very likely that Sheril Kirshenbaum does not want to promote or support in any way the activities or the rhetoric of “Animal Rights Activists.” I think that it is worth noting, as DrugMonkey has, that the uncritical use of kissy-kissy soft-and-furry porn is counter productive in this area. There was no evidence that she was going to do that. But it was possible, and thus worth mentioning. Politely, like one would speak to a colleague.
Had this conversation started out on a different level (of goatfuckery) and not included the loud public assertion that Sheril is “incredibly stupid”* the conversation may have actually been productive. There are several interesting and important issues here that are not likely to progress as far as they might have had a modicum of civility been used to …. ah, frame … the discussion. (sorry)
DrugMonkey could adjust his perspective to consider the idea that the science shows us that the line between modern living Homo sapiens and other animals, while stark in many areas, is not so solid in others. DrugMonkey may not accept this, but many people (to my knowledge mainly scientists) hold the view that physical research on apes should be as restrictive as it is for humans (or nearly so), but then draw a stark line around the hominoids and stand firmly against wackaloon animal ‘liberators’ and their ilk. This is not necessarily a terrible idea given the conservation status of the apes, and the fact that they are expensive and hard to use in research anyway. But DrugMonkey’s view seems to be a strict division and to avoid at all costs anything that produces warm and fuzzy feelings about NH-animals. Those fuzzy feelings are not very rational and they can lead to some very bad shit happening.
A down side of avoiding the warm fuzzies for the purpose of protecting ongoing medical research is that fuzzy wuzzy rhetoric is quite useful in … ah, framing … nature conservation efforts. (Although I quickly add that the juxtaposition of Smokey the Bear and kissing bears is a little too much for me right now. Obligatory link to video of bear sex.)
CPP made an important point in the comments of DrugMonkey’s post which should always be considered: If you make policy on the basis of an unproven assertion, then your policy is arguably invalid if the assertion is turned around. This is why it is insufficient to say that “races are not real.” They may be real. It is important to first say that “race” should not matter socio-politically. It turns out that they really are not real, but some of the features of a racist model of humanity may be real now and then here and there, and races (subspecies) are not at all a biological impossibility. (Just extraordinarily unlikely in a species like ours.) But, it is prudent to make the argument that it should not matter to us if races are real (or not), then proceed with the historical and scientific discussion of race and racism. Same with gender differences, but more so, because gender difference ARE ‘real’ (in the sense that they are sex-determined biological phenomena of genetics and development — although almost all the differences people point out are not ‘biologically’ real, strangely.)
Check this out:
Researchers studying people’s closest genetic relatives found that stress was reduced in chimps that were victims of aggression if a third chimp stepped in to offer consolation.
“Consolation usually took the form of a kiss or embrace,” said Dr. Orlaith N. Fraser of the Research Center in Evolutionary Anthropology and Paleoecology at Liverpool John Moores University in England.
Chimpanzees kiss, bonobos French kiss. Great name for a popular book on apes. But the salient point here is that DrugMonkey loses his argument. If non-human apes kiss, then maybe this is a broader primate thing. All you need now is for Mark Hauser to prove that cotton top tamarins kiss and the game is up for using any primate in research. Or at least, the hill scientists who do important work on animals have to climb gets steeper.
For the most part, this discussion has served mainly to deepen and widen the artificial gulf that has grown between various factions of this strange thing we call the blogosphere. One can argue that out of the ashes will rise a phoenix, and it may well. But we still have a fuckload of ashes to clean up.
I have a feeling that Sheril and DrugMonkey should really be allies and not enemies, and that they are at odds here for no good reason. I believe that DrugMonkey is a male, and Sheril is a female. So, my pointing out that in the larger picture the two of them have more in common than they have differences can not possibly be interpreted as an act of misogyny, though clearly if they were both women it would be. Pointed out as such, that is.
*Note: I decided not to distinguish between the unqualified statement that someone is doing something incredibly stupid and the statement that someone is incredibly stupid. Perhaps the phrase “Depending on what you are actually going to do, it could be incredibly stupid” would be more appropriate. The statement “An incredibly stupid move ….” is a final judgement which may not have been correct. Call me a goatfucker if you want, but I happen to think that it is inappropriate to always push the “just sayin’” vs. “ad hominem” line as far as possible in all cases.