Belmont Club

The Greatest Show on Earth

“Why Is It That So Many Good Causes Get Hijacked By Bad People?” asked R.F. Wilson. “Take human rights. I’ve got nothing against human rights. In fact, I’m all for them. But why is it that so many disgusting people hijack the good cause of promoting and safeguarding human rights and start milking it for all it’s worth? And eventually it results in lowlifes and scumbags jumping on the human rights bandwagon and pushing out decent people whose liberties and freedoms are trampled and abused. It’s just ain’t right.”


The danger of corruption doesn’t stop with the human rights crowd. The anti-capitalist, anti-war, anti-pollution, anti-racism and even animal welfare organizations are all vulnerable. They sometimes mutate into horrible parodies of their original intent. Why does it happen?

That’s easy. It is because, as Willie Sutton once said, that is where the money is. And money attracts snake oil salesmen. Nowhere was that more dramatically illustrated than the recent American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals agreement to pay the Ringling Brothers $9.3 million to settle a fraudulent lawsuit they lodged against the circus using a paid witness. That’s not the half of it. It’s only the tip of a RICO case brought against the animal rights advocates and its lawyers.

The settlement covers only Feld Entertainment’s claims against ASPCA for attorneys’ fees and damages in the initial Endangered Species Act (ESA) case filed in 2000 by the animal rights activists and the resultant racketeering (RICO) case brought by Feld Entertainment in 2007. Discovery in the initial lawsuit uncovered over $190,000 that these animal activist groups and their lawyers paid to Tom Rider who lived off of the money while serving as the “injured plaintiff” in the lawsuit against the circus.

The complaint, whose full text can be viewed here alleged the activist organizations used bribery, paid witnesses, mail fraud, obstruction of justice and money laundering to create a lawsuit against the Ringling with the hidden intent to ban the performance of elephants at circuses and to raise a billion dollars in donations for themselves. Shakedown, fraud and political shenanigans all rolled into one.


Yes that’s right folks. One billion dollars. You can buy a lot of peanuts with that. That’s the amount they may have raised by faking the case against Ringling.

Whether or not the complaint prospers it illustrates how big a business activism has become. Recently Amnesty International made the temporary news for paying director Irene Khan “the sum of £533,103, and her deputy, Kate Gilmore, £325,244 to leave the organization” for reasons unspecified. The alternative was to fire them but that was judged too risky to attempt.

A full and frank explanation of the reasoning behind Amnesty International’s pay-off packages to Irene Khan and Kate Gilmore has been given by the organisation’s international executive committee (IEC) chairman, Peter Pack, in which he describes the payment to Khan of over £533,000 as the “least-worst option”…

Pack said there were three options available to the committee: to change their decision, to dismiss Khan, or to reach a confidential agreement with her. The IEC agreed it could not change its decision and that dismissing Khan “would have done enormous damage to the operations and reputation of AI” having “a major adverse effect on the overall work of AI for human rights”, Pack said. So upon consulting with a “highly-regarded London law firm” AI prepared a valedictory payment package for Khan.


They cite “enormous damage” to AI’s reputation if they tried to fire her  — so what did she know and when did she know it? Irene Khan’s resume is also revealing. Activism at the top is run by people indistinguishable from those in the media/government complex elite.

The daughter of a non-practicing medical doctor Sikander Ali Khan, granddaughter of Cambridge graduate and barrister Ahmed Ali Khan and great granddaughter of an eminent doctor of Calcutta, Asdar Ali Khan who was the personal physician of Syed Hasan Imam. Her uncle Rear Admiral Mahbub Ali Khan was the chief of the Bangladesh Navy. Khan‘s great-great uncle Ghazanfar Ali Khan was the first Muslim Cambridge graduate from Sylhet. Irene’s first cousin Zubaida Rahman is married to Tarique Rahman the son of a former prime minister and a president of Bangladesh, Khaleda Zia. During her upbringing, East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) – was fighting for independence from Pakistan. Human rights abuses that occurred during the Bangladesh Liberation War in which Bangladesh achieved independence, helped shape teenage Khan’s activist viewpoint. She left Bangladesh as a teenager for school in Northern Ireland.[5] Khan then went to England and studied law at the University of Manchester and then, in the United States, at Harvard Law School. She specialized in public international law and human rights She is the Chancellor of the University of Salford.


That kind of resume doesn’t get you a soapbox. It gets you a British peerage in due time. The Great and the Good are an incestuous crowd. The day when ‘activism’ meant the unpaid little guy fighting City Hall are gone. Now the activist is just the next occupant of City Hall — or the White House. With the kind of money and power that activist organizations deal in come corrupting influences of the same sort that distort big government and business.

But the fiction of the unpaid little guy is still carefully cultivated, largely by front displays of unpaid volunteers or poorly paid Third World staffers. These are the people that well-meaning individuals think they are supporting. But behind that facade of underpaid and bright eyed idealists flit the barons of poverty on their way from one international conference to the next. And they won’t be eating hotdogs either. The pay gap between ‘international’ and ‘local’ staff, even between persons of equal qualification is a scandal. A fascinating discussion on the gap between upper tier activist salaries and those of the rank and file says in one place: “if the locals knew what the foreign staff get paid, they’d be mad”.

But R.F. Wilson’s observations remain the most salient. How does one keep good causes from going rancid? Is there any way to keep idealism from being hijacked by hucksters? If the only way to a good cause sincere is to keep it penniless and small, then how can anything on a large scale ever be achieved?


Open thread.

They’re playing our song.

The Three Conjectures at Amazon Kindle for $1.99

Storming the Castle at Amazon Kindle for $3.99

No Way In at Amazon Kindle $8.95, print $9.99

Tip Jar or Subscribe or Unsubscribe

Join the conversation as a VIP Member