Reprinted With Permission From Horseback Magazine
August 28, 2010
HOUSTON, (Horseback) – A longtime horse advocate involved with the federal Bureau of Land Management Wild Horse and Burro Program has blasted front line activists trying to stop massive roundups in the West. Nevada’s Willis Lamm, often labeled a bureau apologist, distributed a harsh screed today to those fighting to stop the agency’s recent accelerated “gather” of Mustangs across the Western states in which scores of animals have died. The death toll is approaching 200 since the BLM begain “gathers” which some say will genetically bankrupt the herds. Lamm targeted several individuals well known in the wild horse advocacy community, however, he declined to name any who he accuses of being “The Hysteria Corps” accusing them of being self appointed experts and journalists. The following is what he wrote:
“It was not that long ago that those who wanted to disparage wild horse advocates would do so by comparing us to groups like the radical arm of PETA or to the Animal Liberation Front. It has taken years of hard work and cohesive interaction for wild horse advocates to earn serious credibility in the eyes of policy makers, the media and moderately conservative citizens. This credibility peaked in early 2010 when a number of lawmakers took up the cause for wild horses and burros. Events over the past year that involved visible mistakes on the part of BLM provided wild horse advocates with opportunities to gain ground by exposing problems within the wild horse program.
It now appears that our credibility as an advocacy camp has begun to decline. This is primarily due to the more radical elements of the horse advocacy camp going off in a number of different, and in some instances bizarre directions.
I was asked to comment on this matter so I’m listing the factions that others and I have observed to be undermining the core effort to protect America’s wild horses and burros.
The Hysteria Corps
The Hysteria Corps, or Drama Queens (and Kings) as some call them, are addicted to sensationalism. They are invested in bizarre, fantastic stories such as truckloads of horses disappearing in the night, BLM running horses off cliffs and a host of other ludicrous concoctions. Given a choice between an implausible but sensational notion and verifiable facts, they will most often ignore the facts and run around with the latest fantastic story.
There are two areas where such conduct is damaging to wild horse advocacy.
First, average people, particularly public officials, get tired of listening to the “boy who cried ‘wolf’.” When the Hysteria Corps finally does get it right, nobody other than other members of the Hysteria Corps is really listening.
Secondly, the Hysteria Corps has had a materially negative effect on the media. Reporters don’t like chasing ghosts and fantasies, and such experiences tend to sour the media on our message. I’ve even received phone calls from reporters complaining about certain obsessive “horse people” and I had to assure them that these people were not associated with our camp.
The Lap Top Experts
The discussion that took place last weekend included a general consensus that at one time the internet was our greatest tool. We used it effectively to promote public awareness. Now it is becoming our Achilles’ heel.
Anyone with basic internet savvy can start a web page or a blog and portray himself or herself as a journalist and/or expert in any subject. You don’t have to have any actual experience or credentials. All you have to do is claim to have “experience” and target an audience that knows less about the subject than you do. Generally what these self-appointed experts accomplish is the establishment of disinformation rings where one “expert” gleans information from other “experts” and the other “experts’” sites. Ultimately a whole cluster of unauthenticated information is laid out as facts before the public. In some instances the laptop experts try to link themselves to legitimate groups and sites. We have found some of these claimed affiliations to be bogus.
To protect their illusions, these self-appointed experts often dismiss the real advocate experts as “undercover BLM agents” or claim that the veteran advocates are jealous of the newcomers. (Jealous of holograms?)
Ultimately the people who actually have relevant experience and who spend hours tracking down and verifying what they report often get lost in all the hoopla generated by the lap top experts. The false and unsubstantiated statements and faulty conclusions presented by the lap top experts provide plenty of examples for those legislators and bureaucrats who would benefit from dismissing the advocates as uninformed zealots. If we are going to be regarded as credible by those people (such as in Congress) who actually have some influence over how DOI and BLM conduct business on our public lands, it is paramount that we maintain our overall credibility as an advocacy camp.
The Self Promoters
The vast majority of wild horse advocates are selfless, caring individuals who work collectively to hold the line and protect America’s wild horses and burros. Not all these personalities get along but they still work together for the common goal. However in every cause there are a few individuals who see the cause as a means to increase their own esteem, to sell something and/or to collect money. Oftentimes the self promoters will present themselves as experts, in some instances offering credentials that they don’t actually have.
The self promoters are easy to spot. Their names are splashed over everything that they are involved with. They, not the horses, are the redundant focal points of their activities. If someone is presenting information under the premise of helping wild horses but the author appears to be suffering from “I strain,” then consider that the material is likely composed to promote the writer. Please judge it carefully before passing it along.
Lawsuits, a new cottage industry
Occasionally a well conceived and well timed lawsuit strikes gold, such as the West Douglas, CO case where BLM was found to have exceeded its authority in its plans to remove horses there. However we are seeing a growing number of gratuitous lawsuits that, if anything, are putting up a bunch of numbers in BLM’s win column. A few lawsuits even appear to be designed to showcase the plaintiffs since they don’t seem to be making any material contribution to the welfare of America’s wild horses and burros. The people filing these lawsuits need to be mindful as to what these lawsuits are actually about. As an example, petitioning the court to hold up an emergency operation so that a specific individual can be present to observe what’s going on is not in the best interest of the horses.
The latest fad seems to be to put up web sites in Orly Taitz style to solicit money to pursue legal cases against the BLM every time a roundup is proposed. The lawsuit fanatics should take notice that on August 16th the Supreme Court upheld a $20,000.00 fine against Orly Taitz for filing frivolous litigation.
Being selective and sensible about pursuing legal actions should help prevent the courts from regarding the wild horse advocates as a growing nuisance. There are still a couple of cases before the courts and they need to be perceived as legitimate and professional attempts to correct problems on our public lands.
In contrast to these splinter factions, the Alliance of Wild Horse Advocates stands for careful mining of the facts, in depth analysis of events and data, objectively presenting facts in the context of our advocacy positions, collectively coming to conclusions, and bringing forth arguments and position statements that are anchored in hard evidence.
This stuff is not glamorous. Most of the work is behind the scenes and out of the public view. Commitment and dedication are required for completing the various tasks. Alliance priorities involve the horses and burros, not promoting the individuals involved in the campaign.
This is a free country and splinter factions can go off in whatever directions that they choose, however the members of the Alliance will remain committed to tried and true core values and the strategic axiom, “When the facts are on our side, we’ll stick to the facts.”
The facts are on our side. We’ll stick to the facts.
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