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Jason Del Gandio, The Terrorization of Dissent
Jason Del Gandio is a writer, speaker, thinker, and activist dedicated to social justice. He is currently an Assistant Professor of Rhetoric and Public Advocacy at Temple University in Philadelphia. His areas of scholarly expertise are in the philosophy of communication, social and political theory, rhetoric, and critical analysis with a focus on social movements and radical social change. Jason has appeared on television and radio, and regularly speaks on college campuses and at public venues. Jason has written on such topics as autonomy, immaterial labor, corporate control, the rhetoric of Barack Obama, performance art, the Occupy Movement, the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act, and the relationship between neoliberalism and the university. His writings have appeared in CounterPunch, Truthout.org, Radical Philosophy Review, PhaenEx, Dissident Voice, and the Journal of Aesthetics and Protest.
Caryn Hartglass: Hello everybody, let’s get back to talking about food, shall we. It’s All About Food, right now on July 29th 2014. I want to bring on my next guest, Jason Del Gandio. He’s a writer, speaker, thinker and activist dedicated to social justice. He’s currently an assistant professor of rhetoric and public advocacy at Temple University in Philadelphia. His areas of scholarly expertise are in the philosophy of communication, social and political theory, rhetoric and critical analysis with a focus on social movements and radical social change. Jason has appeared on television and radio and regularly speaks on college campuses and public venues. He has written on such topics as autonomy and material labor, corporate control, the rhetoric of Barack Obama, performance art, The Occupy Movement, The Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act and the relationship between neo-liberalism and the university. Welcome Jason to It’s All About Food.
Jason Del Gandio: Hi Caryn, how are you doing?
Caryn Hartglass: Good, so we’re going to talk today about the terrorization, I can’t say this word, because it’s a horrible word the terrorization of descent. You co-edited this book with Anthony Nocella, who we’ve spoken to a few weeks back on this program. Very chilling subject.
Jason Del Gandio: Yes it is. It’s one of the reasons why I’m actually both excited and proud to have worked on this book. I see this book as a form of political intervention into a world that really needs to be exposed, critiqued, discussed and debates and so obviously we’re talking about the AETA, which is an acronym for The Animal Enterprise Terrorism Acts and that’s the focus of the book and we basically bring together a cross section of lawyers, scholars, and activists and the folks from Sociology, Anthropology, Political Science, Rhetoric, Philosophy, and also kind of expose and critique and intervene into the AETA.
Caryn Hartglass: This book really raises the bar on this subject because you have all of these people with phenomenal credentials and intelligence. This is not some groovy little group of people complaining about some legislation that happened a little while ago, this is very serious.
Jason Del Gandio: No I agree and I’m glad that you recognize that. I mean, one of the things we try to focus on when we were compiling the contributors was bringing together people that really can bear witness to the problems of the AETA and speak and articulate about basically how it violates first amendment rights, how it has a chilling effect on free speech, the right to protest and given my background in terms of rhetoric and communication, I personally can understand how perception works. I mean, so if the larger audience or the readership or Americans at large see certain kinds of credentials attached to writer’s names, contributors, they’re more likely to pay attention and actually respect and take note of what’s being said in the book.
Caryn Hartglass: Now there’s a lot of things that are scary about the AETA. The Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act. First of all anyone who is against the exploitation and torture of animals for any reason, primarily for food but also for animal testing and all kinds of other things, this act makes many of the things that we do almost an act of terrorism.
Jason Del Gandio: Yeah that’s actually, I agree that’s probably the scariest part of this act, this bill, this piece of legislation is that basically if you inhibit a corporations ability to make a profit from the exploitation of animals, you could potentially be called a terrorist. Now if you think about that, that’s extremely scary.
Caryn Hartglass: I mean, I’m talking to people all the time saying, don’t eat meat, let’s shut down factory farms. Does that make me a terrorist?
Jason Del Gandio: Well exactly, so for instance, just a few weeks ago two activists were charged with releasing minks from a fur farm and they’re being charged under the AETA with terrorism. Now releasing minks is obviously an illegal activity. I’m sure, I’m going to assume that any activism engaging in that kind of activity, recognize the potential consequences, but then to jump from illegal activity of releasing minks from a fur farm to charging them with bonafide political terrorism just doesn’t make any sense. I would assume that any reasonable person looking at this case, I don’t see where the terrorism comes into play here. No human being was harmed, no animal was harmed, so how can we call that terrorism and it’s basically what the AETA does, it sets a context, it sets a pretense for really trying to stigmatize, demonize and many ways, quarantine animal rights activism. So at this point if you threaten the ability of a corporation to make a profit off animals, you could be legally tried as a terrorist.
Caryn Hartglass: And this law came about even though there were already laws on the books that would punish for these types of illegal activities. This particular law really wasn’t necessary to resolve what to do with those who have done things like you’ve just mentioned and some other acts that affected property.
Jason Del Gandio: Well I mean, let’s put this into perspective here, so the ATEA was passed in 2006 in the wake of Nine Eleven and of course this piece of legislation has the word terrorism in it. In the wake of Nine Eleven anything with the word terrorism in it is going to receive priority, of course though this wasn’t the first time this kind of law of passed. So back in 1992 a previous law was passed called the AEPA, so it was the Animal Enterprise Protection Act and basically the AEPEA, the AEPEA has all the same laws in it, the AETA simply has accomplished the ability to lead with the words terrorism, so many ways it’s a PR campaign and a smear campaign. Now even if we go further than that though, all these quote unquote illegal activities that we’re discussing are already outlawed by most states. So were talking about vandalism, trespassing, things like that. We all know that these are against the law, so the question then becomes why do we need this quote unquote mega law, this federal law to reinforce what’s already being reinforced and I think this really points to the heart of the matter here. By inserting the word terrorism into the title, it’s able to demonize and stigmatize animal rights activists as terrorists right and I would say that the AETA does at least two basic things here, one it protects and safeguards corporate profit before anything else and unfortunately that is then the mainstay of American society, we could point to all kinds of legislation, all kinds of laws and those that have been passed, that really it’s about corporate profit before anything else. But then two, like I said, also, it also demonizes animal rights movements and what happens when that occurs, it has a chilling effect on the freedom of speech and the right to protest and I think those are the two basic problems along with other things, but those two basic problems with this law.
Caryn Hartglass: Now we never hear about this accept on shows like this one. Mainstream media is not talking about the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act and some people might think that it just concerns animal rights activists but it really effects free speech, it affects democracy, it affects any compromised group because we’re setting precedent.
Jason Del Gandio: Oh I agree One hundred percent and I think that’s one of the biggest parts, one of the biggest issues with this piece of legislation and again like you said, I think some people hear just the title of the book or the title of the legislation and think it only applies to animal rights activists, that’s not true. I mean really, I think anyone who’s concerned with creating a better world is now being threatened by this piece of legislation, I mean and if we were to let’s say apply the principles of the AETA back through our history, we have a very different American history and I say that because almost every right, liberty and freedom that we hold dear has come by way of activism and by social movements and just about every social movement that has ever existed has used civil disobedience, direct action, things like that right.
Caryn Hartglass: I’m not a promoter of violence ever, but all of these movements that you’ve mentioned, have all kind of moved forward with a little bit of violence. We have the Boston Tea Party and there’s always been some destruction of property and some action to get people’s attention.
Jason Del Gandio: I mean, I agree with everything you’ve just said. I would maybe scream it slightly differently and say well hasn’t every social movement to one degree or another, interfered with corporate profit at some point and the answer’s yes. Boston Tea Partiers, Abolitionists, Woman’s Suffragists, Civil Rights Activists, Anti War Activists, LGBT Activists. By the very nature of the fact that we live in a capitalist society and corporations have so much control. At some point there will be a power play between activists and corporate profits and what the AETA does, the AETA does, is basically safeguards corporate profits saying it’s off limits, you cannot even think about or talk about interfering with that process, that’s problematic.
Caryn Hartglass: Yes, now this book, a lot of it, talks about the history of the AETA, how it came about, what it is, how it’s impacted people and you have many different voices who give their spin on this issue, from many different angles and the part that I actually like the best was part four, which was the interviews and personal reflections. I always loved the individual voice on certain things because we can relate the best when we hear an individual voice rather than getting buried in all the legal terms and he said, she said and whatever, all of that’s important of course but we’re moved by an individual story and each one of these is really quite profound.
Jason Del Gandio: Oh I agree, when I was working on the book, co editing it, things like that and I came across these interviews and these personal reflections, I pretty much had the same experience you did, where to me, this is the most moving part of the book, you’re talking about individual lives that were utterly disrupted by this piece of legislation and so in this part of book we have interviews or personal reflections by people who have or haven’t been charged with and served time in prison or the charges were dismissed, either way, imagine the FBI busting down your door at 6am and arresting you and your housemates, things like that and then not only that, but then being stigmatized by the label of terrorist for the rest of your life. Even if the charges are dropped, how does that look in public spotlights, when you apply for a job interview, I mean, you assume the stories that I told in part four, I think are very moving, very troubling and it really invokes, kind of the urgency and the problematic nature of the AETA.
Caryn Hartglass: And the law does in some ways what it intended to do, if you read between the lines, it scares people, it puts fear into them as far as being activists.
Jason Del Gandio: Oh sure 100% and I agree, I really do think that is the purpose of the law. I mean, sure the law does now have federal standing, it can be used to prosecute people, to indite people, to arrest people, but I think overall though, it’s a larger communication campaign to kind of have activists internalize this fear and thereby not act upon their ethical concerns about animals, the environment and things like that and I really think that is the purpose of the law.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, so how are we going to, how are we going to get this law off the books, how do we go back to real democracy with freedom of speech and not be afraid to speak out.
Jason Del Gandio: Well, I think the first thing is trying to raise awareness about this law. Like you mentioned a little while ago, almost no one, has heard about this law, so the book’s came out a few weeks ago, I talked to some friends and family members about it, and everyone’s, how come I haven’t heard about this law before and I said that’s exactly the problem. So I think the first step is really raising awareness, having open discussions, public panels, have experts come and talk about it, have reading groups, whatever the case may be, but I think more people need to be informed about the problematic nature of this piece of legislation, and then from there we have to find a way to pressure our law makers to repeal this law and I definitely think this law should be repealed immediately because it’s unconstitutional and a violation of first amendment rights.
Caryn Hartglass: Now, there is one group that’s trying to do that and I think that’s one of the last sections in your book, let’s see, where is that, do you know what I’m talking about? The foie gras people, the People that were fighting foie gras and…
Jason Del Gandio: Yes, okay, sorry, it’s been a while since I’ve read the book myself, yes, so there are groups of people that are trying to basically take the fight to the legislation. They want to go to court and try to demonstrate that the ATEA is actually unconstitutional and a violation of basic rights, constitutional rights.
Caryn Hartglass: So, New York City-based Center for Constitutional Rights, yes.
Jason Del Gandio: Well, that’s a type of organisation that by its very nature would be concerned with this kind of act and I would say something like ACLU National Lawyers Guild, all these types of organisations have a serious investment in understanding and overturning this kind of law because basically it violates basic things that we as American take for granted.
Caryn Hartglass: So far this particular suit Blumb vs Holder was dismissed and now their appealing the dismissal.
Jason Del Gandio: Yes, correct.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, so that’s… where do you think that’s going to go, do you have any idea?
Jason Del Gandio: That’s hard to say, I mean, I’m not a legal scholar by any means and hoping it gains more traction, again when one of the things is trying to expose the problematic nature of this law, actually the first weekend of September, I think it’s the fifth, sixth and seventh, so folks are organising a national weekend of action against the AETA and so a weekend like that is supposed to expose what’s going on here, give organisations like the Centre for Constitutional Rights a platform to voice their concerns, get their message out and so hopefully that kind of weekend and other days of action in upcoming months and years will give more organisations a better chance to educate the public on what’s going on and in doing so there’s kind of an inherent symbiotic relationship where also the lawmakers are now on the defensive. So if lawmakers support this law in the past and also, they’re getting public backlash now they’re forced to defend their stance and maybe rethink their stance and that’s kind of the whole purpose here.
Caryn Hartglass: Ok, that’s good. One of the chilling things, the whole book was chilling, but one of the chilling things was reading about the FBI and how it’s like they’re keeping an eye out on animal activists, just looking all the time, just to see if they can find us doing something wrong, to catch us in the act and spending a lot of money doing this. Where if you know anything about an animal activist we’re compassionate people, we don’t believe in the exploitation of anything, we don’t believe in violence of anything, I don’t believe in killing anything. So I agree.
Jason Del Gandio: If you think about all the problems that are going on in this country, around the world.
Caryn Hartglass: That’s where they want to focus their attention, yeah.
Jason Del Gandio: Why do they want to focus their attention on animal rights activists? And I would say okay, well two things, what are your rights, to think about it in the context of you have basically pacifists of one kind or another, having, organizing meetings, having speaking gigs, things like that and all of a sudden FBI agents will show up to make sure that you’re not breaking the law and out of all the things they could focus on they’re focused on animal rights activists, but then two, implied on what you were saying earlier, think about how much money it costs the FBI to do that, so basically talking about tax payer money, so is that the most sensible way to spend tax payer money and I would say no. There are a lot more pressing issues in this world other than animal rights activists protesting a company or corporation or a certain kind of farming tactic.
Caryn Hartglass: And then the other part is how they have paid people to work under cover to infiltrate some animal rights organizations and in some ways kind of encouraged them to do the wrong thing and then get caught in the act.
Jason Del Gandio: Yes unfortunately that is the reality we live with now, now of course this is not entirely new, we can go through our history and talk about how different law enforcement agencies have infiltrated certain social movements, activist groups, most famously Cointelpro from the nineteen fifties and sixties. Now some Americans think well that was just in the past, that doesn’t happen anymore, but that’s not true though, it does happen and like you’re saying it’s happening with animal rights activists, which really makes no sense whatsoever in my mind.
Caryn Hartglass: Oh goodness, well that’s where our tax dollars are going, but you know that the tax dollars are just being spent in order for a few to be protected, so that they can keep making a lot of money.
Jason Del Gandio: Oh exactly.
Caryn Hartglass: That’s what it’s all about.
Jason Del Gandio: Well it goes back to the subtitle of the book, the subtitle of the book is Corporate Repression Legal Corruption and the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Acts and the first two parts of that subtitle, Corporate Repression and Legal Corruption, at least we’re talking about what we’re discussing here in a sense that corporations have so much ability, so much power to influence and basically corrupt the political system and the legal system, alright and so certain laws and policies are being passed not for the good of the public but for the good of corporate profit and that’s a serious issue in this country and with this particular piece of legislation.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay so let’s wrap this up and I asked before what can we do about it, but let’s just highlight a few things that all of us can do right now.
Jason Del Gandio: Well I would say first and foremost is to become more educated about this law and I would actually encourage all of our listeners to just Google the AETA or the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act and you can actually find the actual bill online, it’s only two pages long, so I would encourage readers to go out and look it up and read it for themselves and really decide on their own account why this is problematic and as you read it, it’s really not complicated, it’s very broad, it’s very vague, as you read between the lines you can see how it’s intending to demonize and stigmatize animal rights activists, then from there though, I would encourage everyone to get more politically involved, contact your lawmakers, contact your local radio or news stations, encourage more outlets to cover this story, encourage lawmakers to explain why this is on the books and if they can’t explain it then put their feet to the fire and ask them to repeal the law, that’s how it basically is, so one, become more educated and two ask lawmakers to repeal this law as soon as possible.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay that’s everyone’s assignment, you have to Google “Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act” and read it and then if you have any questions or comments you can send them to me at info@RealMeals.org and then I’ll send them off to Jason and he’ll respond.
Jason Del Gandio: Yes, definitely.
Caryn Hartglass: And is there a way to find you, is there a website or something.
Jason Del Gandio: Yes, my website’s just my name so its www.jasondelgandio.net
Caryn Hartglass: Okay Jasondelgandio.net, well I am, I think this should be a book in every law school, right?
Jason Del Gandio: Without a doubt, yeah I agree that every law student should have to read this book.
Caryn Hartglass: Law students have to read this book, good, thank you for joining me on It’s All About Food and thank you for being a part of this expose.
Jason Del Gandio: Well thankyou for having me on, I find it always a great privilege to speak about such important issues.
Caryn Hartglass: Yes it is an important one. All right have a great day Jason.
Jason Del Gandio: You to, thanks a lot.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay well, bye bye. What do we have, about a minute, a minute left? And we’re listening together to It’s All About Food, I’m listening, I’m talking and as I mentioned before, realmeals.org, I really want to hear from you, not just about The Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act but about anything related to this program or food. If you just have a question, shoot it off please, I want to hear from you and back to my website responsibleeatingandliving.com I hope you will look at the article that I just put up, My Visit to the Head and Neck Cancer Congress, where I talk about all of the opulence and hypocrisy and how people are talking about all this great research to prevent these horrible cancers and at the same time they’re serving cancer-promoting foods to all of the practitioners at the conference. It just didn’t make any sense at all, especially after I talked to a few people who acknowledged that that their treatments work better when their patients are healthier. Now when someone has cancer you don’t think that they’re healthy, but there are healthy patients or healthier people that do come down with these illnesses. I’m one of them. I had ovarian cancer and I thought I was pretty healthy going through all of that and I survived my treatment and am thriving now because of the foods that I was eating then and now, very important. All right, thank you for joining me today. This has been another It’s All About Food, I’m Caryn Hartglass and please have a very delicious week.
Transcribed by Lara Allan 10/3/2014