The Paper of the Apes
The New York Times’s animal-rights crusade.
May 26, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 35 • By WESLEY J. SMITH
That the New York Times is a subversive cultural force can readily be seen in its unremitting assault on human exceptionalism, the philosophical backbone of Western civilization.
The Nonhuman Rights Project’s home page
In the old view, every human being has intrinsic dignity and equal moral worth. The United Nations’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) states that “recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.”
But particularly in politically progressive circles, assignment of special status to people—as opposed to flora and fauna—is increasingly seen as hubristic and arrogant. If we just demote ourselves to merely another animal in the forest, we are told, we will live more gently on the land and save the planet. While the Times frequently hosts this latter view, it rarely—outside the occasional Ross Douthat column—publishes an unequivocal defense of the unique importance of human life.
On April 27, the Times Magazine published a cover story about Steven Wise, the radical head of the Nonhuman Rights Project. An animal rights lawyer, Wise has spent years strategizing to obtain a court ruling declaring some animals legal “persons.” Most recently, he unsuccessfully sought writs of habeas corpus for three chimpanzees.
“Animal standing,” as it is known, is high on the animal-rights agenda because it would allow movement ideologues to attack animal industries in court. But the Times profile doesn’t get into that inconvenient issue. Rather, it accepts Wise’s premise that human exceptionalism is “inherently irrational” and that the poor treatment of animals is equivalent to an abuse of human rights:
The Wise profile ends by making the civil rights analogy explicit:
This is par for the course. The week before the Wise profile, the Times Magazine gave a similar boost to another social radical, the English environmentalist Paul Kingsnorth, creator of the Dark Mountain Project.
The DMP exemplifies the anti-humanism and nihilism that has infected much of the environmental movement. Rather than striving through activism and civil disobedience to save the planet, Kingsnorth directly promotes “uncivilization.” He seeks to harness the power of art to celebrate economic collapse and liberate society from human exceptionalism. As one of the DMP’s “8 Principles of Uncivilisation” states:
Actually, these “myths” have created more freedom from want, political liberty, and alleviation of suffering than at any time in human history. But never mind. In “It’s the End of the World as We Know It . . . and He Feels Fine,” the Times devoted 6,000 words to Kingsnorth’s journey back to paganism. The piece opens as participants at an uncivilization festival set a wicker sculpture on fire, chanting, “We are gathered. We are gathered.” To what end? Baying at the moon:
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