Thursday, October 11, 2007

Welcome to the Rumor Mill

The debate about the appropriateness of the Animal Liberation Project has definitely continued past last night. I've already made my contribution; but I did want to make one clarification for any and all interested parties.

It came to our attention last night that a rumor has been circulating campus that the ALP originally had a panel showing the Holocaust, and that this panel was not set up at the request of Jewish student leaders. This rumor led one person to ask me "why did the concerns of the Jewish community resonate with you in a way that the concerns of the African American community did not?"

Let me start by saying that PAWS did not choose the panels that came to Princeton. The exhibit consists of twelve panels, all of which travel together and all of which were chosen by PETA. They do not include a panel displaying the Holocaust. Sangeeta Kumar of PETA explained to me that the reason for this is that PETA has already made the Holocaust / slaughterhouse comparison a million times and wanted to try something new. So just to be clear, PAWS did not talk to any Jewish leaders, there was no Holocaust panel, and the rumor is completely made up.

That said, I believe that a Holocaust panel would have been completely appropriate. I continue to view this demonstration as an "all or nothing" affair; if one connection between human and animal suffering is okay, I believe that all twelve panels are appropriate. I do not believe that huge abuses like the Holocaust or slavery can be quantified, nor do I believe that we can say that one is "worse" than the other. If it is appropriate to show slavery and Pol Pot massacres, I believe it must also be appropriate to show the Holocaust. No one group can claim a monopoly on the "worst" oppression or "worst" history, and then refuse to allow that history to be used to the benefit of others.

One final note about the rumors that have been circulating; which is that PAWS ignored the concerns of the African American student body. PAWS listened attentively to the concerns of the African American groups we contacted and attempted to address them in the panel and the literature we handed out. NO campus group was willing to meet with PAWS to discuss their concerns, NO group allowed me to make a presentation to them, and NO group asked to see the entire display - they judged it based on what they had heard about it, not the actual content. Perhaps most importantly, NO group requested that PAWS not bring the display to campus. Without specific, articulated concerns, there was no reason for PAWS not to bring this important display to the attention of the student body.

Hopefully that clears the air, and we can resume discussing the more important philosophical issues this demonstration brings up.

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