EDITORIAL, Laura Leigh
I am writing this piece as a question formulated through observation. The observations I make as a wild horse advocate include all details of the environment our wild ones live in. Those observations include range conditions, holding conditions, handling during capture and processing. But observation includes human elements; politics, government structure, meetings, opposition and advocacy itself. How all of this fits into a broader reality experienced by the horse are the observations that are required to create any strategy, tactic or tool.
I know, a bit esoteric.
I also have been gifted since birth with the uncanny ability to make everyone in a room get along (even momentarily) or to all want to lynch me at once. I have come to appreciate both aspects of this gift.
The title of this article is intended to make you angry at the question, yet interested enough to ask “What does she mean?” with either the intention of understanding what I mean or attacking me. I don’t care what your motivation is, I simply hope you take the time to read.
When I began to advocate for wild horses social media was still an infant trying to learn to crawl. It was a simplistic tool I utilized to create a “daily report” of what was occurring at the roundups I attended. I would see pictures surface a few times a year, but roundups were an almost daily occurrence that went unnoticed in all but “theory speak.” I was able to make it real in your homes everyday. I was able to bring larger traditional media into the conversation. That happened ONLY after I validated the issue by winning litigation against conduct and filed a massive First Amendment suit to gain the ability to observe (those cases spanned a relentless 6 years of my life that are constantly dismantled in today’s world where #AltFacts are spewed in the wrestling match of mud that social media has now become).
Today BLM gives a daily update at roundups and you can go observe. That was not a real fact when I began. We now have a handling policy (in beta test) that can be engaged without litigation. That was not a reality when I began. We now how a daily observation. That was not a reality when I began. There is a lot more that exists today that did not exist when I began. These things are a relatively small piece of advocacy that is engaged to protect the wild horse that is still in the wild.The things I list are about “How do we protect the horse after we fail to protect the range and the horse on the range.” I have always admitted that as I desperately tried to get you to follow the story back to the range.
The most treacherous thing that exists today is the world of #AltFact, that social media perpetuates, that is perpetuated by larger media, that gets recycled,that has been dismantling the world of fact. This amazing tool at our fingertips has become a primary tool to argue with people you have never met, as what is termed a “fact” that does not truly exist, is used as a primary tool.
Utilizing the tool of social media is an unavoidable fact if you want to reach any audience anymore. All sides of any issue use this tool. In “wild horses” the opposition, the government and advocacy use the tool.
How do you use the tool?
Let’s just look at the definitions of some words in the header. The words in the header can be nouns, verbs and adjectives. We are going to add the modern interpretation associated with each.
Advocate: Verb 1.
In modern use of language an “advocate” is usually seen in a positive light. Someone that researches, learns and then acts to achieve a goal; usually for the betterment of someone or something in grave need of a voice.
Activist: Noun; 1.active,
In modern use of the words “activists” are often portrayed as “extremists” that are often disruptive. The term “activist” is often used by an opposing entity to discredit the action. In truth the actual definition of the word is simply “active advocate.”
This last word has serious negative connotations by simply deriving itself from the colloquial “slacker.” However the word actually means people that care and have no time to delve into an issue. The Urban Dictionary defines these people as the ones that change their profile picture on social media, share posts on social media and sign petitions but have an extremely limited understanding of the issue, the politics and how to effect change.
Most people actually span two categories. Being an advocate on one day and an active advocate (activist) on another. Acting like an advocate on one day and a slacktivist on another.
In defense of those that care that have little time, I understand. In today’s world we struggle to pay bills, educate our kids, navigate health care and find at least one moment a week to relax or we would collapse. However if you have no time to understand the issues in depth at the very least please take a moment to look into who actually does what to effect change for a situation you want to change. Look into who actually creates the change you want before sharing, signing and donating.
Your voice on an issue matters. Even changing the color of your facebook profile picture to support a cause can bring attention to the cause by others. But if you are sharing the “page frame,” color change and meme of an organization that does not create the change you think you are supporting you may actually be damaging the support system of those actually working to create the changes you seek. You may inadvertently even share the link to a carefully crafted appeal by a public relations firm to make you believe you are supporting the changes you seek when in actuality have just supported the direct opposite.
ONE CRAZY EXAMPLE (don’t bang your head on your keyboard when you read this or you may lose this page)
Two years ago I was getting ready to attend a meeting of a Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Resource Advisory Council. I had been engaged in multiple aspects of a pending land use plan and had submitted some documents for the record and was asked to be present to address questions.
Other organizations were going to attend as well. Neither organization had engaged any action prior to the meeting, but the meeting had a live feed and people at home would be able to listen. The two organizations had opposing viewpoints on a specific issue. Both organizations had online petitions; one organization had the petition on their website and the other used a crowd funding platform (Change.org that is in truth, a for profit company and a crowd fundraising platform).
Both organizations proudly flaunted the signatures on their petition for the public, not the board. On the live feed they each claimed “complete public support.” Each organization wrote about their “support” on websites and press releases.
The tragedy? Neither organization had engaged process. Each got donations for doing something when they really did nothing.
AND… DRUM ROLL….. the names on each petition were almost identical. Because each organization used the “Help us save wild horses” and a picture of a wild horse, all the slacktivists signed both petitions. YES, many of the same names were listed both for and against the specific issue, fertility control.
Do you think that goes unnoticed by the opposition and the government? No, it doesn’t.
“Advocates mean well but they are extremely uniformed.” That statement has been used by every public relations firm of the opposition and by the government. Every single day the “advocates and activists” on the front line have to fight to even get their actual ground data taken seriously because of the damage done by slacktivism. Every single day “advocates and activists” on the legislative front line have to fight for credibility as they hear, “The public doesn’t know what it wants. Advocates are seriously uniformed,” as the legislative lead is sitting next to a paid lobbyist well armed from a united livestock industry.
One of the most tragic consequence of slacktivism is that we have organizations that are built on slacktivism that exploit the public desire to care about a issue, but that have no time to learn.
This deteriorates the environment our wild horses exist in faster than a permit for a three mile open pit mine or 500 cows in trespass. If you advocate against the deterioration caused by impacts to the range, you should also be advocating against the fall out of the perpetuation of ineffective actions that waste time, money and deteriorate credibility.
As I said before I understand that you care and have little time.
An article on petitions I read recently, had a subtitle called “I signed what!?”and then outlined some steps to take if you are presented with a petition. First look at where the petition comes from, is it a crowd fundraising platform? That does not necessarily discount a petition. Then ask yourself these questions: 1) Do you trust the organization sponsoring the petition? 2) Is there a target? 3) Do you think this change is possible? 4) Has the organization broken the problem down into winnable steps? If you can not answer “yes” to all four, don’t sign it. Article on how to discern a petition. Petitions aren’t bad, if they are good. http://billmoyers.com/story/sign-save-world-online-petitions-explained/
You get a mailer that says “Save Wild Horses!” and asks you for money. 1) Do you trust the organization that sent it and why? 2) Is there a target? 3) Do you think this change is possible? 4) Has the organization broken the problem down into winnable steps or actions that make sense? If you can not answer “yes”to these questions don’t hit the donate button.
You see a news story and an organization is quoted as having done something, and then sends you a mailer asking for money. At least google it and see if it was them before you donate. One of the “bizzarro world” things I have personally experienced was being at a roundup for 6 weeks and documenting horrible things day after day. Being told I could do nothing by big money organizations and expensive lawyers. I found a lawyer, broke my butt crafting a case while documenting, found a donor and borrowed money (all while still at the roundup) and then won the first court order in history against conduct. I went back to a cheap motel to write a press release and turned on the TV and the news anchor was telling me another organization just won my case! That organization had received a hefty grant to “do something” so they sent out a press release saying “we” won a case. When questioned they said the “collective we” and that our donor was out of line for being angry. WHE was left with the bills, but WHE did win it and that court ruling is part of the record of advocacy. But online slacktivists were attacking WHE and lauding the organization that took credit for something they did not do.
In another instance a slacktivist organization filed a copy and paste brief of other litigation already in a courtroom. As a matter of fact those that were already on file were sitting in the courtroom when the slacktivists filed. That brief never had any additional filings, the lawyers were not even admitted into the court to practice. The case was heard and played out by those already on file but the slacktivist put out a press release that they won a precedent in law! They won nothing. But if you have no access to legal filings you are are prey for this type of organization. You can watch a lot of what they do and it is usually a form of personal attack on others, not a strategy to change an issue. They will make claims that when researched, fall flat.
Public comments on a EA, EIS or land use plan are NOT a popularity contest! When you receive an email asking you to add your name to a comment letter it does NOTHING in process. Often the “click and send” comments are literally the cut and paste comments that the sender has used a hundred times before with the name and place changed. OFTEN these comments are not even relevant to the point in the process they claim to engage. These comment letters simply build mailing lists. IF an individual or organization puts in comments that are relevant to the point in process they address, one letter is enough to address that issue. Many organizations comment on multiple parts of process and rarely share those letters with the public.
The masses of irrelevant and often absolutely insane comments that flood government offices during public comment on an EA, EIS or land use plan enforce the stigma of “uneducated and crazy” that “wild horse” advocacy fights daily to dig out from under. Ask yourself this question, do you see big environmental organizations running “sign our comment letter” as they engage livestock permits, mining or any other issue? No, you don’t. But you see it with “wild horses.” You may see them (environmentalists) ask for signatures on a legislative issue to demonstrate a public interest, but not on a comment letter.
IF you are signing the same things over and over and feeling frustrated that there is never a change maybe you need to remove yourself from a few irrelevant mailing lists?
I understand your passion, I have it. I understand your interest, I have it. I understand your lack of time to address everything you care about, I share that too.
But if you care about an issue at least give it the time to “check your source” before you inadvertently forward, sign, participate in something that can hurt the very thing you love.
If you find you are sitting with the reality that slacktivism is all you have time for, do it responsibly.
“An educated advocacy is more important than ever.”
Last year there were some very tragic public displays of the cost of a failure to unite advocacy behind action to protect wild horses that actually live in the wild. That coming soon… I hope you stay angry enough to keep reading…. even if you are only angry with me.
Until next time~ LL
Categories: Wild Horse Education