PETA’s Shock Tactics: Irresponsible Advocacy or Strategy and Positioning?

[As two fellow NGO researchers, Wendy and Maryam are going to collaborate on some posts to provide contrasting views on hot-button issues related to NGOs. Think of us as the Siskel and Ebert of NGOs – we definitely agree on certain things, but clearly not on others (and don’t ask who’s who). Our points of view will not always reflect what we personally think of an issue–we need drama and suspense!–but we will always provide food for thought.]


By now everyone is well aware of the recent tragic killing of Cecil the lion by Minnesota dentist Walter Palmer. Josh shared a post about this incident here on the Duck, as have countless others. One opinion from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals’ (PETA), no stranger to controversial statement, has caught plenty of attention:

“If, as has been reported, this dentist and his guides lured Cecil out of the park with food so as to shoot him on private property, because shooting him in the park would have been illegal, he needs to be extradited, charged, and, preferably, hanged.”

Needless to say, calling for Palmer to be hanged has generated a public outcry of its own.  We weigh in here.

 

 Irresponsible Advocacy

PETA is a firebrand, their statement is not out of character for the type of militant activism they exercise and their other campaigns and advertisements have been shocking as well. As Wendy argues, being a provocateur is part of their brand, they raise awareness by making noise. They completely own their shock tactics as a deliberate organizational strategy:

“We will do extraordinary things to get the word out about animal cruelty because we have learned from experience that the media, sadly, do not consider the terrible facts about animal suffering alone interesting enough to cover. It is sometimes necessary to shake people up in order to initiate discussion, debate, questioning of the status quo, and, of course, action.”

As advocates, NGOs like PETA do not need to be fair, impartial or neutral; they advocate for a position or course of action that reflects or advances the interests of their members. They do, however, need to be responsible. Continue reading

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PETA’s Shock Tactics: Irresponsible Advocacy or Strategy and Positioning?

[As two fellow NGO researchers, Wendy and Maryam are going to collaborate on some posts to provide contrasting views on hot-button issues related to NGOs. Think of us as the Siskel and Ebert of
NGOs – we definitely agree on certain things, but clearly not on others (and don’t ask who’s who). Our points of view will not always reflect what we personally think of an issue–we need drama and suspense!–but we will always provide food for thought.]


By now everyone is well aware of the recent tragic killing of Cecil the lion by Minnesota dentist Walter Palmer. Josh shared a post about this incident here on the Duck, as have countless others. One opinion from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals’ (PETA), no stranger to controversial statement, has caught plenty of attention:

“If, as has been reported, this dentist and his guides lured Cecil out of the park with food so as to shoot him on private property, because shooting him in the park would have been illegal, he needs to be extradited, charged, and, preferably, hanged.”

Needless to say, calling for Palmer to be hanged has generated a public outcry of its own.  We weigh in here.

It’s All About Strategy and Positioning

PETA calls for Walter Palmer to be hanged.  Offensive?  Yes.  But it is doing what we expect groups like PETA to do.  The PETAs of the world play a very important role in the world of global activism and international nongovernmental organizations (INGOs) – they make some outlandish statements, they embark on ambitious (perhaps even wacky) projects, but these actions mark clear distinctions between types of INGOs: even if INGOs are a class of actor, they often adopt very different means to approach the same concern.  PETA’s role is to stay outside of the mainstream, to do what other INGOs won’t do. Continue reading

A Storify post on Cecil the Lion

People who follow this blog know that I’m not jumping on the wildlife conservation bandwagon. I taught a course on global wildlife conservation and have blogged about it repeatedly here on the Duck.

So, here are my thoughts on Cecil the Lion, the lion killed by an American hunter in Zimbabwe, where I wade in to advocacy, sport hunting, the value of animal life compared to human life, why we have an emotional reaction to iconic wildlife but not animals we eat, Internet vigilantism, and more. These include a series of tweets and exchanges I had with others over the past several days. My main concern is that I hope some good can come from this in terms of wildlife conservation. Continue reading

Viva La In-Text Tables and Figures Revolution!

I try to save paper these days by reviewing manuscripts via PDFs on my computer or my tablet.  It also makes it easier to read stuff while traveling–both to read on a plane and to carry less paper around.

The biggest challenge in doing this is the habit/standard of people putting their tables/figures at the back of the document and having endnotes and not footnotes.  I know most of the blame for this goes to journals which require such formatting, although that is changing (thanks Dan at ISQ).  To be clear, the requirement is for submission of the final draft for many journals and not for the reviewing stage, but for whatever reason (path dependence, laziness, perceptions of what is required), people put heaps of relevant stuff at the back of a document.  Please stop.

Continue reading

#BringBackOurGirls, Feminist Solidarity and Intervention – Part One

As a new Duck, who (like Cai & Tom) took a while to consider what to blog about, I finally decided – long-winded academic that I am – to write a series of posts on the #BringBackOurGirls hashtag campaign. To this end, I draw on materials for a keynote I  just delivered at the University of Surrey’s Center for International Intervention‘s conference on “Narratives of Intervention: Perspectives from North and South” (#cii2015). Here I go:

Screenshot 2015-07-23 23.32.57

On April 14, 2014, 276 girls between the ages of 15-18 years were abducted from a school in Chibok, Northern Nigeria, days before they were set to take their final exams. A group named Jama’atu ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati wal-Jihad, better known as Boko Haram, claimed responsibility for the abduction. The girls’ kidnapping, despite its spectacular scale, initially received sparse attention in the media. However, after local activists took to twitter with the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls on April 23, within a matter of days (by May 1, 2014), the hashtag was trending globally and the mainstream media began to cover the event putting increased pressure on the Nigerian (but also the U.S.) government to ‘do something.’

The impulse to demand that ‘something’ be done is of interest in the context of campaigns of global feminist solidarity in particular, because presumably well-meaning efforts often have adverse effects. The attention provided by global campaigns, such as the hashtag campaign for #BringBackOurGirls, brings greater awareness to the plight of women and girls around the world, but at what cost? Is awareness, even if it is based on simplistic narratives and promotes ‘solutions’ disconnected from the reality on the ground, helpful? Does it matter when celebrities hold a #BringBackOurGirls sign – or do we need a more critical stance, as Ilan Kapoor has argued? What does it mean for the first lady of the U.S. to remark on the abduction during her 2014 Mother’s Day address and to call for action?

Continue reading

7 Further Thoughts on Being A Better Job Market Candidate

Amanda in her inimitable style has written some very persuasive guidance about the job market. Let me add a few thoughts about what else you can do to prepare. If you’ve already been socialized to want an academic job, then you better be ready for a rough slog. Unless you happen to be among the  handful of students who get all the attention and plum interviews this job market season, you are likely to get a couple of interviews and at worst none at all. As Amanda said, most of this is out of your control. The job market sucks. There are thousands of people chasing too few jobs.

Imagine you are on the other side of the job application process and you receive several hundred applications for one job. The reality is that the committee will use some heuristics to sort through which applicants are likely to get the most attention. This may not be fair, but these criteria include (1) fit with the job  (2)  where the candidates went to school 3) who they studied with and (4) where they have published. You  have limited control over most of these, but you should be aware that this is a reality.

Still, there are some other things you can do to prepare for your dream job, and it’s never too early to think about how to position yourself to be an attractive candidate.

Continue reading

LGBT Rights: The Perils of Becoming Mainstream

To begin with a confession, I have spent far too long contemplating what to write about as my first post, due in no small part to sharing fellow Guest Duck Tom‘s nerves about joining such formidable paddling of regular Ducks. However, Wendy‘s post on human rights having gone mainstream and no longer being revolutionary has given me exactly the push I needed to get started.

Specifically, I want to explore Wendy’s argument in relation to claims for LGBT rights. My aim is not to counter Wendy’s argument, which I find persuasive, but rather to use it as a starting point for thinking through the implications of becoming mainstream and, in particular, consider the potential downsides of becoming “accepted and discussed” – what is lost when one’s claims cease to be revolutionary and/or “subversive”?

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4 Things the US Can Do to Reinforce China’s Actions on Climate Change

Sarang Shidore and I have a new paper for the Paulson Institute on what the US can do to encourage China to do more on climate change (in English and Mandarin).  China recently reaffirmed its pledge to peak emissions around 2030 and to increase non-fossil energy to 20% by the same year. China also announced a new target to reduce CO2 emissions per unit of GDP (its carbon intensity) by 60 to 65 percent below 2005 levels. How can the US ensure that China sustains and even accelerates progress in this direction?

Our starting premise is that air pollution is a more salient issue in China than climate change and that the country is likely to take more heroic and costly measures to reduce the threat of air pollution for Chinese citizens than they are to contribute to the global public good of climate change mitigation. From this perspective, much of the discussion of using climate change to produce co-benefits for air pollution is misplaced. We need to ensure that air pollution policies create co-benefits for the climate. As we note, some actions, reducing the use of coal, will be beneficial for both air pollution and climate goals. Other policies, such as producing synthetic gas from coal or relocating coal plants to the interior, might produce benefits for air pollution but make the climate problem worse.

The US has limited leverage over this domestic dynamic in China, but we identify 4 strategies the US can engage in to make it more likely that China will choose policies that produce co-benefits for climate change. These include: 1) the US keeping its own climate commitments (2) fostering transparency through research partnerships (3) pursuing complementary processes to the UNFCCC and (4) considering border tax adjustments.  Let me say a bit more about each one of these ideas. Continue reading

Gearing Yourself Up For the Academic Job Market: Waiting

It’s getting to be that time of year again – the time when a fresh not-so-fresh crop of ABDs/PhDs gear-up for the academic job market.  I’ve been there – it can make even the most self-assured academic have an existential crisis.[1]

As much as I hated being on the job market myself, I absolutely love looking up and providing job market advice for students at Mizzou. I think I received especially good advice when I was a grad student and I think the advice I received has been causally related to my present situation (which I love).  I’d like to “pay it forward.” On my first day as DGS, I wrote a 5,000 word memo on the job market process to all our grad students.[3] A lot of the advice I give is similar to what I received when I was a grad student.  As the season approaches, I thought I’d share some of it with you.

For this post, I thought I’d bring attention to what most of the job market consists of  for most people:

Continue reading

Human Rights aren’t Revolutionary? Good!

Recently, Joel Pruce and Doutje Lettinga wrote contributions to openGlobalRights that lamented the non-revolutionary, and I would go so far as to say, anti-revolutionary tone that human rights have come to represent in global and local citizen politics. Both observers note the trend that international nongovernmental organizations (INGOs) working on human rights have indeed, become “soft” in their success, earning reproach from critics such as musician-activists Pussy Riot. More harshly, INGOs can be viewed as complicit with state domination. In essence, human rights and the INGOs that fight for them have lost their way.

The fact that human rights are “no longer revolutionary” speaks to the strength of human rights and not their weakness. If we start from just the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948, it has not taken long for largely aspirational, vague notions of what needs to be protected for a life of human dignity to go mainstream into the discourse not just of progressive activists, policymakers, bureaucrats, and academics, but also conservative campaigners, the media, and corporate moguls. As someone who has thought about how international norms take hold, I think the ubiquity of human rights speaks to their strength. It marks the fact that the concept, the possibility, and realization of protecting rights has in fact persevered. No longer the territory of simply “radicals,” human rights have mainstreamed, and this is their point. It is not just for revolutionaries to use, but for everyone else to internalize.

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Europe, Greece, and the problem of identity: Doing it wrong, social psych edition

The Iran deal is the hot topic now, but since I wrote on the subject recently in another venue, I thought I would address the Greek/Euro crisis. I can’t help but borrow a bit of Josh’s title on the subject because it describes so well the situation in Europe. A lot of people are piling in on the Europeans.  While I have not read all the analysis on the crisis, I suspect much of it is economically oriented.  Ben Bernanke, for example, thinks Europe is failing to uphold its end of the deal by delivering equitable economic growth. Stephen Walt thinks Europe is in for a tough time mostly for economic and security reasons: because of overexpansion (too many different levels of economic development), the collapse of the Soviet Union (no external threat), the Euro crisis, deteriorating regional security environment (Ukraine, terrorism and migrants)*, and the persistence of nationalism. Continue reading

Thoughts on Subjectivity in Writing about Israel

This is a guest post from Mira Sucharov, an  Associate Professor at Carleton University. 

Particularly in areas of contested politics — controversial policy issues, protracted conflict, clashing narratives, and the like — how much responsibility do authors have to remain unbiased? It’s a problematic word, bias. It’s almost always used either in the context of accusation or in ingratiating self-deprecation. But what if we shift from the term bias to the more encompassing — and less value-laden term — subjectivity?

I recently reviewed four books on Israel and Israeli-Palestinian relations for International Politics Reviews (ungated access here). Each book deploys what some would call bias — and others would call subjectivity — in varying ways. Partly because of the respective narrative voice of the authors and partly because of the differing goals of each work, the effectiveness of the subjectivity tool varies in the hands of each writer. And if I’m going to take subjectivity seriously, I would be obfuscating if I didn’t say that their effects on me, as a reader, are no doubt partly a function of my own values and viewpoint — in short, both my own subjectivity and my subjective preference to see it used in the hands of my peers. Continue reading

Money Talks: Giving Women a Voice on U.S. Currency

The grassroots advocacy campaign, Women on 20s, had a simple request: put a woman on the $20 bill by 2020 to commemorate the 100 year anniversary of the 19th amendment, which granted women the right to vote in the United States. Starting with a list of 15 women candidates, on-line voters cast an electronic ballot in the primary round and chose four finalists: Harriet Tubman, Eleanor Roosevelt, Rosa Parks and Wilma Mankiller. One month later, voters elected Harriet Tubman as their choice for the portrait on the twenty dollar bill. As the final votes were pouring in, Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) introduced S.925 Women on the Twenty Act, which is currently being considered by the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs.

The momentum of the campaign came to a halt when Treasury Secretary Jack Lew announced that a woman would appear on the redesigned $10 bill, but she would share the honor with Alexander Hamilton who is currently on the bill. Continue reading

New Facebook App for the Duck

I’m just testing a new plugin so that posts automatically feed to our Facebook page if that’s where you get your news. Don’t mind me!

 

Three Ways to Think about the IMF’s Insistence on Debt Relief for Greece

According to the NY Times, the IMF has refused to participate in any new bailout program for Greece unless Hellas is receiving debt relief. Specifically, says the IMF, this relief must come in one of three ways to be determined by Greece and the Troika: reducing the amount of principal debt to be repaid (“writedowns”), extending the term of the loans (the IMF suggest no payments for 30 years), or interest rate subsidies that would allow Greece to repay its loans at rates substantially below their market value. In practice part of the debt (around€100bn) was already discharged in 2012 via debt swaps that amounted to writedowns. And some of the third and a bit of the second were already being done under the old bailout regime, and both would have been part of the new agreement reached last weekend as well.

But those are less than half-measures in the face of an onrushing avalanche.  Continue reading

Institutional Aspects of the Iran Deal

I woke up this morning to read (a few hours behind most of you…one of the few downsides to living in the Pacific Northwest is living behind the news cycle!) about the finalizing of a nuclear deal between the E3/EU+3 and Iran. I’ll leave it to others to analyze whether the deal is a good one and whether it will indeed limit the ability of Iran to develop a nuclear weapon. Charles Krauthammer hates it. Joe Cirincione loves it. Jeffery Goldberg isn’t quite sure what he thinks of it.  My own thinking tends towards agreeing that the agreement isn’t spectacular, but that it might be the least worst option of military strikes (unlikely to have a meaningful, lasting impact and almost certain to increase Iran’s resolve to develop an extant weapon) and indefinite sanctions (a degrading commodity that have limited impact).

Still, rather than focus on the efficacy of the agreement and its details, I’d like to talk about a different aspect: what we can learn about Iran’s intentions to comply with the agreement or build a nuclear weapon. My first published work, “Institutional Signaling and the Origins of the Cold War,” addressed the ability of states to use international agreements and organizations to force other states to reveal privately held information about their preferences and intentions (as my institution has a subscription to Taylor and Francis, I’m not sure if the article is behind a paywall. If it is, you can also find it here or e-mail me and I’ll send it to you). To make a long article short, I argue that:

the process of negotiating and creating international institutions plays a critical role in enabling states to send and evoke credible statements of preference. Institutions, by virtue of their ability to impose costs on states as a result of compliance with the rules and obligations,provide a means of generating signals that will be accepted as credible by the policymakers of a given state. Those signals will be interpreted as revealing vital information about the true nature and interests of other states.

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Civilian Casualties and Operation Protective Edge

Waking up the other day to discover that I was a duck was a rather disconcerting experience. They say the condition is only temporary, but there is a danger that I will forever be seen as a bit of a quack. Nevertheless, the opportunity to blog at the Duck of Minerva is a great privilege and a great honour… and I am nervous as hell!

I have spent much of my time over the past few weeks trying to digest the United Nations report on Operation Protective Edge, which accuses both the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) and Hamas of committing war crimes during the conflict in Gaza last summer. Much of the media coverage has focused on the large numbers of civilians who were killed. Palestinian groups stand accused of firing approximately 4,881 rockets and 1,753 mortars at Israel, killing six civilians and injuring more than 1,600 people in the process. The report also expresses particular concern at the high casualty rate in Gaza, confirming that 2,251 Palestinians – including 1,462 civilians, 551 children – were killed in just 51 days of conflict. What has been overlooked in most of the coverage, however, is what the report has to say about the way in which the IDF sought to reclassify civilians as combatants by creating ‘sterile combat zones’ through the use of warnings. The assumption being that anyone who remained within a specific area after receiving a warning would qualify as a legitimate target.   Continue reading

Sexism in Political Science, part II: The Very Least One Can Do

Last night, I posted this about sexism in political science.  It has gotten a pretty strong response getting 10x as many hits (so far) as my usual post, lots of retweets by female political scientists, and some sharing on facebook.  The sharing on facebook came with props as my female political science friends were happy to see a senior male political scientist talk bluntly about this.  

These props/kudos made me feel squishy because it is not that hard to blog and notice on occasion that there is sexism in the poli sci business (as it is everywhere as one FB friend noted).  My female friends and former students (who I also consider to be friends) have put up with all kinds of crap over the years.  Indeed, the conversations sparked by last night’s post as revealed a bit more of that stuff.  

So, besides from regularly posting about this stuff, which is pretty much the definition of the least one can do (unless one is doing nothing at all), what can a male political scientist do? 

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You Are Doing It Wrong

The former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis (also a former colleague) has compared Greece’s situation to “fiscal waterboarding” at the hands of its creditors. Thomas Piketty has accused Germany of forgetting its own post-World War II experience with debt relief. When I read some of the appeals to Germany and the European Union on Greece’s debt situation,  I thought as an act of strategic framing that Greece/Syriza (and to a lesser extent those of its supporters like Piketty) might be going about it wrong.

As I wrote about in my first book Moral Movements and Foreign Policy, in the late 1990s, the Jubilee 2000 campaign galvanized a global movement to write-off the debts of the world’s poorest countries. That movement succeeded in persuading key creditors, including Germany, as well as the World Bank and IMF to embrace (or at least grudgingly implement) debt relief.

Now, the stakes in the current situation are very different. Then, Germany was only owed about $6 billion by developing countries, and unlike Greece with the common currency, Germany’s own economic situation was scarcely implicated in the economies of the developing world. That said, there are some parallels here that I think are potentially relevant, the traditional reluctance by the German finance ministry and elites, particularly among Christian Democrats, to write-off debt being among them.  Continue reading

Civil(ian) Military Integration & The Coming Problem for International Law

In late May, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) released a white paper on China’s Military Strategy. This public release is the first of its kind, and it has received relatively little attention in the broader media.   While much of the strategy is of no big surprise (broad and sweeping claims to reunification of Taiwan with mainland China, China’s rights to territorial integrity, self-defense of “China’s reefs and islands,” a nod to “provocative actions” by some of its “offshore neighbors” (read Japan)), there was one part of the strategy that calls for a little more scrutiny: civil-military integration (CMI).

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