Will Potter and the Fallacy of Ecoterrorism

If you don’t know about this guy, here is the TED blurb by way of explanation:

In 2002, investigative journalist and TED Fellow Will Potter took a break from his regular beat, writing about shootings and murders for the Chicago Tribune. He went to help a local group campaigning against animal testing: “I thought it would be a safe way to do something positive,” he says. Instead, he was arrested, and so began his ongoing journey into a world in which peaceful protest is branded as terrorism.

And featuring on the TED blog is an interview with Potter that provides more of an overview.[1]http://blog.ted.com/2014/01/31/will-potter-on-of-treating-environmentalists-like-terrorists/ Wikipedia sums up the importance of Potter’s skeptical approach to governments and corporations trying to silence social activism.

Potter sees a parallel between the branding of current activists as “terrorists”, and the use of the media in sensationalizing these cases, and the persecution of leftists in the Red Scare, during the McCarthy era. According to him, the Green Scare is a new phenomenon associated with environmentalist groups that may or may not engage in illegal activities, but are disproportionately attacked by the government for extra-legal reasons. He thinks that these government tactics are a threat to civil liberties which can progressively affect more groups and individuals.

While many people, including those who call themselves skeptics, have swallowed the Kool-Aid of government and corporate fabrication and campaigning, more and more people are seeing through it all. The “terrorism” moniker is so outrageous that it is being questioned in mainstream media more and more, such as in this nicely balanced article in The Washington Post, Ecoterrorism: threat or political ploy?[2]http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/monkey-cage/wp/2014/12/19/ecoterrorism-threat-or-political-ploy/ After examining actual crime statistics, the article concludes, as follows (REAR in the quote is short for Radical Environmentalist and Animal Rights):

Every major social movement includes moderate and radical individuals and groups, including often a small violent (terrorist) minority. This was the case in, for example, both the recent anti-globalization movement and the historical civil rights movement. No one would classify these movements, as a whole, as terrorist. Today, the U.S. anti-abortion movement includes a significant and very active radical wing that is involved in criminal acts and even terrorism. Unlike the REAR movement, academics, government agencies and politicians hardly ever refer to the radical anti-abortion movement as terrorist.

Similarly, the label “ecoterrorism” should not be used for the whole REAR movement, but only for some of its actions, individuals and groups; this also holds for the most active ‘groups’ within the broader movement, i.e. ALF and ELF. Obviously, counterterrorist measures should only target these terrorist minorities, rather than the broader movement. Just as every radical anti-abortion activist is not a (potential) terrorist, neither is every radical environmentalist or animal rights activist.

Contradictions inherent in the government’s behavior and its Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act—and variants of it around the world—are not hard to find. If only more skeptics were as skeptical as Potter, instead of obediently complying with government propaganda because it satisfies ingrained prejudices.

Over at the Pacific Standard, an article asks, “Whatever Happened to ‘Eco-Terrorism’?” It begins with the case of Eric Taylor McDavid, an environmental activist who became victim to blatant FBI “honey bait” entrapped and in 2007 was sentenced to nearly 20 years in prison. McDavid was later freed because the FBI had withheld thousands of documents that might have helped his defense. That was news back then, but ecoterrorism itself is rarely heard of these days.

There was a rise of eco-inspired vandalism in late 1990s and early 2000s, followed by heavy prosecutions of a few core individuals labeled “eco-terrorists.” That was basically it. Nonetheless, it was enough for corporations to get ecological terrorism laws enacted as additions to post-9/11 terrorism laws. A nonviolent protest can now be labeled ecoterrorism.

So much for “the number one domestic terrorism threat,” which now seems to have faded from mainstream concern. The real ecoterrorists, meanwhile—corporations, agribusinesses, and government—can legally get away with ecocide.

Also see Eco-terrorism: the non-existent threat we spend millions policing.

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Vegetarian/Vegan Starter PDFs

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