Direct Action, Liberation
And The Need To Persist
By Frank Joseph Smecker
13 December, 2009
An interview with Jason Miller exploring radical dissent and animal liberation
An accomplished and prolific essayist on social and political issues, his writings have appeared on hundreds of alternative media websites over the last few years. He is also a press officer for the North American Animal Liberation Press Office and the founder of Bite Club of KC, a grassroots animal rights activist group.
Frank Joseph Smecker: You founded Thomas Paine’s Corner in March of 2005 as an act of commitment to “ending the unnecessary suffering of oppressed and exploited sentient beings and to the total liberation of human animals, nonhuman animals, and the Earth.” Can you explain, in further depth, the content managed on the site and its relationship to the direct action that is needed to halt the dominant culture’s destructive behavior?
Jason Miller: Thomas Paine’s Corner (TPC) exists as a platform from which our editors, writers, and I can educate, promote, persuade, convince, criticize, and help evoke profound social change. TPC also helps amplify the press releases of the North American Animal Liberation Press Office by simulposting many of them. These anonymous communiqués from underground activists demonstrate TPC’s support for the “direct action that is needed to halt the dominant culture’s destructive behavior,” as the NAALPO press releases deliver the communiqués in a format that both informs the world of the action and explains why the activists did what they did.
I do tend to focus heavily on animal liberation issues with the pieces I publish on TPC, but our content includes a wide array of human and Earth liberation essays, polemics, articles, rants, critiques, and poems as well. As you noted in your question, my editors and I promote Steve Best’s concept of total liberation of human animals, nonhuman animals, and the Earth. You can get a much better idea of what this entails by visiting the Total Liberation section of TPC at http://thomaspainescorner.wordpress.com/total-liberation/.
FJS: Evidently, you’re a proponent of animal liberation; can you explain why animals need liberation, what animal liberation entails and, its alliance to the total liberation of all sentient beings on the planet?
JM: This question goes to the heart of my unwavering dedication to the animal rights movement. Our species annihilates 50 billion nonhuman animals per annum—10 billion in the US alone…
FJS: That’s incredible…
JM: I know…
FJS: In a really horrific sense…
JM: I know. Nearly defenseless against humans, the most dangerous and destructive species ever to stalk the planet, nonhuman animals suffer egregious exploitation. Circuses, rodeos, vivisection labs, factory farms, zoos, puppy mills, public and private areas where hunting and fishing are permitted, and numerous other entities and places objectify living, sentient beings, using and abusing them as they see fit to derive profits and pleasure. It is morally abhorrent that our species subjugates, tortures, and wantonly massacres millions upon millions of individuals from other species day after day—and we could readily live without the benefits that we derive from these heinous acts or we could attain those benefits in other ways.
Animal liberation naturally aligns with other liberation movements because the exploitation and oppression of nonhuman animals occur to such a broad extent and because humans are able to perpetrate these reprehensible acts so readily—due to the defenselessness of the animals and because law, culture and society endorse, condone, and promote these abject cruelties. Slavery, exploitation, and oppression of humans trace their roots to the objectification and subjugation of nonhuman animals that began some 12,000 years ago when we started “domesticating” them. Many of the tools (i.e. shackles and branding) we used to enslave people are still in use today for enslaving “farm” animals. To learn far more about the undeniable parallels between human and nonhuman animal exploitation and enslavement, I highly recommend Marjorie Spiegel’s book entitled “The Dreaded Comparison: Human and Animal Slavery.”
If we are to break the chains of economic tyranny, patriarchy, racism, classism, imperialism, and other forms of human oppression, we need to get to the root of dominionism and liberate nonhuman animals—allowing them to live free of human-inflicted enslavement, torture, and death.
FJS: It’s been said that in order to exploit someone you must first silence them. This can be done by stripping one of their subjecthood and objectifying them as a resource to be used and managed. Can you talk about how science and industry objectify nonhuman animals and the rest of the animate world? And what are the implications of this?
JM: Science and industry don’t have to objectify nonhuman animals or nature. Our sociocultural indoctrination has already done that for the vivisectors, factory farmers, and their ilk. As a species, we have created layer upon layer of myths, falsehoods, delusions, and dogmas to convince ourselves of our superiority and separateness. Blinded by hubris and deluded by profound narcissism, we’ve convinced ourselves that we are little demigods, endowed with the right to plunder, exploit, consume, pollute, torture, and kill with virtual impunity.
FJS: Define speciesism.
JM: Speciesism is the deeply flawed belief that the human species is superior to all other species. Like racism, the more powerfully embedded such a belief is in society, the more immense the suffering of those individuals deemed “inferior.” The widespread prevalence of speciesism in our dominant culture gives morally stunted people a ‘license to torture and kill’ nonhuman animals.
FJS: So why protect animals? I mean, I know why, but many attempt to excuse speciesist behavior with this benighted question.
JM: Right. Why not protect animals? Or another question: Why protect Homo sapiens, a species of animal that’s destroying the planet? Rhetoricals of course…..
We need to protect nonhuman animals for several reasons:
1. They are sentient—they have central nervous systems and feel pain, just as we do. We have no right to enslave, torture, or slaughter them.
2. Many species of nonhuman animals are far more intelligent, emotionally developed, and socially complex than most people realize. They deserve the opportunity to live free of human-inflicted subjugation, suffering, or death.
3. Our species has triggered the Sixth Great Extinction and it is our responsibility to mitigate it to the extent we’re able.
4. Contrary to our delusions, we are not separate and distinct from nature. Despite the numerous artificial barriers we’ve created, there’s no escaping the fact that we’re part and parcel of the web of existence, or life if you will, on this planet. Each individual, each herd, each flock, and particularly each entire species that we annihilate or eradicate further disrupts the ecological balance that we’ve already adversely impacted in significant ways.
FJS: You’re vegan, is this correct?
JM: I am a vegan.
FJS: Why veganism?
JM: My reasoning is relatively simple. I do not objectify nonhuman animals. I view them as individuals and sentient beings with rich emotional, social and intellectual lives, each bearing the basic rights to exist free from human exploitation, subjugation, torture, and murder. Eating rotting animal flesh, which is what “meat” actually is, is as abhorrent to me as cannibalism would be to most of the “meat” eating world.
FJS: I have a great recipe for a tofu potpie; would you like me to share it with you?
JM: Sure. Veganism is an integral part of my spiritual beliefs, so I generally eat to live and could subsist on nearly anything that gave me the nutrients I need. BUT, I’m certainly not one to turn down an offer of good vegan food.
FJS: Alright, here we go:
- First, make your piecrust; pre-bake the bottom layer of the crust for 10 minutes on 450˚ F.
- Then, cube the tofu and fry it in olive oil until it gets nice and crispy. Add some nutritional yeast, flaky not powdered (and some garlic/onion powder for some flavor).
- Cut up one onion and sauté it. Add chopped celery and carrots and peas respectively. Add some tamari (optional), garlic, etc.
- Next you want to make the gravy. This gravy kicks ass, btw. What you need to do is toast ½ cup of nutritional yeast and ½ cup of flour in a skillet on medium high until you can smell it – but don’t let it burn! Add some olive oil until absorbs all of the flour/yeast and continue to toast. Slowly add water – a little at a time until you reach your desired consistency (keep heating to thicken, add water, etc.). Add tamari and a dash or two of hot sauce (I prefer Frank’s Red Hot Sauce) and other spices.
- Now, put the cubed and crispy tofu over the bottom of the crust. Next, add the layer of sautéed veggies then the gravy, allowing the gravy to settle over everything. Then add the crust-lid, i.e. the top crust.
- Last, bake the pie for 30 minutes at 350˚ F or until the top crust begins to brown.
FJS: My pleasure – let me know how it comes out.
Sorry to jump tracks there; at any rate, where do you believe our desire to protect and defend the wild comes from?
JM: I think that answer would be different for each person. My desire to protect and defend the wild (and nonhuman animals in general) stems from my hair-trigger sensitivity to injustice, the empathy and compassion I developed through the course of my personal struggles, and from the realization that our species is inextricably connected with the rest of nature.
FJS: Personally, I support any movement working toward stopping the destruction of the planet, by any means necessary. Not only are you an advocate for direct-action needed to stop the injustices and cruelty perpetrated by those in power, but you propound and support militant direct-action. Can you explain why?
JM: Our species is waging a war on the Earth and nonhuman animals. We need to defend them by any means necessary. Whether an individual engages in militant direct action (MDA) or not, if a person is seriously dedicated to total liberation, they must at least support MDA and those who engage in it.
FJS: The U.S. has singled out the A.L.F. and E.L.F. as domestic terrorist groups. Why do you believe this is so? What is your response to this?
JM: The corporate state complex of the US has targeted underground militant direct action groups that fight for nonhuman animal and environmental justice as terrorists for two principal reasons. One is that their actions are effective. Secondly, groups like the A.L.F. represent an existential threat to the predominating cultural meme of dominionism and to the precious profits of the corporate state complex. So of course they label them as terrorists and attempt to neutralize them with state repression.
My response is that those exploiting the Earth and nonhuman animals are the true terrorists and groups like the A.L.F. and the E.L.F. are freedom fighters.
FJS: Can you talk about the comparative qualities and aspects between modern-day liberation movements and historic factions such as the abolitionists of the 18th and early 19th centuries, the freedom fighters, Nazi resistance groups, and other estimable groups who risked much to put an end to oppression and violent exploitation?
JM: Modern day liberation movements are fighting with the same sense of moral purpose and employing some of the same underground, militant tactics as Abolitionists and Nazi resistance groups. Sometimes force and violence are necessary to defend and free the innocent from powerful, malevolent people.
FJS: Why do you believe so many radicals, leftists, progressives et al. overlook the importance of Animal and Earth Liberation?
JM: Unfortunately, many radicals and leftists—people who would be nearly ideal allies for animal and Earth liberationists—are hardened humanists. Their anthropocentrism inflicts them with a human-centric myopia that prevents them from recognizing that defending nonhuman animals, the Earth and oppressed humans are struggles that we need to integrate. Many leftists take the position that we need to focus on human suffering and exploitation first and then focus our efforts on animal rights and environmental justice. Why pick and choose which sociopathic tendencies of our species we work to eradicate? We need to go after speciesism and dominionism as tenaciously as we do racism, classism, and patriarchy.
FJS: You’re a pretty radical thinker – which is great to be. Were you always so radically inclined? Or was there a specific catalyst for your change of perspective; was it a sudden epiphany? For me, the transition from being a “good little capitalist” to a radical writer and thinker, recognizing the atrocious imbalances intrinsic within the dominant culture’s power complex, was a painful experience. Was this the case for you?
JM: No, as in no I’ve not always been “radically inclined.” My indoctrination into our planet-murdering capitalist socioeconomic and cultural paradigm was pretty thorough. I spent my first 26 or so years on this planet as an allegiance pledging, money-driven, relatively narcissistic, speciesist, meat-eating, property-worshipping, anthropocentric, NFL obsessed “good citizen” of the American Empire. I didn’t flee to my position “far from the maddening crowd.” I walked at a very slow pace. My evolution to anarcho-veganism was gradual; there was no epiphany. It was painful though in that the catalyst was my self-inflicted descent into spiritual, emotional, social, and financial hell. Yet hitting rock bottom was the best thing that could’ve happened, as my intense soul-searching, tenacious struggle to pull myself back from the brink of self-annihilation, and loss of nearly everything and everyone in my life enabled me to shatter the shackles of the dominant culture. I reconstructed my worldview from scratch—and it bears little resemblance to that of my inculcation.
FJS: Are you ever castigated as an extremist?
JM: I’m often castigated as an extremist.
FJS: What’s your response to this?
JM: My response to this gross mischaracterization is that our planet and animal murdering system is extreme, as are its ardent proponents and its recalcitrant, unrepentant enablers and participants.
FJS: It’s so easy to get overwhelmed by today’s atrocities and I really like what Derrick Jensen has to say about this, which is: “We’re so fucked. But life is so good.” What makes you most happy? How do you remain grounded despite a surfeit of calamitous problems we face in these times?
JM: Following my conscience, fighting for my core beliefs, and being with nonhuman animals and with people who share my worldview are sources of great happiness for me. I stay grounded by knowing my purpose in life (which is defending nonhuman animals and the Earth as a polemicist, thinker, publisher, and activist) and fulfilling it.
FJS: Who have you been influenced by?
JM: My influences are far too numerous to name without writing a book. As an autodidact and one who is addicted to reading, many people have mentored me in the abstract—through the pages of their books, but I also have forged my eclectic and holistic worldview with the help of a number of excellent mentors, teachers, and allies. Dr. Steve Best, a leading theorist of the animal liberation movement whom I met several years ago, was my most recent mentor and remains a very close ally and confidante.
FJS: As a writer, I often wonder how significant of a role we (writers) all have in the struggle for emancipating the planet from the fetters of a dominating culture. Can you talk about the importance the role of the writer plays in influencing effective activism?
JM: I’m a bit biased on this topic because I’m a writer too. However, I also engage in on-the-ground activism, so that adds a bit of objectivity to my response. Emancipating the planet and its other sentient inhabitants is a revolutionary undertaking. Polemicists, propagandists, theorists, and philosophers, who are writers of course, have been essential participants in every major revolution and social movement in history. Thomas Paine catalyzed the American Revolution with his widely-read pamphlet, Common Sense. Without Marx, Lenin would’ve had no philosophy on which to base his praxis. William Lloyd Garrison was instrumental in both the Abolition and Women’s Suffrage Movements. There are myriad other examples.
FJS: What role do corporations play in the exploitation and destruction of the world and its inhabitants? What role does the state play in all of this?
JM: The corporate-state complex bears nearly all the responsibility for the exploitation and destruction of the world and its inhabitants. While it’s important for individuals to evolve towards anarchist, vegan, and anti-capitalist worldviews and ways of being, the system and its most unrepentant and malevolent overlords are our enemy. Most people have years of indoctrination to overcome in order to evolve, but many can change and join us. Nearly every individual is a potential ally. We need to work to educate and convert individuals while assailing the corporate-state complex, an entity which utilizes pernicious propaganda and hollow materialistic incentives to lure most people to act as accomplices in its profit-seeking, murderous agenda.
FJS: How does the notion of an industrial collapse impact your strategies regarding the defense of the wild?
JM: Actually, I hadn’t really considered industrial collapse as I’ve waged this prolonged and intense battle to protect the deer in Shawnee Mission Park (which is well-chronicled at Bite Club of KC http://biteclubkc.wordpress.com/). My line of thinking is that as long as industrial civilization is extant in its present form, I want to do what I can to defend as much of the wild and as many nonhuman animals as I can from its metastatic toxicity.
FJS: What do you believe the future holds for dissidents and direct-activists confronting the corporatist-statist union?
JM: I suspect the future for dissidents and direct-activists will become increasingly challenging as we confront the corporatist-state complex. As the existing socioeconomic paradigm (unsustainable, unjust and unstable as it is) continues to wobble and deteriorate, governments will become increasingly repressive, even in so-called liberal democracies like the US and the UK. Applying tools like the Patriot Act, the AETA, the FBI, grand juries, and massive deployments of well-armed law enforcement personnel (i.e. at the G-20 in Pittsburgh), the corporate-state complex has put serious constraints on dissent. The Green Scare has paralyzed many activists with fear. Nevertheless, we need to persist.
Frank Joseph Smecker, TPC’s Editor of Radical Earth Defense, is a social-worker and writer from Vermont who has an ardent and committed passion to work in defense of everything wild. Mostly an autodidact, he is also currently in school matriculating toward a degree in psychology. He is an accomplished writer; his essays, interviews and articles, decrying the atrocities of industrial civilization and capitalism, have appeared in many publications. He is also a blog writer for the Vermont Commons Journal (for Independence from Empire).
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