Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Huffington Post, HSUS and dissent

One of the things I do when I'm not blogging is cruise the net looking for stories and blogs about hunting, and when writers or commenters misrepresent hunting, I'll often jump in and post comments to make the case for what we do.

Typically, I'll pass on commenting on Humane Society of the U.S. blogs because I see little point - their loyal readers have already made up their minds about hunting.

But when HSUS Executive Vice President Michael Markarian posted a blog last week on the Huffington Post, I saw it as fair game, because the Post has a mass-market audience. I dove in and commented. And I was very surprised what happened next. Read more...
Let me back up for a minute, though - this takes a little explaining.

It all started on May 29 when HSUS CEO Wayne Pacelle blogged in response to the Center for Consumer Freedom's crusade against the HSUS (long story short, CCF blasts HSUS for conducting fundraising that emphasizes its work on pet rescue and animal shelters when relatively little of HSUS's enormous war chest goes to pet rescue and animal shelters).

I was familiar with that whole story already, and I don't care a great deal about it because my goal is not to discredit the HSUS in its entirety, but to counteract its propaganda about hunting.

What struck me about Pacelle's blog, though, was that he talked about how HSUS's opponents attack caricatures of the orgnization - they "try to set up a straw man caricature of The HSUS and then knock it down."

That cracked me up because I'd just done comment battle with a vegetarian whose blog in the San Diego Reader did the exact same thing to hunters: set up a vile caricature and knock it down.

I laughed at the coincidence, and moved on.

But then, less than a week after Pacelle bemoaned the straw man attacks, Markarian posted a blog flogging one of HSUS's very favorite straw men: Internet hunting.

Let me explain: "Internet hunting" is a practice in which someone sets up a remote-controlled gun and a webcam and allows computer users, for a price, to kill an animal with this set-up. The carcass is then processed and shipped to the "hunter."

The problem is, Internet hunting isn't happening. Some moron in Texas set up such an operation in Texas in 2004, and his friend tried it out once, and there was a huge uproar, and he never, to anyone's knowledge, sold any more Internet "hunts." Seriously, I've researched this, and haven't found a single reference to any subsequent Internet "hunts."

(For the record, the guy from Texas said he saw Internet hunting as an opportunity to help disabled and elderly hunters, which - if sincere - is a noble goal. But I've seen plenty of folks use technology to assist disabled hunters in the field, where they can see the entire landscape and connect with the game, not to mention prove that they have hunting licenses.)

But the HSUS saw an excellent opportunity here to wage war, pushing for Internet hunting bans state-by-state, and now in Congress.

Why would HSUS waste money and energy trying to ban something that's not happening? Here's where my background as a politics reporter kicks in. This is what we call a "press bill" - a bill designed solely or primarily to get media coverage. And this bill always gets a lot of coverage - typically by harried reporters who don't have time or don't make time to do a little research, so they pick up HSUS's suggestion that Internet hunting is a clear and present danger to American morality.

Most hunters are horrified by the thought of Internet hunting. But more importantly, non-hunters absorb this as yet another negative image of what hunting has come to. Find a non-hunter who has a negative impression of what we do, and there's a very good chance he (or more often, she) will cite this.

Voila - mission accomplished!

This brings me back to last Friday, when I found a Markarian's piece in the Huffington Post promoting HR2308, a bill in Congress to ban Internet hunting and ban the transport and keeping of "exotic" animals so they can be hunted.

"(A) federal response is critically needed," he wrote.

There was one comment on the blog, from a guy who said he grew up hunting in Alabama. "I must admit that I've never heard of this internet hunting travesty--but that doesn't keep me from being thoroughly disgusted by it now that I know," he wrote. "I always thought much less of hunters who baited feed plots and sat waiting in tree stands to slaughter deer, but this is a far more disturbing and truly sick enterprise, and should be banned altogether."

Look, they duped another one! I couldn't let this go unchallenged.

So I crafted a response, hit "Post a comment," noticed the fact that my comment was pending approval - the Huffington Post moderates comments - and went about my business for the day, which was to get ready for our hog hunt that weekend down at our friend Michael's place.

When I got back Sunday night, I thought I'd better check in to see if other commenters had been beating up on me all weekend. But when I went to that website, I found my comment had not been posted.

That's weird, I thought. I could've sworn I'd hit all the right buttons. So I recrafted my comment, posted it, and saved a snapshot of the screen.

Click to enlarge

I checked back Monday morning and again, there was no trace of my comment.

I checked the Huffington Post's comment policy. It stated that the site doesn't censor comments based on point of view, and it listed offenses that could get your comment deleted - none of which I had committed.

I emailed Huffington Post tech support:

I've tried posting a comment TWICE on a piece by Michael Markarian - - once Friday morning and once last night, and it's not showing up.

My comment is critical of Markarian's piece, but not disrespectful or uncivil.

Please let me know what the problem is.


And today - Wednesday - there's still no response, and my comment still isn't on the site.

Now, honestly, I have no idea what happened to my comment.

I do know hundreds of other comments were being approved on the Huffington Post in a timely manner during this period.

I do not know if guest bloggers such as Markarian have the ability to moderate their own comments. (I do know that when Boyfriend is a guest blogger on Simply Recipes, he does get to moderate the comments.)

I also know that in nearly two years of posting comments on general interest news websites, this is the only time my comment hasn't made it online. (There was one other time I left a comment that didn't post on a blog, but I expected it. The blog was Vegan Soapbox, and the blogger's "discussion policy" prohibits: "anti-animal and anti-human discussion, for example, no pro-meat, pro-dairy, pro-eggs, pro-hunting, racist, sexist, homophobic, ageist, abilist or otherwise hateful comments." For real.)

So, was I censored by the Huffington Post? Or is this merely a case of a highly unusual technical snafu?

Well, I suppose it could be a snafu. But it sure doesn't look that way to me.

Update: It's Wednesday night, and lo and behold, two comments have been approved on that Markarian blog. So what do I do? I go and try to comment again. I know. Crazy optimist.

I've got to pack for an early-morning flight, so I won't have time to monitor whether my comment gets approved. But just in case, I saved another screen shot...

Click to enlarge. And note the Orvis ad on the right.

© Holly A. Heyser 2009


Josh said...


I have no idea why HuffPo would block your commentary, unless Mr. Markarian has control, like you say, in which case it would probably be an intern or somebody low on the totem pole trying to get in good.

I'd think HuffPo would be in the controversy-stirring business, so perhaps you should have been meaner?

Tracey Steele said...

That's an interesting puzzle. I hope that it was an honest oversight and not an attempt to keep representation of pro-hunting commenters to the wacky and right-wing extremist. HuffPo is quite the biased site, and I've noticed that dissenting comments always seem to be on the crazed side.

Great to see a thoughtful and researched response from a hunter, even if it got squelched.

retired_chemist said...

Reminds me of the WSB Atlanta video clip critical of HSUS fund raising tactics that was posted on WSB's web site, then disappeared. WSB has tried to stop any further circulation of this clip of its transcript, with some but far from complete success.

NorCal Cazadora said...

Chemist, these two stories are related. If I understand the situation correctly, CCF was active in pushing that TV story, and the Pacelle blog I mentioned was a reaction to the controversy that followed.

Josh, I'd like to think it's an honest mistake, but I tried posting it twice, and contacted tech support, and got NOTHING back. One snafu can easily be a coincidence. But three? Sets my radar off for sure.

Tracey, thanks for your comment. I normally don't blog about the little battles I do elsewhere on the Internet, but I'll be damned if I'll let anyone silence me - whether it's intentional or an accident.

Squelching dissent, btw, is an enormous tactical error and a sign of intellectual frailty. That's one reason I don't moderate comments here, and why I'll never delete a comment simply because the commenter disagrees with me. I think I've deleted about four comments in my time on this blog. Three were clearly spam, and if people want to advertise on my site, they can damn well pay me. One contained an epithet that I will not allow to remain on this blog ever, because this is my house. But every other obnoxious and disagreeable thing that guy said in his comments remained online.

The Suburban Bushwacker said...

Once just happens
Twice is a coincidence
Three times is a pattern

HuffPo need to clear the air on this one.
If anyone's going to get a straight answer on this it's you Holly


NorCal Cazadora said...

I fully expect to be ignored. But perhaps someone will surprise me.

But ultimately, is it a big deal? No, because I can say the same thing on hundreds of news sites that don't set up so many roadblocks to posting comments.

Kate said...


The HSUS has been known to send its own comments to news stories even when one of their own is the author of the original story. They do it to try to shape the thinking of readers by making readers think that they (HSUS) have the support of mainstream folks. I suspect that blurb from the Alabama hunter was written and posted by a HSUS employee or follower. I could be wrong, but it fits the pattern. Also funny that it's the only response posted.

NorCal Cazadora said...

Interesting - that thought had occurred to me, but I hadn't heard that was a pattern with them.

The thing that was funny about that comment that did post is the guy talks about running deer with dogs and how sporty it is to hit a running deer (higher risk of wounding), but thinks that hunting over bait or out of a stand (better chance of clean kill) is such a bad thing.

If it was an authentic comment, it speaks to the terrible habit hunters have of getting caught up in internal disputes that do nothing but hand victories to our real enemies.

But hey, Markarian if you're out there and you'd like to chime in and refute anything that's been said here, feel free. I'm sure this has popped up in your google alerts by now. Remember, I welcome debate and disagreement on my blog.

Phillip said...

Wow, I'm not sure I'd have seen that one coming! But I think you may be onto something, that Markarian is moderating his post and deleting anything that contradicts his lies.

By the way, in regards to the internet hunting fiasco, I was actually invited to come down and visit the operation when it was first announced. At that time, the actual "hunting" piece wasn't developed, but he did have a target-shooting version in operation.

After talking to him (I've long since forgotten the man's name), and verifying that this wasn't another "Hunting Naked Chicks with Paintballs" farce, I immediately got on the phone with Texas Parks and Wildlife, and with the NRA to see what, if anything, could be done to stop it. At that time, TP&W had no jurisdiction since the "hunts" would be for exotic species, and the NRA was "looking into it" (which is apparently their stock answer for every issue).

Obviously I was not the only one on the phone and the Internet, because word got out, and the ensuing outcry from the hunting community pretty much insured that the Internet Hunting project would die the ignominious death it deserved. Immediately afterward, several states rushed forward to pass legislation banning the practice.

The thing is, this all took place several years ago. To the best of my knowledge, no other entrepreneur has attempted anything like it since then.

As much as I write about the need to moderate our ethics-based attacks on other hunting methods, this was one type of "hunting" that was too far over the top even for me to tolerate.

Point being, Internet Hunting NEVER HAPPENED, and it was because of the outrage of the hunting community that the single instance that did arise was quickly shot down in flames. Sure, HSUS and PETA jumped on the bandwagon, but the response from hunters pretty-well convinced him that the idea wasn't so great after all.

Anyway, there ya go in a nutshell... for anyone who didn't remember or didn't know about that fiasco, that's all there was to it.

NorCal Cazadora said...

Phillip, I knew you were passionate about this issue, but I didn't know you'd had such a close encounter with it!

The guy's name was John Lockwood, and according to the Dallas Morning News article from that year, the TP&W didn't have authority over exotics or feral hogs. The article also noted that Lockwood got lotsof emails from people who thought this was a bad idea.

SimplyOutdoors said...

I have a feeling, as you mentioned and a few other people have mentioned as well, that he is moderating his own comment and not letting any that contradict his lies be posted.

Kudos to you for taking a screen shot,and bringing this to everyone's attention. I hope you keep us updated, and let us know what response, if any, their tech support gives you.

Ecobatt said...

I hope you receive a response from the Huffington Post-I've enjoyed reading their articles off and on over the years. As for the bill, I do happen to find the hunting of exotic animals (though perhaps I've heard the "worst case" stories that may or may not be true) to be unnecessary, and counterproductive to most hunters efforts to educate and inform the public of the positives. Hiding a separate agenda, for any reason, within a piece of legislative documentation makes my skin crawl-especially known falsifications and/or exaggerations. Good post-I learn a lot from reading your blog...even about frog gigging that also makes my skin crawl :) Thanks!

Tom Sorenson said...

There's a snafu alright, but it ain't no technical one. I think the snafu occurred when the comment irked someone's agenda and thus they created the snafu by exercising authority. Here's to hoping Huffington gets their act together and lets you know what's going on. I'd like to know that hunters are being fairly represented - and I know you do a great job of fighting that fight.

And for the record - snafu just might be my favorite word...thanks for reminding me of that. I've got to start incorporating it into my daily vocab. :)

NorCal Cazadora said...

Update: Some critical comments have actually been approved on the Markarian blog!

(I don't know why they've been approved. But I will tell you I know 100 percent for sure that HSUS has seen my blog today.)

So, anyway, I tried commenting again. Go back to my post above and see the update (another screenshot - gotta love 'em). We'll see if it gets approved.

NorCal Cazadora said...

And Ecobatt, I'm glad you brought that up. One reason I didn't address the exotic animals issue is that I don't have a great deal of information about that business - all I know is that 1) intelligent, reasonable people like Phillip persuaded me to reconsider my assumptions about such hunts, and 2) I've been to exactly one high-fence ranch that stocks exotics, and I haven't found it objectionable in any way whatsoever. It's a 1,000-acre fence, and the animals are procreating there - it's not like they're shipping in fresh zoo animals or something.

My guess is operations like the ones HSUS harp on do exist, or have existed - I just don't know what percentage of ranches are the distasteful thing that HSUS wants you to believe all of them are.

But, it's my summer break - perhaps I'll be delving into that.

Native said...

Smoke, Mirrors and Illusion are what these organizations, and all of their duped followers are made of Holly Go Lightly!

Perhaps that is why Hollywood is so infatuated with them.
The appeal of scripted dialog along with fictional story lines are what the actors are naturally drawn to.
Some, very few, do have the fortitude and integrity to "know" the difference between real life and fantasy.

Others, well they just can't seem to discern the difference, and continue to believe in their very own hyperbole.
This is the root of the "celebrity" support of the H.S.U.S. and its deceitful propaganda machine.

native said...

And Tom, they seem to be having a lot "O" Snafu's here of late don't they!

I am never one to jump for joy as I watch an organization like them go down in flames, it just isn't the right thing to do when you Gloat.

But the H.S.U.S. has Lied, Cheated and Deceived way too many times so I really hope that they get theirs good and proper.

I just feel very sorry for the individuals who work for the organization, who really believed in the organizations charter.
They are soon going to be out of a job through no fault of their own as the company cuts back labor expenses in order to afford to fight all of the (inevitable) lawsuits which are headed their way.

Dan said...


I've read both the SD blog and the huffington post and love to see you in trenchs bringing enlightenment.

A coupla things occured to me while reading those comments and those here.

a) the definition of a "canned hunt" is somewhat tenous. Is a caged animal as HSUS wants all of us to believe? Or is it a "pay to play" place where you pay a access or trespass fee to hunt a ranch. Maybe its a "high fence" ranch where the animals are indeed in a large enclosure.

I've hunted both high fence and pay-to-play. The high fence operation was on a 6000 acre ranch, thats 9 sq miles. The pay-to-play ranch was 270,000 acres or 425 sq miles.

Are these canned hunts? I don't think so. I challenge anyone to try and find an animal inside 1 sq mile (640 acres) and call it easy or unfair.

b) why do these places even exist? Because there is a need. Folks like HSUS, Center for Biological diversity and others have been somewhat successful in limiting hunting in the traditional places, i.e. public lands. Habitat loss is another reason.

I personally believe that HSUS and the like, through their actions, have created the high fence and the pay-to-play ranches.

Where else can we go? It seems, unfortunately, the future of hunting.

Garrett said...

Man, my respect for HuffPo just went down a bit. (I had none for Michael to begin with.)

Michael Markarian said...

Just to be clear, I don't moderate the comments on the Huffington Post site. I don't know what comments are submitted, or see them at all, until they are posted live. I also am unfamilar with what process the Huffington Post uses for reviewing/approving comments.

When it comes to hunting issues, The HSUS works to curb the most inhumane and unsporting abuses, and that's what has led us most recently to campaign vigorously against canned hunting, Internet hunting, and the use of steel-jawed leghold traps – practices that many rank-and-file hunters and The HSUS agree are abusive and unacceptable.

In response to the comment that Internet hunting is a non-issue, we do believe that public policies serve a function in preventing such abuses from spreading or becoming widespread in the future. John Lockwood, who launched the Internet hunting site in Texas in 2005, has been quoted in the press saying he has had inquiries from people in other states asking how they could set up similar web sites, and that he has considered moving off-shore to escape U.S. regulation. How many times have we looked back and said we wish we would have done something sooner to address a problem?

NorCal Cazadora said...

Michael, thanks for coming to the table on this, and for clarifying your role in the comment approval process. I sure wish I knew why my comments still aren't posting on HuffPo - my third attempt still isn't there, and tech support still hasn't gotten back to me.

On the Internet hunting campaign, I simply disagree with you. The math is too obvious: You get far more public relations benefit (and probably fundraising benefit) from this campaign than you do real-world change.

And thank you for bringing up the stated policy that HSUS campaigns only against the "most inhumane and unsporting" forms of hunting. It is very tempting to believe, until one takes into account the fact that HSUS campaigns against things like dove hunting. How is dove hunting different than any other form of hunting? (And I really hope you don't repeat the silly and irresponsible lie your Minnesota-Wisconsin rep told during her campaign about how hunters use doves for target practice and don't eat them - this is a virtual room full of people who have enjoyed some sumptuous meals of dove.)

I'll tell you how dove hunting is different - though I know you already know. Dove has the lowest level of public support as a game animal - a knee-jerk reaction that dates back to anti-Italian immigrant sentiment at the turn of the last century. Dove hunting is not inhumane or unsporting; it is simply low-hanging fruit.

As is high-fence hunting. In 2008, HSUS campaigned for bigger cages for chickens in California while it campaigned against "cages" of any size (high-fence ranches) in North Dakota. (And BTW, I buy cage-free eggs, unlike most of the hypocrites in California who voted for Prop 2 last year.) So what's the real agenda there? It's not egregiousness; it's low-hanging fruit.

I know HSUS has its agenda, and I certainly don't expect to change it, or to change your personal opinions about hunting. As I've stated publicly many times, I respect vegetarians and vegans for assessing the impact of their dietary choices and acting according to their consciences.

But I have done the same thing, and I'll be damned if I'm going to let your personal choices rule my life. So whenever I see HSUS misrepresenting what I and my fellow hunters do do in an effort to dupe a predominantly (96.8 percent) meat-eating population into supporting your campaigns, I'm going to fight you on it.

native said...

Very well said Holly,
I doubt that you will receive another response from Mr. Markarian though.
Just as Ms. Fearing had no rebuttal for the scientific facts concerning the B complex vitamins, and how you cannot squeeze the proper amount from a purely vegetable source in order to maintain a healthy, well rounded diet.

Smoke and Mirrors, is all those organizations are made of!

NorCal Cazadora said...

I'm posting this for Sandy of Ky, who was having a problem with Blogger's comment feature earlier today:

Michael to answer the question of "canned hunt", accoring to the AR wingnuts it is anyplace with any type of fence around it that has animals that are hunted. In essence not just fee or pay to play but, all hunting.. Hey, if you do not have a fence but the neighbor does, then you are in essence doing a "canned hunt" because "the animals are not free to get out of your way" I have a problem with that. Have you ever seen a KY white tail deer jump? They can clear the fences around here no problem at all.

But, the true story here is if we can outlaw "canned hunts" who is to say before the law is even cold we can't change it to say, all hunting. Or maybe like they did with the horse slaughter bill to say you can't transport your "kill" across state lines. Mark my words, just as "mad cow" disease gave the government a chance to get NAIS into place "wasting disease" will give them a chance to say that the "kill (even though it was nice and healthy) " may be a carrier of wasting disease. I do know that wasting disease is a problem in some areas but from what I can see it is areas that have limited or no hunting of the deer population so you end up with an over population of the deer that means not enough food and starvation does terrible things to the bodies immune system. Keep in mind that these are just my humble oppinions and I am not a scientist nor do I play one on TV. Just makes sense to this farm girl.

Sandi of KY

We need Responsible Dog laws that punish the Irresponsible owner and not any breed.

native said...

There is always a money trail Sandi!
If you really do a little research you will find that the people who stand to profit from all of these egregious and overreaching legislations/laws, will be from the groups who get the grants for research, all the way down to the animal rights people who play upon the publics sympathy, ignorance and ultimately, their wallets.

And until the public at large finally understands that it is not about animal welfare at all, but rather all of the big business which stands to gain from duping the public (ie: Global Warming),
Then they will continue to profit from our fears.

First "create" the climate of fear of dying, then swoop in with a solution which will alleviate those fears!

Poor ol' duped public buys it every time, nothing new that hasn't happened time after time over millennia.

Just follow the money trail and you will finally and truly, See The Light!

native said...

In case everyone has forgotten this I will enlighten you all once again.

The term "Canned Hunt" is not a legal term and cannot be used in a court of law!

It is a created name which P.e.T.A. coined back in the 80s, and has been picked up and repeated so much in the left slanted media, that everyone "thinks" it is a genuine, and legal term.

Anyone, can purchase a name/term and then have it placed on wikipedia, and in turn have it published on the internet.

Do not be duped, do the research and find out for yourself without relying upon information fed to you from the left, or right slanted media outlets.

What, did we all "Think" before T.V. told us what to think!

Dan said...

I gotta agree with Sandi here, I've seen deer jump to an incredible height and clear a fence.

I've been hunting over 20 years, across the US, and never seen a "canned" hunt as described by HSUS.

I have no respect for an organization that is mostly PR, fund raising and routinely gets poor ratings from charity watch dog orginzations.

Their involvement in prop 2 was a simple travesty and will likly increase prices with no appreciable gain in animal welfare. As a result of HSUS's involvement in prop 2, I chose to raise my own flock of chickens. To hell with the HSUS folks, I'll do it myself.

native said...

Apparently Mr. Markarian is not interested in an intelligent, and open dialog because my comments were not allowed to be posted either.

Pay to Kill and Pay to Play are a common event which happens in each and every one of our lives every day.

We pay a slaughter house to kill an animal for us to eat.
We pay exorbitant License, Tags, Taxes, and fees to the State for the right to gain access to public lands in order for us to hunt animals there.

Internet hunting is an urban legend and nothing more!

No matter which way you look at it, it is "all" Pay to Kill and Pay to Play!

Such a brainless argument from Mr. Markarian!

The Suburban Bushwacker said...

I've posted a comment asking for a clarification on this , and emailed HuffPo asking the same.

This one could grow legs, there's a fair bit at stake for HuffPo here.

NorCal Cazadora said...

Well, Phillip was able to comment. Guess he's not on the Huffington Post's blacklist. The amazing thing is I'd NEVER commented on that site before this piece, so there isn't anything I could've done to get myself on a blacklist.

NorCal Cazadora said...

And thanks, SBW, for inquiring with HuffPo. It's fascinating how many of us (Native, Arthur) haven't been able to comment there. What a sham.

native said...

I believe that this is just another scheme by the H.S.U.S. to generate more publicity for themselves.

The practice of internet hunting does not even exist, and they are going to spend lots of our tax dollars to create a law to ban it?

Give me a break! Just exactly what they do best, win an easy day in court, and then use that pseudo victory to feed their big money making propaganda machine.

Because who is going to oppose the banning of such an horrendous thing like internet hunting?

Phillip said...

For what it's worth, it seems odd that almost no one else has posted, pro or con. I'd think that, with the discussion I've been having with this JAKK person, someone would have dived in on his side of the argument.

NorCal Cazadora said...

Yep. I call bullshit on this.

HuffPo's comment policy is a fraud - regardless of what's responsible for the "glitches."

The Suburban Bushwacker said...

Gonna have to agree with you here, I'm yet to receive a rely and my post questioning the non appearance of your comment has yet to show up.

'If it sounds bent, it probably is'

Anyone got Adriana's phone number? As her name is above the door it's only fair that she's told what's being done in her name.


Andy said...

SWB: It's Arianna not Adriana, but I think she's busy doing other things, like getting breast implants or something, if one were to judge by recent articles.