Heh. Another super-long OP. I clearly have too much free time.
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This thread is about the recent attack on the author of the fantastic and equally controversial book, The Vegetarian Myth. The book is written by a woman who was a vegan for 20 years, thinking that her eating habits were helping the planet by preventing animal deaths. She finally realized how naive and wrong she was, then wrote a book about the whole experience and what she found in her research.
Basically what happened was that, during a book signing, three masked men came in and threw pies laced with cayenne pepper on her face. As she was reeling from the attack and trying to get the pepper out of her eyes, what did the audience do?
Yes, you read that right: a whole bunch of people cheered while a woman, who already had previous spine injuries, was being attacked by masked men.
As you’ve probably heard by now, Lierre Keith, author of the fabulous book The Vegetarian Myth, was attacked by three vegan nut-jobs on Saturday while giving a speech. They threw a pie laced with cayenne pepper in her face. If that doesn’t sound like much of an attack, keep in mind that it’s nearly the equivalent of being attacked with pepper spray. And frankly, I’d be outraged even if the pie was made of whipped cream. (No wait … that would be a dairy product; the vegans would never stoop to such cruelty just to assault a human being.)
Fortunately, Keith is recovering. Jimmy Moore wrote to inquire about her condition, and she replied:
My eyes are still puffy and blurry, but the pain is definitely better. I think the worst part was hearing people cheer my assailants while I was being assaulted. I don’t want to live in a world where people cheer while someone has cayenne rubbed into their eyes.
Yes, people were cheering — while three men in masks attacked a 45-year-old woman who already has a damaged spine. My, what courage.
I’d like to say I’m surprised, but I’m not. The animal-rights wackos have a long and proud history of attacking soft targets. As my comedian friend Tim Slagle once pointed out, they’ll happily throw blood on women wearing fur — but strangely, they never feel inspired to attempt a similar protest on men wearing leather.
Nearly as disturbing as the attack was the ability of some vegans to justify it in their fatty-acid-depleted brains. Here are few quotes from a “news” site, with my comments:
Some will undoubtedly argue that the pieing was an attack on free speech, but Keith has been afforded more speech than most people on the planet will ever be, courtesy of PM Press.
Well, gosh yes, once someone has been afforded more than his or her share of free speech, it’s perfectly okay to use violence to correct the imbalance. I’m sure that’s what James Earl Ray had in mind, too. Although if you really think about it — and I’d suggest consuming an egg or two before tackling this one — you and Lierre Keith have been afforded exactly the same amount of free speech. The only difference is that more people have elected to listen to her.
In fact, she is profiting from the soap box she has been given to pretend she is a radical environmentalist who just happens to jet around the country to and from her home in rural Massachusetts.
Making a profit and flying on a jet? Truly unforgivable. Since Al Gore has set himself up to make millions in the carbon-credit business while flying all over creation in a private jet and living in a mansion that uses 20 times the national average for electricity, can we expect you to toss a pepper-pie in his face anytime soon? Or will you remain true to form and attack Tipper instead?
In a world where vegans and vegetarians are a definite minority, face constant bombardment with pro-meat messages our American cattle culture, and frequently have to deal with direct attacks from government, law enforcement, and multinational corporations that profit from the sale of factory-farmed meat and dairy, Ramsey Kanaan of PM Press, himself a long-time vegan, strangely chose to pile on with yet another attack on vegans, this time being especially traumatic in that it comes from the inside of the supposed radical environmental movement.
Those direct attacks from the government on the oppressed vegan minority are an outrage, all right. Just last week, storm troopers dragged a dozen vegans out of our local Whole Foods and shot them in the street. It’s a shame you don’t live in a country where you’re free to just ignore those traumatizing pro-meat messages and continue living as a vegan.
Through the Bound Together collective, of which Ramsey Kanaan is a member, Lierre Keith has been asked to speak in the Bay Area repeatedly. The mean-spirited book and these speaking engagements are largely one-way conversations with Keith dominating the dialogue.
Wait … you mean she’s been asked to speak repeatedly?! Wow, that usually only happens to people who have something interesting to say and can therefore draw a crowd. But I see your point about the one-way conversations. It’s got to stop. In fact, nearly every time I attend a speech, the speaker just stands up there speaking and speaking and speaking, without ever asking me what I believe. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought to myself, “Damn! If only I had a pepper-laced pie, I could bring some balance into this dialog.”
But today, anonymous masked peoples stood up and refused to allow PM Press and Bound Together to yet again try to cram Lierre Keith down our throats. They stood up for many who have suffered silently, without a voice, since the publication of her book.
I hear you, bro. I remember the glory days when people were allowed to choose which speeches they’d attend. Now, of course, the meat industry kidnaps vegans at gunpoint and crams Lierre Keith’s speeches down their throats. Those were some true freedom fighters who attacked her. More bravery like this, and perhaps someday vegans will be allowed to publish their own books, give their own speeches in public, or — dare I say it? — express their opinions on their very own blogs, instead of being forced to suffer in silence.
The article was bad enough. Here are a few bits of wisdom from vegans commenting on the article:
Lierre Keith was appropriately treated when she was physically stopped from continuing to advocate for and incite the murder of innocent non-human beings.
Can’t argue with that. Next time I see some vegan farmer tilling the soil and killing thousands of non-humans in the process, I’m going to mace him in the face. (No wait, I keep forgetting about vegan logic: it’s okay to kill creatures in the quest for food as long as you aren’t killing on purpose.)
She was pied, get over it. Big deal, even IF it was a spicy pie. Somebody call the waaaambulance for this loser. This action was both hilarious & totally appropriate.
Yeah, a little spice in the eyes is hilarious. Nothing to fuss about. Any chance we could meet in person so I can share a few laughs with you? I do this bit with Tabasco sauce that’s just side-splitting.
Lierre obviously comes from a privileged perspective if the very first thing she said was “someone call the cops” as only the privileged automatically think of police as their friends and defenders. Lower classes and darker skinned people do not immediately look to police for help. They’ll take the help if it’s there, but they don’t assume police generally exist to serve them.
That’s why I enjoy watching “Cops” on TV: it just cracks me up seeing all those people who come from a privileged perspective calling the police on each other. Last week I saw a repeat of the episode where the guy in the smoking jacket answers the door and says, “Yes, officer, my wife Muffy is such a pill, I’m afraid she let loose with the pepper-spray in the middle of a heated discussion about the relevance of Kantian ethics in modern society. Could you be a dear and slap some cuffs on her? And I won’t object if you make them uncomfortably tight.”
But if you’re suggesting Lierre Keith should deal with being physically attacked in a manner more befitting the “lower classes and darker skinned people,” I’m pretty sure we can round up plenty of volunteers to administer the appropriate justice.
Has anyone considered that it wasn’t Vegans who pied who but an agent provocateur trying to create division?
Damn, you caught us. See, that’s the thing about us meat-eaters: we take ourselves and our identities as meat-eaters so seriously, we sit around and try to think of ways to split up the vegan movement.
Message to Keith and others who promote oppression, repression and murder of the innocent, and destruction of the planet, however misinformedly well-intentioned - “No more free ride!”
By all means, please start physically assaulting anyone who believes eating meat is beneficial. I’d suggest you start with Fred Hahn. That will give you a chance to field-test your theory that avoiding meat actually makes people stronger. (Although I predict the theory will turn out to be misinformedly wrong.)
As a vegan I’m both mad at and ashamed of the people who did this. They are bullies.
You sound eerily sane. How long have you been a vegan? (To be fair, more than a few vegans were disgusted by the attack. Good for them.)
Some commenters suggested the attackers were suffering from the “vegan rage” Keith describes in her book. That was my first thought as well. But since then, I’ve decided we may be confusing a correlation with a cause. Yes, they could be prone to rage because a vegan diet has depleted their brains. But I think it’s just as likely they’re militant vegans because they fit the personality type described so brilliantly by Eric Hoffer in his book The True Believer. I plan to write a post on that topic later in the week. It seems more appropriate for my other blog, so it’ll probably end up there. I’ll let you know.
Another blogger, Tim Naughton, wrote about the book mentioned in the last paragraph above, The True Believer.
Earlier this week on the Fat Head blog, I wrote about the attack on Lierre Keith by some vegan nut-jobs who consider her a traitor and a threat. For those of you who don’t already know, Keith was a dedicated vegan for 20 years but had to rethink her beliefs when her health declined and she realized, after some comical attempts, that she couldn’t grow her own food without killing living creatures. No longer able to hide behind a simplistic, child-like love for nature, she set out instead to understand it. The result was The Vegetarian Myth, in which she argues (brilliantly) that agriculture and a plant-based diet will not make us healthy or save the planet.
Nonetheless, her core values remain the same: she loves animals, she abhors the cruelty of factory farming, and she wants us to feed ourselves in a manner that supports the environment instead of depleting it year after year. As she writes in her book: “What separates me from vegetarians isn’t ethics or commitment. It’s information.”
Ah, but there’s the rub: it’s the information that has made her a target, not the change in her beliefs.
When I heard about the attack, my first reaction was to chalk it up to the “vegan rage” Keith writes about in her book. But after thinking it over, I decided I was confusing a correlation with a cause. Yes, they’re enraged and they’re vegans, but I don’t think they’re enraged because they’re vegans. I think it’s more likely they became militant vegans in the first place because they fit the personality type described so eloquently by Eric Hoffer in his book The True Believer. It was published in 1951, but still rings true today.
First, a little background on the author: Hoffer was born sometime around 1900 in New York City to Jewish immigrant parents. His father was cabinet-maker. When Hoffer was five, his mother fell down a flight of stairs while carrying him. She never fully recovered and died two years later. Soon afterwards, Hoffer went blind, perhaps from the emotional trauma. Amazingly, his sight returned when he was 15. Afraid he may go blind again someday, Hoffer educated himself by reading as many books as he could.
After his father died around 1920, Hoffer left for California and worked a series of odd jobs, including a stint as a migrant farm worker, before becoming a longshoreman in San Francisco. When his books became popular, he was dubbed “The Longshoreman Philosopher.”
Deeply troubled by the horrors of Nazism, Fascism, Stalinism, the Holocaust and World War II, Hoffer thought long and hard about the roots of fanatical movements, then began writing down his insights. The result was a slim (176 pages) but brilliant book, The True Believer. If you haven’t read it, I hope you will someday. But in the meantime, here’s a very short summary:
Fanatical movements attract a particular personality type. They are typically dissatisfied with their own lives and have low self-esteem. (Can you say “prone to rage”?) Fanaticism appeals to them because it provides a sense of identity, the ego-boost of idealism, and the psychological comfort of certainty — thus relieving them of the need to resolve life’s doubts, contradictions, and moral ambiguities for themselves.
The appeal of a fanatical movement for this personality type lies only partly in the movement’s stated beliefs; the deeper appeal is in the fanaticism itself. That’s why, as Hoffer noted, fanatical groups often find it easiest to recruit new members from other fanatical groups, even if their beliefs are at odds: Fanatical communists have become fanatical Christians, fanatical Christians have become fanatical Nazis, fanatical Nazis have become fanatical communists, etc. (Plenty of fanatical communists became fanatical environmentalists when communism didn’t work out so well.)
Hoffer labeled these people the True Believers. The need to believe in something — completely, and without question — defines their lives, because fanaticism makes them feel special and important.
Not surprisingly, then, the biggest threat to their identities is doubt. All contrary evidence must be stifled or rationalized out of existence. All logical inconsistencies in their beliefs must be ignored. Anyone who doesn’t share their beliefs is an enemy, and anyone who raises questions about their beliefs must be silenced. (But enough about Al Gore.)
Now, doesn’t that description sound just a wee bit like a militant vegan? Ego boost? Heck yes … I’m now a morally superior human being because I don’t eat animal products.
Sense of identity? Gee, do you think? I once asked a waitress in a restaurant if the pork chops were any good. Turning up her nose just a bit, she replied, “I wouldn’t know. I’m a vegan.” I’m mildly hard of hearing, so at first I thought she said, “I wouldn’t know. I’m a virgin.” After some momentary confusion, mentally rifling through my old catechism lessons looking for a prohibition against virgins eating pork, I figured it out. Either way, it was more than I cared to know about her. “I’ve never tried them” would’ve sufficed.
The comfort of certainty, relieved of the need to resolve life’s moral ambiguities? Most definitely. It’s easy to just declare that a fly and a pig and human being are all equal. (I’ll buy that idea when a pig writes a symphony or a good joke.) It’s a bit tougher to finally admit, as Lierre Keith did, that eating meat enhances your health, then have to deal with the morality of killing to be healthy. The Dalai Lama eats meat now, so I guess he’s got it figured out.
Years ago, I heard Dennis Prager debating some animal-rights nut. Prager asked a hypothetical question: if a boy and a dog are both drowning, who do you save first? The nut wouldn’t answer. He weasled out by saying that since he’s a vegan, he’s strong enough to save both of them. (Then a fly landed on his shoulder, and he fell out of his chair.)
Before anyone gets his or her macramé underwear in a wad, I’m not suggesting all or even a majority of vegans are True Believers. But the ones who throw blood on women wearing furs or smash a pepper-laced pie into an author’s face definitely fit the profile. Here are some quotes from Hoffer himself, with my comments on how they apply to the True Believer nut-jobs who attacked Lierre Keith.
A man is likely to mind his own business when it is worth minding. When it is not, he takes his mind off his own meaningless affairs by minding other people’s business.
Bingo. Mentally-healthy vegans don’t scream “murderer!” at meat-eaters. They don’t toss pepper-laced pies at meat-eaters. They just don’t eat meat. (Heck, I even knew a vegan who was married to a meat-eater.) But the True Believer vegans — including the Center for Science in the Public Interest and the Physicians Committee For Responsible Medicine — can’t resist minding other people’s business. And when their meddling turns out to be a disaster, as when CSPI harassed restaurants into switching to hydrogenated vegetable oils for frying, it doesn’t faze them a bit. They don’t even admit they were wrong; they just keep meddling.
Hatred is the most accessible and comprehensive of all unifying agents.
Three men in masks attack a 45-year-old woman from behind. People in the room cheer. Other people praise the attack online. A website posts a video of the attack with the Benny Hill music playing for comic effect. Is that enough unifying hatred for you?
In order to be effective a doctrine must not be understood, but has to be believed in. We can be absolutely certain only about things we do not understand.
Keith did a bang-up job of pointing this out in her book. She recounted a suggestion by some scientifically illiterate vegan that animals in nature should be separated by a big fence — the carnivores on one side, the herbivores on the other. That way, ya see, there wouldn’t be any killing. Keith then explained, using actual scientific facts, what the result would be: all the animals would eventually starve to death. But this unbelievably stupid suggestion drew nothing but applause from other True-Believer vegans. They were just certain it would work … even the carnivores don’t really have to eat meat, ya see, because dogs and cats sometimes eat grass! In other words, these goofs could only believe what they believed because they had zero understanding of nature.
The uncompromising attitude is more indicative of an inner uncertainty than a deep conviction. The implacable stand is directed more against the doubt within than the assailant without.
That’s why anyone who can plant a seed of doubt is such a threat. Lierre Keith isn’t just any ol’ author promoting an omnivorous diet; she’s a former dedicated vegan. She knows all the vegan arguments inside and out, and she now disputes them with facts. She can shake up the beliefs of people whose very identities depend on those beliefs.
Passionate hatred can give meaning and purpose to an empty life. Thus people haunted by the purposelessness of their lives try to find a new content not only by dedicating themselves to a holy cause but also by nursing a fanatical grievance.
Yup … I’m pretty sure if you’re satisfied with your own life, you don’t feel the need to toss blood or pepper-laced pies at people who don’t share your beliefs about animal rights — especially considering that 99.9% of all people who’ve ever lived also didn’t share those beliefs.
All active mass movements strive, therefore, to interpose a fact-proof screen between the faithful and the realities of the world. They do this by claiming that the ultimate and absolute truth is already embodied in their doctrine and that there is no truth or certitude outside it. The facts on which the true believer bases his conclusions must not be derived from his experience or observation, but from holy writ.
It was experience and observation that caused Lierre Keith to change her mind. Her health failed. Her spine degenerated. She was depressed and fatigued. A Chinese-medicine doctor she trusted told her what she already knew: her vegan diet was killing her. Now she’s sharing those experiences with other vegans, and that’s why the True Believers want to shut her up — her personal story is compelling and some vegans might just believe her.
Free men are aware of the imperfection inherent in human affairs, and they are willing to fight and die for that which is not perfect. They know that basic human problems can have no final solutions, that our freedom, justice, equality, etc. are far from absolute, and that the good life is compounded of half measures, compromises, lesser evils, and gropings toward the perfect. The rejection of approximations and the insistence on absolutes are the manifestation of a nihilism that loathes freedom, tolerance, and equity.
Militant vegans dream of a world where everyone is a vegetarian, nobody (and no animal) has to kill to eat, and the planet is saved in the process. If only life could be that pretty. Now Keith is telling them that farming kills countless animals, and mono-crop agriculture — all those lovely fields of wheat, corn and soybeans — is destroying the environment. In other words, you can kill some animals on purpose to eat them, or you can kill even more by farming … but you cannot live in your absolute, perfect world because it’s not possible. She has accepted the compromise — what she refers to as becoming an adult. The True Believers are children, and they can’t stand hearing what mommy has to say.
It is the true believer’s ability to shut his eyes and stop his ears to facts which in his own mind deserve never to be seen nor heard which is the source of his unequalled fortitude and constancy. He cannot be frightened by danger, nor disheartened by obstacles, nor baffled by contradictions, because he denies their existence.
Vegans insist they don’t kill to eat. When someone like Lierre Keith points out that farming kills countless creatures per acre (and remember: a pig, a fly and a human are all equal!), plus countless more who die because the mono-crop farms destroy their environments, the vegans still insist they don’t kill to eat. Well, not really, you see, because … uh … because … well … it’s not really killing because we didn’t do it on purpose! By that logic, we need to pardon everyone who caused a fatal accident by driving drunk — they didn’t mean for anyone to die, after all.
The excuse makes no sense. It’s a contradiction. But the True Believers aren’t baffled by contradictions. They’ll simply shut their eyes and close their ears. And if that doesn’t work, they’ll shove a pepper-laced pie into someone’s face.
When I wrote about the attack on the Fat Head blog, one of my readers left this comment:
I am not at all surprised that this happened in the Bay area, although it could have easily happened on a college campus. This is what happens, though, when the extreme leftists among us (let’s call them what they are) get agitated. Look at the treatment of conservatives on college campuses: That Ann Coulter (love her or hate her) travels with body guards and has nearly been pied is just one more example. There is an element of our society that is all in favor of free speech until they don’t agree with it; then they try to shut it down.
In the modern era, most True Believers have in fact ended up on the radical left. Why exactly that’s the case will be the topic of next week’s post.
Let me preface this discussion by saying that I am not going to suggest that all vegetarians and vegans are militant in their attitude and defense of their beliefs. I'm sure some of them are very nice people. Some are even quite tolerant of meat-eaters. However, in my experience at least, a significant portion of them definitely share many qualities outlined in The True Believer, as the second article I linked above explains.
The way I see it, if people do not eat meat because they don't like the way it tastes, that's totally fine with me. They are entitled to their tastes.
However, the thing that rubs me the wrong way about vegetarianism and veganism is that their proponents make quite a few unsubstantiated and logically fallacious arguments in order to garner support and target and convert naive meat-eaters (this conversion usually happens at a young, impressionable age, which is probably no surprise).
I figured there must be a website that has nicely condensed and debunked the most popular arguments that vegetarians and vegans use. Sure enough, there is:
Basically, it lists three popular arguments:
1. Argument from Supposition: Vegetarianism is healthier.
2. Argument from Sentiment: Meat eating is cruel.
3. Argument from Stupidity: Humans are not designed to eat meat.
Number 3 is flat out wrong, so it's not even worth mentioning in my opinion.
For number 1, the author of the website points out that we have no evidence that shows that vegetarianism is actually healthier in any way. Any statistical results from epidemiological studies showing vegetarians having healthier lives merely point to slight correlations, probably because if someone has convinced themselves that they should be a vegetarian because it's healthier, then they have taken other, equally drastic steps in their lives to be healthy. Besides that, there is no evidence that vegetarianism or veganism by themselves cause an increase in healthiness in any shape or form.
For number 2, the author says that it is basically a giant appeal to emotion, which is a logical fallacy. Certainly there are some slaughterhouses that are overly violent and inhumane in their treatment of animals, and those should be protested by not buying their meat. However, many farms, usually local ones, use sustainable practices and allow their animals to roam freely in the open, and do not pump them full of anti-biotics. There is nothing cruel about eating the meats of those animals, especially because out in the wilderness they wouldn't survive, and even if they did, they would die violent deaths (eaten by predators).
There is also another argument that is addressed in The Vegetarian Myth. Namely the vegetarian and vegan belief that eating animals is an unsustainable practice. This belief is actually rooted in the peace movements of the 60s and 70s, where some people saw pictures of starving people in the third world and basically deduced that if we were all eating vegetables, those people would also have food to eat. Turns out this is nothing more than retarded reasoning because the food we don't eat doesn't actually go to those people. Rather, it either goes to waste, or is fed to farm animals.
In addition, the book points out the extremely devastating effects of agriculture - namely, the clearing of grasslands and forests to make room for food crops. This, the author argues, also displaces and kills a tremendous number of animals. In addition to that, it also destroys their habitats and messes up the ecosystem, so the damage is near-permanent. Not only that, but also the animals that manage to adapt to the change from forest to farmland continue to die violently during crop-harvest season - one example given is field animals, whose populations decline by as much as 90% every time there is a harvest as they are killed by the blades of the harvesters. Etcetera.
The bottom line is, I don't have any problems with people who are vegetarians or vegans because they like veggies and don't like meat (because of taste reasons). However, I posit that the ideological reasons behind the vegetarianism and veganism movements are largely unsubstantiated, and those people who are vegetarians or vegans for those reasons are misguided and naive.
Don't worry though, I am not planning to throw pepper pies in their faces.