If Michael Vick was a Sociologist
Would his ‘exploration‘ of the dog fighting world have been defensible? Maybe even commendable?
Yesterday’s edition of Inside Higher Education reports the story of Scott DeMuth, a University of Minnesota sociology graduate student who is studying radical animal rights and environmental groups. DeMuth has been ordered to appear before a grand jury to testify on a 2004 attack on the University of Iowa allegedly conducted by members of the Animal Liberation Front (ALF).
During the raid hundreds of mice, rats, pigeons and guinea pigs were released from a research laboratory. ‘Cause, you know, animals bred and raised in laboratories survive so well out in the wild.
DeMuth has been indicted under the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act for conspiracy. The indictment states that “Scott Ryan DeMuth did knowingly and intentionally conspire with persons unknown to the grand jury to commit animal enterprise terrorism and cause economic damage to the animal enterprise in an amount exceeding $10,000,”. The damages actually totaled nearly half a million dollars – not including the loss of data. And in a twisted bit of irony, more animals will undoubtedly be used to collect data to replace that which was lost.
Inside Highter Education reports:
[DeMuth] maintains that his knowledge of animal rights groups is based on his pledges of confidentiality to the individuals who talk to him. After he was released from jail, he was indicted on charges that he conspired to commit “animal enterprise terrorism” and to cause “damage to the animal enterprise.” These charges are under a new federal law designed in part to give authorities more tools to go after those who vandalize animal research facilities.
A group of professors, led by DeMuth’s academic advisor David Pellow, have organized a petition drive and new organization – Scholars for Academic Justice – to support DeMuth. Why is a professor defending student who is withholding information on a group that has damaged university property and threatened other academics? Possibly because he’s sympathetic to ALF’s cause too. In a guest post at GreenIsTheNewRed, Pellow (who describes himself as a ” vegetarian, animal rights and anti-racist activist” in advance praise for a book on the politics of animal rights posted prominently on the ALF website) writes:
My own research on movements for racial justice, labor rights, environmental justice, and animal and earth liberation suggests quite clearly that the state and corporations spare no expense and rarely hesitate to engage in surveillance, infiltration, and other efforts to neutralize the power and reach of these groups. As a publicly outspoken scholar and activist, Scott DeMuth is at the center of these dynamics and is quickly becoming a force for common ground among people across various movements, organizations, and universities who believe that government power should always be checked and that scholars, citizens, activists, and ordinary folks must enjoy basic rights and freedom from coercion and repression. Support Scott, protect academic freedom, and let’s work to abolish the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act!
About that “freedom from coercion and repression” thing Dr. Pellow – do you believe it should apply to everyone? Or just to the people whose ideals are as lofty as yours?
DeMuth can hardly be described as a dispassionate observer of animal rights extremists. He was one of the founding members of Earth Warriors are OK! (EWOK), a group that directly supports animal rights and environmental activists facing criminal charges and prison sentences. Speaking of criminal charges, it’s too bad this story didn’t come out sooner. If DeMuth’s defenders are successful, Michael Vick’s attorney could have used it as a case study on how not only to prevent Vick from being charged, but to help get him published too!
Given where his sympathies lie, it isn’t surprising that even though DeMuth was offered immunity, he refuses to testify. He claims that because the time he spends with them is part of his research, his work with ALF is protected by academic freedom. I wonder how he feels about United States vs Stevens?
Is the politically incestuous, university-sanctioned “research” of a an avowed animal rights activist who takes notes during felony crimes more worthy of first amendment protection than the artistic, educational, historic “research” of a dog fighting aficionado?
And if it is, who gets to decide whose speech is more worthy of protection?