The Loss of a Halo: Francione and the Mask of Jainism
“Brothers and sisters, friends, and I see some enemies. I think we’d be fooling ourselves if we had an audience this large and didn’t realize that there were some enemies present.”
Malcolm X often started his talks with this ironic greeting, as his audiences often contained a nest of agents, traitors, and spies. And when I look out at the diverse aspects of the animal advocacy movement, I see the same, including FBI and law enforcement, those who condemn militant direct action while knowing nothing about it, those who monitor my pages on social-networking sites to report to their pacifist leaders, and those sad victims of the Stockholm Syndrome who have more sympathy for the “humanity” of seal killers than for the courageous members of the underground who risk it all for nonhuman animals.
There are splits, divides, factions, and opposing camps, and the different philosophies and tactics sometimes lead to insults and name-calling. But, while they may not like each other, adversaries generally harbor no malice and there is no intent to seriously harm the other.
Gary Francione, however, has stepped beyond the bounds of professional rivalry, maliciously trying to damage my character and reputation. As many people know, he and I have locked horns in the past and traded a number of blows. But he has put on some brass knuckles, dangerously escalated the conflict, and intensified the tensions between the pacifist and direct action camps of the vegan and animal rights movements. He has no problem using for his purposes the corporate-state discourse that demonizes animal activists as criminals, violent, and terrorists. He is a menacing McCarthyite on the loose, taking aim at anyone who dares challenge his infallibility. Ironically, Francione wears a halo of ahimsa and speaks with the golden tongue of nonviolence and compassion. When wearing his public mask, he appears as principled, professional, fair, and kind; in his private dealings, however – as his former disciples and critics consistently reveal – he is arrogant, controlling, insulting, duplicitous, conniving, aggressive, and verbally abusive. He walks on water as a 21st century Jain, but he is a Machiavellian wrestling in the mud.