|By Robert Cohen Executive Director|
AMERICAN DAIRY FARMER
You might find it peculiar that I am endorsing a pro-dairy publication but these are curious times and this is an exceptional circumstance. "The American Dairy Farmer" is a magazine distributed bimonthly FREE to its readers and can be obtained by calling their North Carolina office: 919-876-0809.
What makes this pro-dairy publication so interesting is that I have been invited to write a column that now appears in each edition. I am the NOTMILKMAN and enemy of the dairy industry and of dairymen. My words are "fighting" words and the Dairy Education Board exists to challenge and repudiate the carefully marketed message of the dairy industry. To include my editorial in future issues of this journal may cause controversy within the very ranks of the industry, not to mention its readership. Some feel that adversaries should fight their battles with clearly defined boundaries while others believe in holding their enemy close. My first column appeared in the January edition, titled: "Counter-point: An Introduction - The Enemy's Outpost." The column appeared uncensored, just the way I wrote it. I will not include the entire column here, just an excerpt. Part of what I wrote invited the reader to:
"Know your enemy. That view was shared by Italian statesman Machiavelli, Chinese philosopher Sun Tzu and Abraham Lincoln. These men combined the art of political science with the psychology of human nature to write their own unique chapters in the collective textbook of the art of warfare. Lincoln once said:
I pondered Lincoln's words after a recent visit to the farm of a dairyman. How could I write or say the negative things that I do, and in doing so, bring pain to the extraordinary family with whom I had broken bread? Machiavelli's text, 'The Prince,' has tutored monarchs and chief executives in a centuries-old lesson: successful campaigns are waged on and off battlegrounds. Those who understand their opponents win wars. The great Chinese philosopher Sun Tzu wrote in his 'Art of War':
'If ignorant both of your enemy and yourself, you are certain to be in peril.'"
In the same issue that my column appeared there was a Point/Counterpoint column written, appearing on the opposite page. The author was Teresa VanWagner, a dairywoman much respected among her peers. Teresa has been in the dairy industry for thirty-five years and is the moderator for two INTERNET dairy groups. She runs a farm with her sons and has nearly six hundred milk-producing cows and breeding livestock. Teresa also uses the genetically engineered bovine growth hormone. I include her column, in its entirety (thanks to the publishers-Mike and Ann Marie Coan and Editor-Fran Alt.)
GUESS WHO CAME TO DINNER by Teresa Von Wagner
"At any gathering, he'd be the center of attention, the life of the party. One minute he'll regale you with stories of his misadventures, the next minute he'll single-handedly and fairly debate both sides of an issue. He's a whirlwind of energy with a brilliant mind. He reads people as easily as the rest of us read traffic signs, and his sense of humor doesn't quit. He's charismatic to a spellbinding degree, and his name is Robert Cohen.
Yes, that Robert Cohen - the NotMilkman, founder of the Dairy Education Board, author of the book "Milk - The Deadly Poison," the person the dairy industry loves to hate - THAT Robert Cohen came to dinner.
In the past, via email, Robert and I had engaged in an offensively hostile war of words. Trading verbal putdowns, attempting to discredit another's avocation by discrediting the person is a forgivable fault of human nature. But standing in the middle of a raging battlefield, playing mindless word games, isn't good strategy for staying alive.
Finally, Robert and I decided to act like intelligent adults. We agreed to respectfully disagree. By openly acknowledging that knowing one's enemy is of utmost importance in the pursuit of winning any adversarial conflict, we discovered that while we would always be enemies on one level, we could be, and are, friends on another. It's a fragile trust, based on a shared philosophy that there is no one in this world from whom we can't learn something.
So there we were, seven of us - three generations of VanWagners, Robert Cohen and his friend, Eva Jones - sharing a meal and lively, laughter-filled and serious, conversation. A summit meeting of sorts, with a unique cast of characters as comfortable with one another as the dairy, pasta, poultry, and vegetarian foods on the table.
From our email conversations, I had already come to the conclusion that behind Robert's abrasive, inflammatory mockery of dairy products lies a man with a serious dedication to his mission against milk.
Before I met him, it was warning enough to simply say, "Watch out for this guy! He has an extensive knowledge of science and a superior ability to combine facts, in a variety of ways, to support his arguments."
Since meeting him, however, I know those were na´ve words. They don't do justice to Robert's powerfully persuasive personality, or to his thorough understanding of dairy farmers and the dairy industry.
He has sincere appreciation, empathy and admiration for dairy farmers, publicly and privately describing us as the most dedicated and hardworking people he knows. He has an excellent grasp of the fragmentation within our ranks and the reasons behind our divisiveness. He has some outstanding ideas on how to promote milk consumption, as well as valid, constructive criticisms of our present milk marketing programs.
Is Robert Cohen an enigma? Maybe. What's important is that he knows his enemy well - far better than we know ourselves.
I have two lasting impressions from that evening. One is that underestimating Robert Cohen's ability to damage the dairy industry is a big mistake. The other is a profound wish that the man was on our side.
And I have a question. If "got milk?" and "NotMilk!" from opposite sides of the battlefield can agree to find middle ground, why can't those of us, on our side of the battlefield, do the same?"
In the same issue, Editor Fran Alt wrote:
"You might say he has infiltrated our camp, but I see it as our having the advantage. Yes, the leader of the Anti-dairy Coalition sits in our midst; alone, armed only with a single pen. We are many, capable of firing back with a barrage of pens. Feel free to fire away, but first, learn his moves and strategies. Take from him. Learn what makes him tick. Wouldn't it be great to have this strong voice on our side?"
This is not a game to me. This is war. I like Teresa and Fran but there is no compromise for me in this battle. I readily admit to milk being good for just one thing. If you drink it, you get a milk moustache and become beautiful like Spike Lee and Larry King. On all other issues, I submit the evidence and ask for unconditional surrender.
Do you know of someone who should get a copy of this newsletter?
Have them send their Email address to email@example.com and it will be done!