Several people are concerned that both myself and my work are being abused in “The Abolitionist Online” forum for discussion. As a consequence, these individuals, who will remain anonymous, leaked to me a discussion of my work, and even of myself as a person. The timing was immediately following my first appearance on AR Zone, which is dominated by anti-incrementalists who oppose anti-cruelty laws, unlike me. So the word is out. I have the right to defend myself against abuse by brave talkers who imagine it is all behind my back. You can judge for yourself by seeing the discussion for your own eyes:
Sometimes whistle-blowers need to sound the alert about their own abuse, although others have already been alarmed and sounded a whistle to me as I say. I would like to thank these good people. Abuse should be reported and exposed, especially if, potentially, it can spread damagingly to a lot of people. What I write here is as a citizen-journalist and to defend myself against various attacks made initially behind my back. I have sometimes been curious about how my work is being discussed on Francionist internet groups. What would it be like to be a “fly on the wall”? Now I am getting some idea. Sadly, it is just about what I expected. And that is not a good thing. I will start by focusing on comments by Francione’s followers, and then the words of Professor Francione himself. After reading his words, it becomes clear that his followers are largely parroting what he himself states, although sometimes with rhetorical variations.
I have taught 13 university courses in philosophy and sociology, all very well received. I have also served as a teaching assistant/grader in 6 other university courses. Students in my most recent courses have often graded me as excellent in every category on their evaluations. I call those evals. “solid bars.” Many of my readers will have had a university education, so this section may repeat your knowledge. But I find it helps to be explicit so as to be better understood. My thoughts on the animal rights incrementalist versus anti-incrementalist debate are discussed in a scholarly article, “Animal Rights Law.” I also discuss issues more informally in this blog. However, when I argue anything on the blog, the arguments can be reconstructed with logical rigour as I will illustrate below. Even then I will use the one example that my detractors insist demonstrates my “insanity” or “insane actions.”
However, my arguments appear lost on these Francionists, including Francione himself, as I duly show. I propose to grade those thoughts in the transcript that assess my academic arguments. Is it unfair, since they are only having a chat? On the other hand, you would expect a forum for seriously discussing this debate, featuring no less than a professor of law and Nicholas Katzenbach Scholar, would have some things to say that are of academic merit. Certainly the discussants make gestures in that direction, pinning my work with logical fallacies and otherwise assessing my argumentation. Inasmuch as that is the case, I will use the grading system. Take it with a grain of salt, however. These people did not know that their remarks would be academically evaluated, although Francione anyway is a scholar in this field and they are making academic claims. But in a full and fair grading situation, they should be offered the chance to clarify their views, provide supporting evidence, and so on. As long as this is understood, we can reflect on grading the thoughts they have offered so far in response to my academic theory, focused on philosophically defending animal rights incrementalism. (A historical defence occurs in my recent informal paper, “Incrementalist Animal Law: Welcome to the Real World.”)
In Canada anyway, here are what academic grades mean (which I recite from my own understanding of the process):
- A Level. Evidence of original thought, a solid grasp in terms of analysis and criticism. An A- may be lacking in some respects though, and only have faint original thought. An A is really solid excellence. The A+ can fittingly be applied to material that is worthy of academic publication.
- B Level. Good work. A B+ means truly superior grasp of the arguments under examination, but no original thought. Well organized and well-articulated. Any B will have some reservations, but is still overall good analysis and critique. A B- will reflect some serious deficiencies though, as will the C-range in general. But if overall good, then in the B-range the paper stays.
- C Level Academically adequate. Some evidence of engaging with the material in a serious way. May suffer from problems of interpretation, accuracy, organization and argument, but still OK. A C- is semi-marginal though and borders on inadequate. It may lack a cohesive sense of theories and just offer a mash of ideas instead. It may be very one-sided in its consideration of ideas.
- D Level Inadequate. This category displays serious errors of interpretation and analysis. No solid, critical grasp of the material. May contain numerous statements offered without any evidence. It is this grade level that inspired the name for today's title, which includes D-Day.
- F Academic failure.
In all of the hundreds of university papers that I have graded, students have very rarely come to me for an explication of the evaluations that I have produced. But they always go away more or less satisfied, and I have never had to change a grade on any essay. Nor has any student ever appealed my marks to anyone else. All of this means that I have a pretty firm hold on academic grading, the research on which it is based, and so forth. Let’s start with the Francionists in this multi-logue, and then we will see what their Chief has to say.
"Substantive" Criticisms without any Substance
A person self-identifying as “goiken” claims that I am not to be taken seriously because I wrote the following in a blog entry, as he/she quotes:
Francione is waiting for the carpet to be rolled out by fellow animal rightists in the legislature, or wannabes...The red carpet he is waiting for would be red with the blood of animals whose lives would be that much more hellish because he is 'waiting for the day' with his cronies.
Needless to say this is quoted out of context. It also does not reflect the revised and updated version for my entry of January 16, 2008. The actual article contains a logical argument preceding this statement. Francione claims he wants to stay out of legislatures for fear that his position will be “watered down” by speciesists. I make the point that PETA advocates legal changes without changing their call for animal rights law in the long-term. I also argue that Francione’s logic, spelled out, would persist even if there is a strong minority of animal rights people in the legislatures. For the majority would still threaten to “water down” his position, supposedly—and erroneously as I have just shown. We can rigorously spell this out as an argument expressed in standard form with premises and conclusions:
- Animal rights people, according to Gary Francione, should stay out of contemporary legislatures because their radicalism will be watered down by a majority of speciesists.
- Therefore animal rights people should stay out of any legislatures in which they would need to deal with a majority of speciesists.
- Therefore Francionist animal rights people should stay out of legislatures even when a third of the law-makers are animal rights supporters.
- Therefore Gary Francione, based on the above principles, will stay out of legislatures until he is welcomed by an animal rights majority. (And if people follow him, there would not be that majority since they would avoid the legislature.)
Now Francione never states the above conclusions, but they are logically implied by the principle he is using, expressed in 2. The conclusion follows with airtight logical validity. Now of course animal rights people in the legislature are actually free not to compromise their long-term vision. But Francione fears he will compromise. Maybe he fears his own weakness? Perhaps he is only referring to laws in the short-term which are the concern of legislators. One topic I did not address would be his stance if he NEARLY had a majority in the house. He might not fear watering down then. But I never pretended to cover all angles. It was a blog entry. It was not an academic paper. Anyway, I concluded this blog entry, entitled “The Red Carpet” with the metaphor quoted above. I do not think it is gratuitous. He does indeed seem to be waiting for a majority or near-majority of animal rightists to welcome him in. Of course the incrementalist animal rights legislators would have already been doing lots of hard work there without him. I have argued elsewhere that in the long-term, Francionist approaches result in more suffering and death for animals. We are talking about murdered animals here, so a red carpet is an apt image. I say their lives would be more hellish because he proposes to leave factory farming, for example, legally intact. Sounds like hell to me.
So, even though “evidence” is introduced to support a claim that I am not to be taken seriously, the ripped-out-of-context citation does not validate the inference that is drawn. This is indeed an argument to be taken seriously. In fact, Dani Dorado, a lawyer in Spain who once followed Francione's idea that animal "welfare" laws are immoral (but changed his mind thanks to my "Animal Rights Law"), translated this blog essay into Spanish for internet display because it was one of his favorites. (He also put up a translation of a shortened version of "Animal Rights Law.") The problem here is not that I have written something that is not to be taken seriously. It is that “goiken,” whoever this person really is, did not take my essay seriously and therefore missed the point of the apt metaphor, and evidently all of the argumentation as well. He has not shown any inaccuracy or inapplicability of a red carpet image to comment on murder, with victims far more cruelly and wrongly treated if the Francionists get their way. Indeed, my argument, and even my use of poetic rhetoric, stand unrefuted by this commentator. Or is “goiken” proclaiming, like the Pope of literature, that there is a new rule that murder cannot be associated with blood or blood-red? The answer is self-evident. I warn the reader that this instance is THE ONLY academic claim these people—including Francione—make with any supporting evidence whatsoever. The rest are merely baseless accusations as you can see for yourself from the complete leaked document, which has not been altered in any way.
This “goiken” person also says that I beg the question in my writing. This is a name for a logical fallacy, as I explicate on the fallacies sheet on my website. It means arguing in logical circles, or merely assuming what needs to be proved. I prefer to say assuming what one needs to justify, since proofs are fairly hard to come by in philosophy. Ironically, “goiken” is begging the question against me here. He is assuming what he needs to justify, or in this case, prove (I find that you CAN prove genuine begging the question through logical analysis). But he provides no evidence whatsoever, and so his claim must be discarded, or put in abeyance unless and until he comes up with any sort of substantiation.
Rob Johnson chimes in. Keep in mind that this Briton wrote a blog essay attacking my work. I refuted him in my blog entry for August 30, 2010, and he posted another response which I have not yet found the time to attend to. His first response resulted in a commentary, fully HALF of which needed to be devoted to showing how he misrepresents my views so extensively. Straw man arguments. Some day I’d perhaps like to get back to his rejoinder, but his work is not very compelling. He has some interesting points, including a claim about animal consumption going up after anti-cruelty legislation. That is a fair argument, but his piece is so filled with inaccuracy, and the argument itself is so unoriginal, that it probably merits more of C-level grade at most. Probably a C-, or worse, since a paper is borderline “marginal” or “inadequate” academically if it is overbrimming with so very many errors as I proved Johnson’s essay was. Not only misinterpretation and misrepresentation, but logically spurious arguments. I provide a multi-layered response to his key objection, comparing all three general scenarios and showing that incrementalism actually leads to less suffering and death, thus turning the tables on Johnson. Do you think I had any burning desire to respond at length to C- papers by students? You guessed it. That is, a C- at best. That is probably too kind. His essay could be a perfect sample paper of a D because it is almost unbelievably ridden by so many errors.
Anyway, Johnson comes up with a new straw man argument, which seems to be his academic specialty. This time, he implies (since he is commenting on my work in general and my appearance on AR Zone in particular) that he disapproves of the “Why can’t we all get along?” approach. I never said any such thing anywhere, in any work, or at any time. So it’s another straw man, not reflective of my true view. I do urge that anti-incrementalists ideally will cooperate with incrementalists doing vegan education, for example, which is something they can agree on. That furthers anti-incrementalist interests too. But I do not expect to “get along” with anti-incrementalists or to cooperate with them on matters legislative because we are at odds. Johnson ends his “critique” with a slur, that the “get along” position is “tantamount to a white supremacist challenging a rights activist with the same…,” i.e., “get along” idea. He is comparing me to a white supremacist. Someone who really believes that so-called “whites” are superior to, as it is termed, “blacks,” and so “whites” have the right to harm “blacks” in various ways. The analogous belief would be that I am a human supremacist, advocating harmful domination of animals. As anyone who is lucid knows, I advocate just the opposite. See now why I have trouble taking Johnson quite seriously? Normally, people know that I approve of macroincremental animal law (making as large increments of progress as possible, e.g., abolishing factory farming). However, approving of something legislatively is different from approving something morally. And everyone knows that I disapprove of the speciesist aspects of speciesist laws, but I will tolerate such laws if that is now the best that can be achieved for animals. The alternative is tolerating absolute cruelty, which is far more intolerable. On the contrary, Johnson and his cronies support more speciesism than I do, indeed, they tolerate no less major a part of animal oppression than the cruelty aspects.
Johnson throws in for good measure that I have “nonsensical ideas” but without him providing any evidence (as applies to ALL subsequent claims as I have already stated). So my ideas do not make any intelligible sense to Johnson? Funny, other people seem to comprehend them even if they do not always agree with my views. This claim gets an F, a failure to engage with my material in any academically constructive way whatsoever. If my ideas do not make sense to Johnson that is his deficiency, not one pertaining to my writing, which others have understood and agreed with perfectly well. It should be easy to cite material that is truly nonsensical. But it would be too difficult for Johnson, because doing the impossible is always rather difficult. His later claim that I have an “immoral” stance again begs the question, which fallacy, we can recall, “goiken” applied ironically to my arguments above. Lots of people think I am morally right based on my arguments, and Johnson and all the rest have done nothing to show the contrary.
Now what about “Dave,” whoever this happens to be? He tells us: “Sztybel’s arguments are bad.” Johnson begs the question here. He seeks to inform his readers that I “forgo logic.” Anyone familiar with my work knows I make logical arguments that stand in need of affirmation or refutation, like the argument I recounted from “The Red Carpet” which they show no evidence of understanding, let alone defeating. I also use logical fallacies as I have done already in this entry. Is that “foregoing” logic?
Everly iterates his utter astonishment: “I can’t believe anyone is giving this guy any credence or attention at all. He’s a coat-tailer and not a good one, at that. ‘Best caring’…bah. Ridiculous.” Well, ridiculed by Everly, to be sure. But he refutes his own case because a “coat-tailer” rides on the coat-tails of other people, and he cites my own original ethical theory, thus undoing his own claim in the same breath. He may dismiss best caring, but Michael Allen Fox went on record affirming, in effect, that it is the best ethical theory to date. Fox is an emeritus professor from one of Canada’s top research institutions, Queen’s University, at which I have taught on a Post-Doctoral Fellowship for a full academic year, and where students need an “A” average just to get enrolled. For some reason, I give Fox more credence than “Everly.”
“Dave” tells us that there is merely a “handful of pieces of writing in which Sztybel doesn’t mischaracterize and attack Gary.” Perhaps he is referring to my blog. I explicitly started the blog in response to Francione’s merely and unrepentantly insulting the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics, and also to counter his anti-incrementalism and its destructive effects, which I have done more than any other writer, as even Johnson concedes on that other occasion I referred to. He wrote in his original response to my blog that if I can’t refute anti-incrementalism, he doubts anyone can. So I would expect there could be a majority of entries on Francionism and the like in my blog. After all, Francione is the chief representative of the view that I consider so destructive that it needs to be strongly challenged. So these people are odd, to say the least. They grieve that no one discusses their issues in the mainstream, and then when someone does, they literally call me “obsessed” and the like, or think there is something odd about having many blog entries on Francionism. That’s just weird. And more, less flattering labels also apply, which I will not enter into.
Anyway, of the 79 entries prior to this essay (which was published earlier and then withdrawn for revision purposes), 47 are not focused on Francionism. That’s almost 60% not about Francione, etc. Yet it would be understandable if even a majority of my essays were about anti-incrementalism and the like, although that is not the case. As for my 19 peer-reviewed academic articles, how many of them are focused on that debate? Only one. His theory is barely mentioned in passing in “The Rights of Animal Persons,” without even mentioning the anti-incrementalism debate, so I do not count that one. So that’s about 5% of my academic work seriously focusing on Francione. These people flatter themselves to think that most of the remaining 95% are “obsessed” with Francione.
Yates repeatedly echoed this "obsessed" line from Francione, and clearly implied I should be "over" Francione and not writing about him any more, just because in the blog I said I was changing directions for a while, although I still indicated an interest in "clearing my desk" of thoughts on this fascinating and socially important debate. He repeated it even after I disproved I could possibly be obsessed with Gary during AR Zone follow-up discussion. How can you be "obsessed" with someone if you do not keep up with his writing? Yates' lines make no rational sense from a scholarly point of view since of course academics will continue to explore avenues of inquiry as much as they like. So what is the real explanation for Yates' needling? It is sinister and relates to the bullying and censorship tendencies of these people. You see, Francione and Yates cannot always censor me directly. So instead, they try to practice "psychological warfare," trying to discourage me from writing criticisms of their views. They want me to think, "Yeah, I must be obsessing. Well, I'd better stop writing about Francione then." That would accomplish the aims of censorship through another means. THAT is the explanation for their otherwise inexplicable behaviour. Behold the ugly, sometimes hidden face of censorship tendencies. Trying to instigate self-censorship must appear better than sliced bread to these people. They are trying to censor alternative views at their source, in effect.
Not that it works on me. My academic freedom is still more or less fully operational, thank you very much. That would discourage them, you see, to know that they have not discouraged me, since that is their aim. Actually, Yates' discouragement only encourages me further, because I can see right through his shoddy tactics. True, he agreed to invite me to AR Zone, which is ostensibly contrary to censorship. But it seems he wanted to ambush me publicly with his misguided idea that I insult people, and to berate me that I should not be writing anymore about Gary Francione, even though, crazily enough, most of the questions from AR Zone to me pertained to Francionism and the like. He was trying to pressure me publicly to relent in my critiques of his sort of position. Or to get me to self-censor. Like that was going to work! Anyway, Yates was far less censorious than Francione, and look what a price Yates paid for it: "excommunication" by Francione.
It is completely false to say that only a handful of my pieces of writing are not concerned with Francione. But “Dave,” recall, goes further and says I “mischaracterize” Francione and “attack Gary” in all but a handful of writings. There are NO pieces of writing where I attack Gary as a person, even if I criticize his claims and methods as I do in this entry. They do not return the favour as we will see, and neither does Francione himself, who basically calls me a liar in what he tells people in his forum.
As for “mischaracterization,” (Kerry also says, “the misrepresentation of Gary’s position was so complete and pervasive.”), I went above and beyond the call of duty to make sure I was getting Francione’s arguments right in “Animal Rights Law.” I challenged him to an internet debate on the Toronto Animal Rights Society (TARS) List Serve, as I have recounted before. He showed up as promised. Then, after quoting himself and I asked the first tough question, he literally fled. He offered the lame excuse that he did not know this would be so much about my paper, even though the paper only addresses the incrementalist question, and I explicitly told him that my paper would be up for discussion as part of it. (Obviously, Francione subsequently thought it would be easier to try to censor my work rather than debate me, and that he is somehow specially entitled to censor people.) Two Francionist academics advised me that my work was interpretationally accurate. Every claim I make about Francionism in "Animal Rights Law" is cited material from his own works. Roger Yates on AR Zone told me Francione changed his view and repudiates much of his book, Rain without Thunder (which I have also repudiated!). Yates insultingly said I was “underhanded” not to account for the changed view. But I have no obligation to keep up reading Francione. He is not part of any course I am taking. Most of my work on his theories is former stuff. If Francione and the Francionists are concerned that I am inaccurate, or no longer up-to-date, then they should correct me. I only want the truth, in spite of Francione stating that I lie. That personal attack itself is a lie, or else a statement made in ignorance, because it is not true, as fair-minded people must conclude. Yates’ own attack is virtually paranoid, assuming that my not reflecting the disavowal of Rain is some kind of sinister, deliberate ploy. What reason could I possibly have to write pretending ignorance? His silly surmise does him no credit.
“Dave” continues his back-alley assault, stating that my arguments are ones Francione has attributed to new welfarists for the better part of two decades. Then why do my arguments never appear in Rain without Thunder? Or Francione’s blog? Where is there mention of dilemma theory? Seeking what is best for animals? Not acting for nonsentient beings? My material on increased suffering and death? And on and on. This person gets an F for making blanket statements that are entirely untrue. Many people acknowledge I have the most highly developed arguments for the incrementalists, and that they are different than those of others. Perhaps “Dave” is totally unaware of them although he pretends to be familiar with my work. I do not wait for credit from Francionists though. That is irrelevant; these people make themselves personally irrelevant to me through their baleful attacks and poor reasoning. “Dave” also says I “insult” Francionists without any evidence. Roger Yates tried to ambush me with that claim on AR Zone. I proved that none of the cases that he cited were genuine insults, and Yates had nothing to prove in reply. Indeed, I proved he called me “the Francione stalker” on his blog, a terrible insult that is also entirely unwarranted. Ah, the ironies with these Francionist cronies! Indeed, much of what I am recounting here is merely insults from the Francionists, and yet they baselessly complain about me insulting them!
“Dave” brushes off my work, saying I am not a “serious entity in the debate,” that I am not a “genuinely relevant” guest for AR Zone. My work is obviously relevant for the anti-incrementalist question. I have written more on my side than anyone else and using a high standard of argument and accuracy, as most people are capable of seeing. Even when they try to show the opposite using textual evidence they fail miserably. Perhaps “Dave” does not understand my arguments like Johnson did not in his long critique I cited earlier. “Dave” tells us though: “Sztybel’s arguments are bad. Not all bad arguments deserve public counter-arguments.” Dave does not have a bad argument here, but no argument at all. No evidence. So it amounts to just another dismissal, which I dismiss forthwith.
Then there is what amounts to a dismissal, partly because the gratuitous criticism is so poorly thought out. “Dave” informs us that much of what I write “is much too personal for an academic blog.” How silly. I am an academic, but I never said I was writing an “academic blog.” I am not writing on behalf of any institution. And the essays I post are largely not academic essays with full citations, and the like. They are not peer-reviewed. Many entries are geared towards activists and others. Lots of people have blogs on the internet and refer to their own lives. Many people have told me they find that interesting. I guess “Dave” has something to learn about the blogosphere. Or have I neglected a new rule that “Dave” has set for the whole world regarding the world wide web, that academics are not allowed to mention themselves as persons in their blogs? Stuff and nonsense. But on a par with his peers.
Recall that “Dave” like Yates complains that I “insult” Francione, even though neither has been able to prove a darn thing along those lines. Yates did not even bother to substantiate in a public discussion. So our anti-insulting “Dave,” like Yates with his “stalker” comment, shows us all how he thinks we should act by saying that I, David Sztybel, act “like a putz.” Nice. “Dave” was sad that only Yates “put [Sztybel’s] feet to the fire, as it were.” So burning people with insults is the way to go after all? Interesting that Dave, so full of concern for others, uses a torture technique as a metaphor for what he prefers. “Dave” says that when Yates attacked me, “it was the one moment of near sanity.” So I guess everyone on the AR Zone that day was “insane” and indeed there was only one moment of “near sanity,” when Yates took to insulting? Well, “Dave” may have missed his calling. Maybe he should be a psychiatrist. Then again, maybe not. To him, “sanity” = public muck-raking + accusing his opponents of being publicly insulting. Just brilliant.
Johnson, not to be outdone, likens his people to Martin Luther King, Jr. (whom I cannot help picturing as well above the muck-raking, academically challenged fray that these people are creating), and myself as one of the “opponents” of black rights. So Dr. King would not have favoured laws curbing cruelty against black people? King was perhaps the greatest single progenitor of INCREMENTALIST rights for blacks as I have amply documented in "Incrementalist Animal Law." He was not some anti-incrementalist, lost in fantasy, waiting for some all-encompassing, nonincremental human rights legislation was possible before advocating the genesis of new law. I’ve already commented on Johnson’s “white supremacist” insult above though. Enough said on that score. And below I show again that these people uphold fewer animal rights than I do, bypassing the right not to be treated cruelly. Johnson states that my writing on incrementalism is an “ongoing attempt to make a career out of opposing good ideas.” Make a career? A key Francionist tried to get me fired from Brock University. I knew in advance that Francionists are insulting attackers by and large. They are inconvenient to say the least. Some allege they deliberately low-rated Joan Dunayer's book, Speciesism, and I was already aware of this allegation, which might well be based in fact. I did not embark on this path for my own gratification. People do not generally enjoy interacting with people who personally disgust them, as all the insulters are naturally viewed. I knew that Gary and his lot meant potentially serious trouble for anyone who would take him on as I proposed to do, so it took no small amount of courage on my part. And I was right about the trouble. My essays are focused on the issues, and that is exactly what these people should stick to. But no, Mylene calls me a “nutter” and a “phony.” What exactly is it I am supposed to be “faking” she never says. This brings us to our next section.
Insulting Allegations of Mental Illness
When people cannot handle an honest debate or discussion, they start insulting the other party if they are immature, saying things like, “You’re just crazy.” We find the like of that here. Everly, again keeping to the Francionists’ honour-standard in their forum of providing NO genuine evidence, speculates that I, David Sztybel, might be “insane” or “mentally ill,” and that my writing is “disturbingly close to word salad or can even be characterized as such (the quote about the carpet of blood is a good example).” Kerry also writes: “What a nutter.” Everly rejoins: “Sztybel may have some mental health issues to address. The rambling, the world salad (and the near-word-salad), the undertone of seething anger, the seeming ownership of Gary’s positions [whatever’s THAT’S supposed to mean—DS]…all that and a real sense of confabulation on his part. Cripes, someone opened the nutbag and this guy fell out.” Again an innuendo about dishonesty which Francione himself has imputed to me without the slightest trace of evidence. Not surprising. Falsehoods are never truly evident. And again they do not even clarify what it is I am supposedly “confabulating.”
Anyway, I have recounted my actual argument which Everly must have somehow missed. Insane people do not make genuinely academic arguments—at least not while insane! Word salad, if you happen not to know, refers to the talk of schizophrenics and others which is rambling, disjointed, scarcely intelligible and the like. It’s funny he should say that. An expert on essay writing at the University of Toronto made a presentation on essay-writing at the Robarts Library. She said that most students are more or less in the C-range, and it basically amounts to a “salad” of ideas. The ideas are from the readings or discussion or whatever, but there is no solid grasp of the arguments or theories. She literally used the analogy of “salad.” When students choose to reflect on my theories in essays, which often occurs, part of their grade is for offering an analysis of my theories, and part of the grade is based on critical reflections. They often get in the A-range even if they disagree with me. Looks like Everly can’t even pull off an analysis, planting himself/herself firmly in the D-range. Inadequate. If all that my ideas are to this person is “word salad” then this person needs help in comprehending material, quite clearly. So does Francione, as my last blog entry proves. As for anger, yes it makes me a little bit mad to be insulted. It makes me very angry though when people actively seek to prolong cruel conditions for animals as Everly and his ilk do. And I am not alone in my rightful anger. If cruelty does not make someone mad, maybe THAT person has issues.
Conrad’s Scary “Encounter”
This fellow “Conrad” tells the group:
Ok, this is weird. I actually met David about a month ago... i had no idea who he was. It was at a fundraiser and we had vegan chili [sic: chilli]. I have been reading this post for the last few days and only now realized (after seeing his picture) that ive met him. Wow. creepy.
Yes, imagine actually meeting me face to face! Of course I was gracious with everyone at the fund-raiser and helped out as I could. This “creepy” label seems common in Francionist circles. Recall that David Langlois publicly and baselessly said my conduct was “creepy” too, as I recount in “Insults and Illusions,” November 21, 2007. Well, Conrad will be interested to know that I am holding an essay contest. Francionists alone can participate, because in the interests of justice, everyone else will be duly censored. I will give a million dollars to the Francionist who proves, in keeping with the high standards of academic rigour that they profess, that bullies are never the ones who are "creepy," it is really all those other people, that is, the ones who deserve to be censored. Good luck, man. You'll need it. In any case, it is heart-warming that the Francionists are keen to avoid "creepiness," just as they keep undying, holy vigilance against anyone who dares to use insults.
Conrad further reflects, with a failing grasp of grammar and the like: “Its [sic]weird that i sat at the same table with David, and talked to him. Im glad i didnt tell him im an abolitionist vegan. That would have ruined the evening...” Actually he could have had a civilized dialogue, so long as he could keep up his side of the bargain. But then, perhaps he would become bullying (like so many of these people are) if I mentioned I am an abolitionist vegan too. Oh, I relish meeting this “Conrad” person now! I am sure I can be courteous to him, and my thoughts about him will most likely remain private. But at this moment, it is time to turn to Francione’s own comments in this forum.
Francione’s Character Assassination
Francione claims of me: “he lies outright.” That comment which he is spreading to many other people, doing damage to my reputation, is purely libelous. If I have uttered anything inaccurate, that must have been a mistake, not dishonesty. He could not possibly find any genuine evidence for such an accusation. No one can, for any falsehood. And this is a man who supposedly adheres to an ethic of ahimsa, or abstaining from any kind of avoidable harm. That is all I have to say about this particular comment of his at this juncture.
We also find out where the mental illness garbage comes from as Francione calls me “disturbed,” claiming that: “he…says and does things that are, quite frankly, insane (and I am using that term literally).” Again, no evidence. Francione calls me “obsessed” with him, rather than just treating him as the principal author, unfortunately, among the anti-incrementalists. Calling me a crazy man is really just another feeble try at smearing my reputation as a scholar. Unfortunately, this kind of tossing of excrement tends to backfire, at least among the people who most matter. I don’t really care if fellow insulters get their kicks. That is simply not relevant to me. For my part, I say that no one should call anti-incrementalists who are mud-slingers “excrementalists.” True, “ex” is opposite to “in” as in extroverted/introverted, extrinsic/intrinsic, and “anti-in” can playfully be paired with “ex”. But insults are beneath my dignity, and even if they are fun for one party, they are almost invariably not for the other.
Francione’s Criticisms without Any Evidence To Back Them Up
Francione regales us with his thoughts: “Sztybel produces largely incoherent and confused ramblings…” It is simple to prove incoherence. All he has to do is catch me in a self-contradiction. Saying one thing, and then saying the logical contrary. And yet he offers no evidence, not even a one piece. By contrast, I show how he often contradicts himself, more than forty times as I recall, with my essay, “Francione’s Mighty Boomerang,” July 15, 2008 in my blog. There are other occasions too. I show that his own thinking seems to be logically faulty on too many occasions to count. It’s funny. Just as I pointed out the Francionists use the same tactics as the speciesists of insulting, evasion, lack of logic, libelous remarks, and all the rest of it there is another parallel too. Many have noticed that speciesist philosophers hold themselves to a very low standard of rigour for their indefensible views, but hold animal rights people to an utmost standard of rigour. The Francionists similarly keep to a very low standard of academic argumentation, but purportedly hold people like me to a high standard. I have pointed out so many logical problems with their claims. They either do not seem to notice, or not to care even if they do notice. It is like they suddenly go cross-eyed whenever they read a telling point against their position, and then they obliviously just “buzz on” with their “reading.” Is that not weird, for people with pretensions of being intellectually superior to other animal rights people? If I had really ever contradicted myself, believe me, these guys would have been all over it and we would never hear the end of it.
You can rightly derive great amusement from the fact that after years of my writing, the only passage they pick on, from “The Red Carpet,” is argued rock-solid, as I demonstrated above. So frankly, I read this incoherence or confusion “finding” of Francione as just a lot of hot air. Oh, and my thought not “cohering” with Francione’s thinking does not count here, but that is likely what he really means—probably without even realizing it. Conrad asks for Francione’s thoughts, and the latter replies: “Apart from the fact that he misrepresents my view and he rambles on in absolute incoherency, no.” Misrepresents? About as much as last blog entry, in which I directly quote Francione and provide the transcript to back it up. Dr. Ray Greek debates vivisectors and finds that one of their favorite tactics is to claim their views are being taken "out of context" and the like. Greek finds this is just an easy catch-all phrase that they cannot back up. I suspect something similar is going on here. Francione does not have very much to say, considering all the many things I have written. But then he does not truly grasp what I have written as he himself proves in the leaked transcript. Francione might think I “misrepresent” his view when I show untoward logical implications of his way of thinking. For example, he states that anti-cruelty laws create complacency. The unstated implication: keeping conditions cruel will be effective for preventing complacency. A lot of people wrongly try to ignore those sorts of things, sweeping them under the rug and such. If he thinks that my work is all “incoherent,” that just means he has no coherent grasp of what I am stating and arguing. He is unwittingly putting himself down, here, not me.
The claims about misrepresentation stem from Francione too. He writes that I mischaracterize his views without any evidence. Even though ALL of my claims about him in my academic writing is cited from his own work. And I use citations elsewhere too. He continues without evidence: “Sztybel…ignores what I say in favor of the mischaracterization and misrepresentations.” Of course, I did not know he disavowed much of his peer-reviewed book, published by Temple University Press, Rain without Thunder. But otherwise, probably every claim that I misrepresent his views on the AR Zone transcript can be countered with the citations of his own texts that I make in my original essay, including the material from Rain which I was wholly justified in criticizing at an earlier date. He offers: “You can make up your own mind up about the quality of Sztybel’s analysis and whether Sztybel’s descriptions of my position bears any relationship to reality.” He had his chance to clarify his views and he blew it by fleeing the TARS debate. I told him that was one of my reasons for holding the debate. It is purely contemptuous to imply that my representations do not have ANY relationship to reality. Just a crazy man, eh? Crazy like a fox…
Francione’s Misrepresentation of My Views
It is ironic that Francione and Johnson cry about misrepresentation, when both do that so extensively in relation to my own work. Recall that the three critiques mentioned last blog entry are misrepresentations in two-thirds of them. Also, if a light bulb happened to switch on in his head about economics, he would see that what he is saying is just plain wrong. Mathematically so. He got Singer wrong too but never retracted or apologized. The damage can never be fully reversed though, and the same is true of Francione’s above-reproduced libel against myself. Do apologies not accord with Francione’s profession of a philosophy of ahimsa? His baselessly calling me dishonest is also not consistent with ahimsa, now, is it? He could not possibly find any real evidence that I am untruthful because there can never be any real evidence for a falsehood.
What does blatantly misinterpreting others’ work come to on an academic grading scale? It is either a D for marginal or an F for a fail, for failing to do even the basic thing of understanding others and presenting credible analysis of their position. And how would his “economic” points be graded? Well, he would get a C at most because he has not produced any evidence. But his actual writing on these issues would also get a B at most because he has some interesting ideas, but they are illogically conceived, e.g., that “welfarism” always makes animal exploitation more profitable, which can be disproved as I did last blog entry. Also, you cannot get into the B range without accounting for arguments that your opponent makes, and in critiquing me, he should account for my actual arguments. Basically, Francione here is being a mostly a D, F (for the misrepresentations he does) or C (for his "Francionomics") student of my work in this forum (I guess the two Ds drag the C- down into the D+ range perhaps on average), leading a bunch of D to F students who only make points without evidence. Essentially, we have a D student leading a bunch of D or F students. Not very inspiring. Except of my title, "D-Day."
Would a professional scholar care about what bad students of his or her work say about it, or whether they are in favour? Why? Only if and insofar these unimpressive thinkers have an effect on others. This is not insulting, by the way, but merely how academic work gets graded in the real world, and how someone such as myself views lower-level academic work. It has nothing to do with snobbery, or "elitism," or people flattering themselves that they know what they are doing, or whether some individuals think they are “brilliant,” and so on. It all comes down to the quality of the arguments, and the cold, hard facts that feed into such assessments.
I would add that a lot of Francione’s other work is probably A-level by academic standards. At least according to me. You see, I have the democratic belief that members of all major schools should be given the chance to have A-rated work, and we need all lines of thought represented to think well. Even if I think Francione’s work is a tissue of errors. Not all scholars are this generous, however. Bad professors give their students a bad grade if their pupils express any disagreement with the teacher.
So I am not talking about the grade-level of his work in general. What I am pointing out here is that his engagement with my ideas, as an opposing viewpoint, is very far from A-level indeed, and that affects the credibility of his writing which I refute as well. So what does this person whom many believe to be a “great leader” recommend, based on his purportedly “professional” assessment of my work?
Francione’s Recommendations Regarding My Work
Francione says: “People should do what they want” about engaging me, Dr. Sztybel, in debate. In practice, though, Roger Yates did just that on AR Zone and Gary ostracized Yates for that, and also for calling me an animal rights supporter. I only support animal rights after all, so how dare anyone call me an animal rights supporter! Yes, he is a professor, folks. Then Francione complains: “Yates is familiar enough with my work to know that Sztybe [sic] was misrepresenting me and he said nothing. I am now convinced that Yates is not concerned about education.” This is laughable. Yates is a professor, who is not concerned with education? And Francione is whining that no one corrected my views. He and his followers should have joined the dialogue and done that themselves. I cordially invited them to participate. Many of these vicious Francionists say that I should not be given a platform to speak, ergo, we should do away with rational discussion, democracy, open-mindedness, respect for other views, and censor Sztybel. But the fact is, I was already given a platform to speak on AR Zone. Too late. Given this, Francione’s failure to correct people’s potential misunderstanding is his own fault. Recall that my website gets more than 84,000 page views a year at the present rate. They are asleep at the switch.
He seems to be genuinely afraid to engage with me, for some reason, just as when he fled from the TARS discussion when the going got tough. It is intellectual or moral cowardice to fail to act against perceived disinformation when given the easy opportunity to do so. They have uniformly failed in their supposed mission of “education.” But then, censorship also fails in that respect too, does it not? Mylene and Johnson agree that I should not be given a platform, since, according to Mylene such a move “risks giving [Dr. Sztybel] the appearance of credibility in the eyes of the small handful of advocates who show up for chats.” I denounce this statement as intellectual cowardice. If I lack any credibility, these people should be able to show it through open and honest debate. I guess they fear that for some reason though. Perhaps they ought to.
Conrad in the dialogue says he thought Yates was “on the same page as with us and Gary…” and is puzzled as to why there is no longer an “amicable” relationship. The explanation is simple, although Francione never even directly answers Conrad. He does not really favour people doing what they want about engaging with me in debate, contrary to what he said. If that were true, he never would have “excommunicated” Yates. He is censoring and cutting off Yates because the latter did not censor me, and because Yates did not uphold Francione’s censoring of the idea that I am an animal rights supporter. It is that simple. Francione is a control-freak. He wants to hold all the cards. The trouble is, he is theorizing in a collapsing house of cards. His objection to Yates calling me an animal rights person is also censoring Yates himself for daring to disagree with his “Master.”
“Dave” also chimes in that it is “a shame” that I, Dr. Sztybel, am not called on my “misrepresentations.” If it is such a shame, then why did they themselves contribute to this supposed “shame”? Not that I am necessarily conceding that I misrepresented anyone. But if they sincerely believe that, then they acted inappropriately, and are whiningly blaming others for not doing what they themselves were entirely free to do.
Francione predicts, by way of further recommendations, that debate with me “will not be productive.” True, so long as Francione engages in ignoring, insults, evasions, and logically spurious argumentation. At least, that will not be productive for him. It suits me OK. He debated me in effect with his three moves in the transcript. I am confident that anyone who is unbiased would say that he lost. Badly. He also adds: “…there is probably nothing we can learn from his comments and…they cannot possibly be taken as serious remarks.” Well, perhaps Gary does have trouble learning and taking my ideas seriously, as has already been pointed out. He attributes views to me that plainly contradict what I have written. Most of what he said (67% of his three claims) is actually wholly inaccurate or the opposite of what I say. Other people show it is not only possible to take my work seriously, but they actually do so.
Also, think about how narrow-minded it was to excommunicate Yates just for calling me an animal rights person and for actually facilitating an intelligent discussion with me. Surely, then, there could not be room enough in such a mind for tolerating my theory itself. Gary adds: “I am not sure that much else needs to be said about this. In any event, I have nothing further to say.” After all these years. I wrote “Animal Rights Law” which was published in 2007 and contains many relevant arguments that continue to go unaddressed. In four years, Francione’s response, all he has to say, are two cases of analyzing my statements wrongly and another case of begging the question against what I have already argued. Wow. I am not surprised these people have a low opinion of my writing. It reflect badly on themselves. A writing only seems as good in someone’s mind as the reading itself is credible. And the Francionists are apparently illiterate regarding what I argue. They fail in understanding and to take what I say seriously, thus mocking themselves in effect. They never, ever have taken on my central arguments about what is best for animals in the short- and long-terms, among other key considerations.
The Abuse of Leanne
There was one person who appeared in the forum whose name was “Leanne.” She questioned what was stated by all of the others:
I'm really bothered….I'm a new member here and maybe I don't know the rules of the road, but it seems odd that Gary Francione would talk about another person the way he has. I don't know anything about David Sztybel, except for what I can read about him online, but it doesn't seem possible to me that a guy who has a Masters and Ph.D. in Philosophy, who is a teacher and published author could be "insane". But, as I said, I don't know him.
Anyway, I don't know what everyone is so afraid of. If Sztybel's ideas are that bad, it ought to be easy to point out how and why. I don't understand why the tone here has to be so mean.
Funny, I have the same concerns. All the insults. And why are they so afraid to engage me, given their supposed dedication to “education”? And the supposed ease of refuting my work? It makes no rational sense except as part of a censorship or vicious attack campaign.
Good old “Dave” tries to explain that “Gary didn’t say that Sztybel is insane. He said that Sztybel has said and done things are insane.” Like the Red Carpet example as a prime instance? Such laughable nonsense. Anyway, Francione is much less kind to this person who dared to question the foul goings-on on this “forum.” The law professor, who has gone to trial defending students’ right to freedom not to dissect animals, speaks:
It is either the case that: (1) you have not read Sztybel's posts or (2) you agree with the substance of what Sztybel says.
If (1) is true, don't you think that you have an obligation to read what he says before you decide that it is in any way inaccurate or inappropriate to characterize what he says as disturbingly bizarre?
If (2) is true, then why are you here?
More of Francione’s logical “brilliance.” He will not tolerate anyone who might agree with me in the slightest, even if they just concede that I am an animal rights supporter, as Yates did. Leanne could not question the meanness of outright insults, apparently, unless she was an expert on my work or was a "Sztybelian." You have to do a lot of reading on Sztybel or be "one of those" before you know if that is appropriate. This according to people who whine that I insult! Oh, and she needs to read my work or be an actual Sztybel fanatic before she asks why they do not bother to correct what I say. If only she reads my work or is a true believer regarding Sztybel, she would understand exactly why they are so afraid! And the nerve of Leanne, asking implicitly for EVIDENCE that I am insane or have done mad things. She either agrees with me or has not read my work if she dares to ask for such evidence. Surely “The Red Carpet” example is overwhelming evidence! (Actually it is, and so is the Francionists’ responses to it, but not warrant for what the Francionists say.) But no one supplies any reason except the quote from “The Red Carpet,” which involves a literary finale to a tightly argued critique. It is entirely rational, and anyone who claims it is “insane,” let alone lacking in reasoning, is, himself or herself, irrational.
Leanne persisted though:
It also seems that you're saying that only those people who already agree with you are welcome here. My purpose here is to learn.
If I'm not welcome here, please tell me and I'll be happy to leave.
I was informed that Francione ejected Leanne from his “forum” without further ado for daring to question “the leader.” Censorship again. She was right. There was no concern with learning, no appeal to evidence which is normal in such matters. Either follow Gary or be censored, just like in a cult. Francione did not even bother to reply to her apparently. He just axed her. Everly tried to reassure that he has seen “nothing even remotely resembling an attack in this thread or even in this forum.” So calling me a putz, a liar, a madman, and all the rest are not attacks? Then what is? Francione comments that it is “illegitimate” for AR Zone to “create controversy” by featuring my views. Censorship after all precludes controversy very easily, does it not? Of course there already IS a controversy. I have been actively engaged in it for years now. A “forum” implies dialogue and rational discussion. Their calling their threads of inaneness "The Abolitionist Approach Forum" is a mockery, therefore, in being called a "forum" and also in claiming to represent "the" abolitionist approach, as though people who agree with me are any less keen to abolish speciesism.
The Whining about Grades Objection
It is predictable that the Francionists will plead that it is not fair to “grade” their performance as I have. However, a chief scholar in the field on the anti-incrementalist question was asked for a learned opinion about my work, and of course this can be assessed for its scholarly value. We can provisionally assess the comments in this forum. It is not a final assessment. That would depend on further developments. One can grade anything: a research proposal, rough notes, sketches of thoughts, and so on. These days, with the electronic classroom, forum discussion is often graded too as happened to me in 2006 at teacher’s college. (I got an A+ in that and every other course except one, which was an A...English, you know; I know the grading system from that end too, and I wonder how many incoherent madmen--as they are painting me--can manage that?) I am not truly grading anybody’s work as in a school setting. Nobody is going to get a report card. I am making a rhetorical point rather than actually grading anybody as part of any institution. I am illustrating how their remarks could be graded by conventional academic standards. A true grade would require an assignment, time to complete the assignment demarcated by a deadline, and so forth. They set themselves the task of assessing my arguments, and it is this critical review that is being graded in all fairness. Anyone not interested in the grading part can ignore it. Just please: NO WHINING.
Conclusion: Enjoy Your D-Day
So Francione scores a few Ds for a total misreading of my work. A proper grader’s comment might read in part: “Inadequate. Analysis does not apply to what Sztybel actually writes and so is a straw man argument.” , and a C- for just gesturing at economic theory. I have generously supplied his arguments on economics and refuted them. Students like this C- effort would often get comments such as: “Nice effort, but inadequate. You need to consider the other side which you do not allow for at all.” Any student routinely scores in the C range if they fail to account for the other side. Tidy grammar and lots of footnotes will not save the effort. The overall argument needs to be graded, and it is assumed that it is merely part of what is adequate to provide citations (by the way, we cannot expect an informal discussion in his "forum" to have formal citations, so that is not so relevant here; having reasons would be nice, though). It is not “good” to fail to account for the other side, which is the B-range, but at most adequate, and hence the C-range. It is not "good" to put forward nonsensical mathematical claims in economics either, which drags the thing down to a C- (if not another D, frankly; I am again being generous here because a lot of people would grade such costing beyond the pale of reason in such a fashion). Proper academics do well at accounting for "the other side(s)." This leaves him with a D+ average, or perhaps a solid D average, depending how you are prepared to accommodate "Francionomics."
Consider that in Rain without Thunder, p. 191, he declared his interpretation of animal rights as never accepting compromised forms of animal interests as "uncontroversial." It could only seem so to him if dissenting voices are silenced in his own consciousness. Then he went on to not only controvert but to reject the incrementalist theory that he once considered so "uncontroversial."
Francionists trying to get people fired, libel, insults, and calling opponents “insane” and totally out of touch with reality is all attempting anyway to be cruel like a bully. That is why Yates told me to “get a life,” in a public forum, just like the speciesists do at animal rights protests. Offering to be cruel may work against helpless animals, but not against those who can stand up for themselves. Indeed, cruelty backfires in this case. As for cruelty to the animals, all the Francionists would be screaming out for relief, be it legislative or any other form, if even one of the torturous factory farming measures were inflicted on themselves. I have yet to see a single Francionist express much concern at all about legally allowed cruelty to animals; usually they brush that aside as though it is simply irrelevant to their animal activism.
Look at the rebellion occurring on AR Zone, where Francione is in many ways viewed as he deserves. Even the Francionists there no longer want to be associated much with Francione. It is a grand irony that just as he offers too little too late to help animals legislatively, so he is giving only too little too late to refute my claims. People who become smug with overconfidence, and think they are entitled to censor their opponents…it all catches up with them eventually. If I was into insults, well, after the way these people abused me in their little "forum," I could pretty much have my pick of different types of mud. But I leave the mud-slinging to these Francionists. Anyway, D-Day is here. The Francionists, for all their bravado, could not escape the D-range, even while ridiculously accusing me of being de-ranged!
FURTHER READING ON ANIMAL RIGHTS INCREMENTALISM
A Selection of Related Articles
Sztybel, David. "Animal Rights Law: Fundamentalism versus Pragmatism". Journal for Critical Animal Studies 5 (1) (2007): 1-37.
Short version of "Animal Rights Law".
Sztybel, David. "Incrementalist Animal Law: Welcome to the Real World".
Sztybel, David. "Sztybelian Pragmatism versus Francionist Pseudo-Pragmatism".
A Selection of Related Blog Entries