I have surprised myself. This is an uncommon event for me at this stage in my life, for surly if we know anyone, it is ourselves…or do we?
In this instance, I simply got fed up with what I saw as an incredibly poor attempt to discredit mushers competing in Alaska’s Iditarod and the Alaskan/Canadian dog sled race, the Yukon Quest. Primarily these efforts have been centered on the Sled Dog Action Coalition (SDAC), an organization central to Animal Rights activism efforts to end these races. SDAC is allied with other hard core activist organizations such as the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), Sleddogma.org and Sled Dog Watchdog
My younger undiagnosed Attention Deficit Disorder has morphed in my adult years into a form of Hyper-Attention ability, and once I decided to try to counter the false claims from Animal Rights Activists (ARA), this focus helped me direct my approach. In the Army Guard I was a logistician, and one of my best tools was Microsoft’s spreadsheet program Excel, and I picked up this tool again. Essentially, I entered each of the over 800 SDAC claims onto a multi-page Excel spreadsheet, allowing me to sort and analyze the hundreds of diverse claims. This took at most a hundred and fifty hours.
Once I was able to classify the claims (quotes from activists, quotes from mushers, quotes from books, references to medical studies, etc.) I began to track down original source material. Columns for “likely true”, “likely false”, “demonstrably false” and “overtly biased” allowed me to identify the most egregious lies and blatant propaganda.
It was this research and organization that led to my first opinion piece on ARAs and the Iditarod, which was published on this blog, the Fairbanks Daily Newsminer, the Iditarod.com website, and Joe Miller’s website. The results were quite satisfying; I riled up the ARA’s, and I found a lot of average Alaskans, mushers, and sled dog enthusiasts from around the world felt the exact same frustration that I felt about the SDAC lies and half-truths.
I now seek out ARA comments on Iditarod stories, and if they contain errors, I rebut them. Due to my research I know anti-mushing dogma better than many members of the anti-mushing tribe. I’m likely to have dug into the specifics of any claim they bring to a discussion, and I’m able to engage them in debate without resorting to logical fallacies such as ad hominem (you’re stupid and your mother dresses you funny), appeals to authority (“experts say…” or “science says..”), and straw man arguments. I love language and logic, and am able to respond with fact and reason.
Recently I wrote another article that was self-published on this blog, and a shorter version was published in the Fairbanks Daily Newsminer. I was compelled to write this article when I found that the Sled Dog Action Coalition (SDAC) had excerpted blog comments from a well-regarded and highly competitive kennel and modified it through the deletion of a word, creating a malignant and false impression. Following this story being published, SDAC quietly removed the false claim without acknowledging their attempts at slander or offering apology.
I didn’t approach this debate with the intention of becoming an advocate for distance mushing, but it seems that I have come to this role inadvertently. I do know that there have been well over 3k “shares” via social media of my two stories. They have been read perhaps 10k times, and have prompted a tremendous amount of comments.
It appears that I have given a voice to a large number of people who have reason, knowledge and a passion for distance dog mushing who have long been frustrated by the campaign by ARAs to discredit the sport through half-truths, lies and innuendo. In addition to the comments, I’ve been approached through email and social media by numerous mushers and informed supporters who’ve offered their appreciation, and have provided specific information that helps build a true picture of distance dog mushing and ARA efforts.
It would seem, based only on a lack of official response, that the Iditarod has a policy, perhaps official, perhaps unofficial, to refrain from engaging ARAs in any manner. This tactic (if it is actually a considered tactic) seems to chafe many lovers of the sport, and in my opinion, cedes the battlefield of public opinion to a handful of committed activists.
When all is said and done, I’m unbelievably honored by their appreciation and by the trust that’s been shown to me. I sense a sea change in the larger debate on distance dog mushing.