“Mention my name and you will definitely cause a riot,” Leigh
“I know, that is why I am going to mention your name.” Reporter in 2016
At Wild Horse Education (WHE) we work with media representatives in multiple capacities. We provide info and images, roundups and on the range. Yet we also work the media behind the scenes doing research and consulting on projects.
The American media has changed drastically in the last decade. The advent of “internet in every household” created a sharp decline in print media. A lot of jobs were lost. Print media had staff reporters, photographers, pre-press and press. It had distribution. An entire industry needed to evolve. It is still evolving.
Social media has become the way in which most Americans now get information about the larger world around them. More than half of Americans now get their “news” from Facebook or Twitter.
Newspapers now receive the largest share of readership from online views, not in the form that can line the bottom of a birdcage. Advertising is where the money comes from. Advertising rates often rely on the number of “clicks” a site receives. However copyright issues now abound. Articles get copied and pasted onto blogs and paraphrased, or worse edited, before they are shared and the source never receives the “revenue.”
With wild horse and burro issues we often see both editing, plagiarism and outright theft on images, our content as well as “news” content read by the public. We can not even list the number of articles, statements and images that we created, or were involved with, that have been taken out of context. This creates a real obstacle as an advocacy organization.
“Why do you keep putting quotes from that org into articles on my court cases. They had nothing to do with it and they were never even in that HMA?” Leigh to Reporter.
“Because I need the extremist point of view and you won’t give it to me.” Reporter in 2014
“Then don’t call me anymore. You are hurting the truth, it needs no embellishment.” Leigh
“But that perspective is their truth.” Reporter
“You’re an a**.” Leigh
Modern media often sensationalizes a story to get a reaction, the reaction to “click” that button. We can not begin to tell you the number of times, in stories that cover areas WHE is “on the ground,” where the quotes are merely opinion statements of those that never set foot in the area because they are literally “crazy” and made you click a link. This has created a reality where people believe we were in agreement with the “crazy” person, when in fact we were vehemently opposed.
The creation of the fictional cliche story about wild horses and burros has created two devastating realities; media outlets do not want to print any wild horse story because they believe it has “been done before” and the public is rather ill informed by the stereotype.
“Where are you?” Reporter working on a large national news story centered around a roundup. He had talked to Leigh about the story and she was running from roundup to roundup all year, waiting to hear from him.
“This is the last roundup of the year and I have court in a week. I went back to Reno because another org called me and told me I deserved to finally take a break and they had this one covered.” Leigh
“They didn’t tell you we were coming? I need your footage, they don’t have what we need.” Reporter.
“Are you kidding me?” Leigh
“Don’t you all work together? They told me they support you?” Reporter.
“They do not pay for this work. They have not been at a roundup all year. If you want my footage you can come to Reno. I know you will end up playing it behind their heads while they speak and I am really sick of it. You will portray another fiction.” Leigh
The number of times our footage has been used behind the talking head of an organization or individual that was not present, and was taking everything out of context, is beyond measure. The behind the scenes bickering is like high school girls competing for a cheerleading squad. People think we share the opinion of the speaker and often that could not be further from the truth.
When investigative journalists have actually done in depth stories on wild horse issues, wild horse advocates have sent them hate mail. The hate mail was not because the story was bad, but because their organization was not in the article. Some organizations even went on public smear campaigns of both the journalists and the advocates mentioned, WHE was one publicly drawn and quartered.
“I talked to activists and ranchers, they all say you are an a**hole,” Reporter in 2015 “Tells me exactly who I need to talk to.”
Near the end of 2014 the “range wars” have really heated up in the political arena. Issues in our American West have drawn in “investigative journalists.” Many of these journalists are not interested in wild horse stories because of the “been there done that” attitude or a real propensity to see wild horse advocates in a negative context. Several have contacted us in the last couple of years looking for information on our western landscape, political and literal, but not for “wild horse” stories. They have all done the “homework” and know we are actually on the ground. We helped a number of them with process to get the information they needed or provided it outright.
We have talked with many of them about doing a story of the reality of wild horse issues. But most of them have relegated “wild horses” into a “fluff” category, they only want the exaggerated crazy activist and the tough cowboy. Or worse yet, they do not see the reality of the issues as important enough to gain the “clicks.” Public land management issues have now been relegated to the “Big Bad Government VS the Crazy Cowboy.” The stories are not being told that address the multifaceted reality. It is too complicated, it needs to be cut short enough to “get the clicks” and use only a certain number of column inches (often stories are held to 1000 words or less).
For advocacy orgs that have big salaries and consultation fees, the media must be used as a vehicle to keep that alive. Without the exaggerated claim they get no clicks or donations, the organizations can not continue the other work they do, the work that matters, but the media won’t cover.
Is this a necessary tool in the modern world? It has become one. It is tragic and will lead to nothing but more tragedy.
We have seen anti animal welfare nonprofits use this same strategy (that pay their workers very well). If an advocate rescues dogs dying in puppy mills, they are trying to take your right to own a purebred dog away. If an organization is trying to protect a predator species like wolves from being wiped out, they are pushing a vegan agenda and are against the “wholesome” rancher.
Because of the work we have done WHE, and our founder Laura Leigh, are targets. We are targets for multiple reasons but that carries a controversy. A controversy that is becoming increasingly valuable to getting out the story of the wild horse and the world they live in, one of our main goals. Without that story the real world changes can not happen. Just as the truth of roundups and the lack of transparency led to multiple legal wins for WHE (Federal Judges did not just hand them to us, we won them on merit in a grueling marathon from range to court), so too can the truth of the floundering historic practices of range management.
Controversial? You bet your butt it is. Is it controversial enough to get the media to cover it? Media is all over the bully tactics that threaten federal employees and the drama storm that exists in. But can we get the media to understand that everything that lives and breathes on our western landscape is under the very same threat?
Over the weekend The Las Vegas Review Journal did a small “bio piece” on our founder Laura Leigh. http://www.reviewjournal.com/news/water-environment/activist-chronicles-wild-horse-roundups-guard-against-mistreatmenthttp://www.reviewjournal.com/news/water-environment/activist-chronicles-wild-horse-roundups-guard-against-mistreatment
This story is NOT about the work of Leigh, but the figure Leigh represents. That figure is a myth of it’s own, when the depth of the work is left unsaid. The work itself goes largely unseen in the public eye with tragic consequence as people focus on the need for drama, not solutions. It leads to tragic places… and the place we fear our wild horses and wild places are headed? Is into nonexistence. Media? Are you responsible?
The article was written as a series of pieces on some of the interesting, odd figures, that live in Nevada. Leigh agreed because she said “I am definitely an odd figure and wild horse stories just are not being included in the public land storm.” She warned the reporter before hand though about writing about her. She told him what to expect and even gave him the name of an unfortunate journalist that found himself at the eye of a “bash fest” after using her as an investigative source. That particular journalist, Dave Philipps, was eventually threatened with a “punch in the face” by former Secretary of the Interior Salazar and was the recipient of numerous attacks from advocates. For a story that covered a link between the former Secretary and a kill buyer sold nearly 1800 wild horses by the federal government that he sold to slaughter, he was actually bashed by advocates.
The article sparked the expected response. The ensuing rabble did not disappoint. A real hatred exists in many people for the wild horse, it extends to the character in the West whose last name “rhymes with pee.” Arguments ensued that included the multiple fictions about Leigh’s work because reporters would play her footage behind talking heads that were taking the images out of context (because they were not there) or because statements made by the “crazy activists” used by other journalists are always attributed to Leigh. Fake profiles cropped up (on the internet everyone thinks they are anonymous) even from mouth pieces of organizations that pay their CEO over six figures and employ multiple family members, to trash WHE that makes less than one twentieth of what they pull in. It did not disappoint.
The story published was a tiny little glimpse into a single individual. The story focused on the tenacity of a woman that held her work together during a three year fight with breast cancer. It focused on an organization that essentially exists behind a moving dashboard as a “character” of our modern day western landscape.
You would think this woman is Billy the Kid or Jesse James by the reaction to the article. The reaction to the article? It has nothing to do with the real work for the wild horses.
“It breaks my heart,” LLeigh
To go to our main website, click image below.
Edited to add the following:
A particular comment on the LVRJ article has multiple people that follow our work upset.
“crypto666 • 12 hours ago
Laura says ““I’ve listened to people talk about how the horses are doing all the destruction, and then I tell them, ‘Now, when can I slap the crap out of you?’”
Now, slap me now laura. But you better get your chubby self in shape first. You will also need to slap all of academia, who disagrees with you, every natural resource scientist in the country who all disagree with you, then slap away the 200 year of agriculture and ecology science, and when you get done with your slap fest, you can go repair the millions upon millions of acres destroyed by unamanged feral horses that came straight from a barn.”
First, crypto666 as a handle sounds like “look at me I’m a sociopath.” But it actually is a woman named Tabby that is a member of a Facebook group.
Tabby does not know context of the statement. Maybe if you all know it it will either make you laugh, cry or get mad?
Leigh said “The area we are standing in, this allotment, BLM has set the number of horses at 35. When they hit 50 they are destroying the range. Right over this rise we have over 2000 sheep, that are dropping babies and will number nearly 4000 soon. The sheep are moved by the wrangler up and down this area. By the way if you see those dogs come over the rise jump in the truck as fast as you can, they will rip you up. This is growing season for the range. Plants are just starting to send up new growth. The sheep come through here like locusts, it aint no gentle travel and don’t inhale deeply, they stink. Now somehow that represents some absurd notion of ‘ecological balance.’ So BLM, should I just slap you now?”
Throughout the conversation “slap the crap outta you,” said in a thick Jersey accent, became a running joke.
Now if you are mad that she called Leigh chubby, “I am chubby. I gained nearly 50 lbs when my body went out of whack with cancer, I was severely anemic for 3 years and on physical restrictions. I went from a size 4 jeans to a 10. The anemia is gone and the other tumors in my body that began to grow (noncancerous) as a side effect of the cancer meds are gone. Right now? So is the breast cancer. I am now wearing either an 8 or a 6, depending on where I am in my cycle. By todays standard I am chubby, what is the big deal?”
If you are upset about the persons reference to the word science? “The National Academy of Sciences (the most accredited scientific body in the world) actually agrees with me. So does the Government Accounting Office (GAO) in multiple reports published over decades. PEER (Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility) also agrees with me. A person that can not use their real name on the internet, citing supposed scientists in the pocket of Big Ag? Like that really carries weight.”
Also our litigation was not won by walking in and saying “C’mon your honor, just give it to us.” We won on merit. More times than… we are not concerned by the peanut gallery. We won on merit in front of multiple Federal Court Judges. In our book that carries more weight.
RELAX people…. we are NOT upset by any of the comments. We know who these people are and what motivations they have. They are actually helping us show who they are, what they stand for and are increasing the platform we will have in the future. Pile it on.
The article has been up only three days. It had more comments deleted for violation of policy than remain. Policy includes personal attack, libel, slander and a plethora of fun words. The LVRJ had to close public comments today because it was literally “out of control.”
Categories: Wild Horse Education