The Great American Meatout & multiple climax

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, October 1996:

The Media’s Response to
Animal Rights Activism: Tracking
Print Coverage of Three Annual
Events, by Dena M. Jones of the
Center for Animals and Public Policy
at the Tufts University School of
Veterinary Medicine, sends a strategic
heads-up to animal protection campaigners
with a statistical look at the
impact of Fur Free Friday, World
Day/Week for Laboratory Animals,
and The Great American Meatout.
Fur Free Friday c o mmenced
in 1986 at a low level of coverage,
gained increasing attention until
1989, continued to have a high profile
in 1990, and then––as fur sales
crashed––dropped virtually out of sight
until the 1994 arrest of talk show host
Ricki Lake during an anti-fur protest.

World Day/Week for
Laboratory Animals started at a low
level of coverage in 1983, built slowly
but took off like a rocket in 1986, fell
back after the single day of events was
extended over a week, and except for
a ripple upward in 1989-1990, has had
declining visibility ever since.
Coverage of both Fur Free Friday and
World Day/Week for Laboratory
Animals seems to parallel visible public
participation in the major events.
Great American Meatout
coverage, by contrast, has shown no
relationship to participation, which
rose steadily to peak in 1991, and has
remained at the 1991 level for the past
five years. Coverage started out high
in 1985, crashed in 1988-1989 coincidental
with the rise of Fur Free Friday,
rebounded in 1990, achieved new
heights in 1991 while both Fur Free
Friday and World Week for Laboratory
Animals slumped, slid to a low in
1994, and has since come back toward
another peak.
Jones finds explanations of
the trends in the studies of media critics
Doris Graber and Gail Wolfsfeld,
and Social Movement Empowerment
Project analyst Bill Moyer, each of
whom underscore the tendency of
events to lose news value through repetition,
of causes to lose participation
when media interest dims, and of
cause opponents to counter protest
strategies more effectively when the
strategies become tired.
Moyer further points out that
the “negative/rebel” behavior manifested
in demonstrations, which helps a
cause to attract attention at takeoff,
becomes a detriment to further growth
once the initial grievance is endorsed
by a substantial share of the public, as
occurred with major animal rights
goals, according to public opinion
polls, during the early 1990s. Further,
according to Moyer, causes tend to
make their most substantial gains by
becoming perennial public and institutional
concerns, well after the “movement”
stage ends––which requires that
leaders make a transition from being
“rebels” to being “citizens.”
The various theories indicate
that the Great American Meatout may
be achieving “multiple climax”
because it is figuratively flapping
wings in approach to takeoff for concern
about farm animals, not there yet,
and, Jones said, because unlike the
other two events studied, it is oriented
toward encouraging vegetarianism, a
positive action, rather than on stopping
something, a negative.

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