It doesn’t matter what is true, it only matters what people believe is true…. You are what the media define you to be
Quick question. Say you work with animals and you:
- have facts and expert opinion on your side demonstrating your commitment to animal welfare, and a high level of animal care.
- have trainers who tirelessly advocate for and clearly love animals
- put your money where your mouth is, creating an amazing animal care, conservation and health, and education center
- manage to sustain the Western Hemisphere’s largest population of an endangered species
And say you go up against a movement that:
- relentlessly attacks and smears your reputation morning noon and night while playing fast and loose with the facts and manufacturing scandal.
- is not above using an “essentially paid plaintiff” against you in court
- has its lead organizations pay millions of dollars (not toward animal care or conservation) to settle a Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) case brought against them
In a world that made any sort of rational sense, you’d think victory would be a slam dunk. You’d think the public, the politicians, and the courts would join in a chorus and tell your opponents to take a hike — to actually do something useful with their time and donor money.
But that is not the world we live in; and the fact of the matter is that even when facts are on your side, if people are convinced you are cruel and greedy, you are going to lose. When politicians think supporting you is going to make them less popular — even though it is the right thing to do — you are going to lose.
Elephants in entertainment and Ringling Brothers in particular have been relentlessly attacked in the media by animal activists for decades. And as a result, if you were to take a poll of 100 people today, most would be aware of accusations against Ringling Bros., with a smaller percentage convinced they are the devil incarnate. Through constant repetition, it has saturated the public consciousness and simply become a part of how people think.
But of course precious few poll-takers would be aware of Ringling’s conservation efforts, or the groundless and unreasonable lawsuit against Feld Entertainment that led to the ASPCA, HSUS, and others to paying Feld tens of millions of dollars to settle a RICO case.
So should it be any surprise at all that after years of fighting, they finally just said “enough”?
This is a tragedy for everybody whose interest and passion for elephants — perhaps all animals — was sparked by the opportunity of seeing one of these magnificent creatures in real life, it is a tragedy for the Asian elephants themselves whose plight in the wild will now surely receive less effort and exposure, and it is a tragedy for the triumph of countless lies and smears from the animal rights lobby.
Let this be a warning to all of you who care about these issues, but tell yourself that facts, science, reason, and truth will prevail at the end of the day: because when it comes to your existence, if people don’t know or believe the facts, they do not matter. What matters is what the public thinks of you, how you are perceived, and what you are associated with. You are up against a relentless foe who does not care about reason or facts, one whose ultimate goal is your extinction. Science will not win against this onslaught, the only hope is to make sure people know who you are and taking charge of your own narrative. Whether you love purebred dogs or horse carriages, whether you are a farmer or a researcher or a hunter: when their campaign to destroy your animals, your hobbies, your livelihood comes to your doorstep, if everybody is already convinced you are beneath contempt because others were allowed to define you… it may be too late.
Support the groups who support you; if you don’t write your narrative, somebody else will!