Let me start off by saying I don’t like PETA.
Yes, theoretically the group’s mission for the ethical treatment of animals is an admirable one, but their controversial, volatile, and attacking strategies completely overshadow their goal of animal rights by shifting the focus away from the animals and onto their offensiveness. Just recently in Burlington, Ontario, a PETA member smashed a pie into the face of Federal Fisheries Minister Gail Shea in “protest” of seal hunting in Canada.
But with that said, in response to this act, an MP from Newfoundland and Labrador, Gerry Byrne, called PETA a “terrorist organization,” and spoke of wanting an official movement to label it as such.
Even more un-cool!
Without condoning PETA’s incredibly disrespectful tactics, I must say disrespect does not equal terrorism. I understand that the MP was upset and that PETA acted irresponsibly, but there is no place for irresponsible “quid pro quo” in this situation: a pie in the face does not merit the terrorist card. It’s inappropriate. It’s overkill. And in no way, shape, or form does it apply. Canada’s Criminal Code describes a terrorist organization as any group that disrupts lawful activities to commit an act for political, religious or ideological purposes and that causes the public to be intimidated. I’m sorry, but a pie in the face cannot be construed to be intimidating in the manner of bombs, bullets, and bayonets.
In today’s world, calling someone or something “terrorist” has the most negative and defaming connotation; the accusation alone quite literally can ruin a legitimate group’s reputation or livelihood, even if there’s no shred of truth to it.
Does this sound familiar to anyone? Falsely equating people you don’t like to feared and despised groups, in order to ruin their careers or to stop their causes, in the name of national security? Can you say McCarthyism and the Red Scare?
Over 50 years, ago at the beginning of the Cold War, the government (aka Joseph McCarthy and his minions) promulgated the damning accusation of “Communist” onto anyone who crossed them, playing on the public’s fear, paranoia and complete stupidity – all for political gain. The accused then were blackmailed, blacklisted, interrogated, and very publicly tried in court as communists, or enemies of the state…all without a shred of evidence. The most famous example of those wrongly accused was the Hollywood blacklist. Literally hundreds of people in the industry were accused of being communists, but not a single charge stuck. Yet, even after all of them were acquitted of all charges, the damage had been done. Their reputations had been destroyed and their careers and lives had been ruined – all because of a government official looking to make a name for himself at the expense of innocent people exercising their right of freedom of expression.
Haven’t we learned our lesson by now that you can’t attach a Scarlet letter, such as “communist” or a “terrorist,” to a person or a group just because their voices or their actions are controversial or unpopular, and you disagree with them? As much as I disagree with PETA’s tactics, there is absolutely no basis whatsoever for this government official to label PETA a terrorist organization, and to reincarnate in Canada the travesty and injustice of McCarthyism.
I thought society had progressed, but it’s the same story in a different era. Sadly, the more things change, the more they to stay the same, and the words of Santayana echo loudly: “Those who don’t learn from the mistakes of the past are doomed to repeat them.”
Below are a couple videos to remind us of what McCarthyism did to our country and how it limited freedom of speech: