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The Long Con
May 5, 2011 9:08 PM   Subscribe

"I didn't realize I was playing a chess game for my life with the FBI. They were playing chess, and I was off finger-painting in the corner." Rick Wilson, an occasional activist who liked to throw after-hours parties in his Capitol Hill apartment, was the target of an intricate and costly 2-year long undercover sting operation led by the Seattle Police Department and the FBI. Their goal; to get Rick to reveal his ties to eco-terrorism groups and two of the more progressive city council members. (Members who have encourage increased oversight of the SPD) The only problem, there were no such ties.

Brendan Kiley, writer at The Stranger, reports on the operation and subsequent entrapment of Wilson. The article touches on the trend of FBI counter-terrorism efforts in the US being directed at "environmental radicals." With undercover operatives frequently encouraging targets to act. This is also the subject of a new book by Will Potter, Green is the New Red.
posted by Maude_the_destroyer (109 comments total) 44 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'm really glad that the FB-fucking-I doesn't have any more important counter terrorism priorities to be spending their time on.
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 9:13 PM on May 5, 2011 [21 favorites]


The courts don't really recognize entrapment as a defense. It's more or less a myth based entirely on the Catherine Zeta Jones movie.

In a police state, the police can lie to your face and then arrest you if you give the wrong response.

Or they can stage elaborate multimillion dollar operations designed to put you in jail for the rest of your life, because shit, officers and special agents get bored. It's not like they can all just fly to Attaobad or something when there are perfectly good dirty fucking hippies right here in Washington DC.
posted by T.D. Strange at 9:24 PM on May 5, 2011 [17 favorites]


Well, there was that sophisticated bomb at the Martin Luther King Day parade .

In Spokane, Washington, 300 miles from Seattle.

You know, the backpack bomb that was designed well enough that it would have killed dozens of paraders.

You know, the dangerous backpack bomb on the MLK Day parade route which was spotted only an hour before the start of the parade.

But hey, that was just white supremacists who like to kill black people, not dangerous tree-huggers who like to, ah, hug trees.

Definitely better to spend two years of investigation on a guy who wants to save the Spotted Owl.
posted by orthogonality at 9:24 PM on May 5, 2011 [43 favorites]


Or, you know, the man who tried to 9/11 the IRS
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 9:29 PM on May 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Sadly, I used to live in Seattle and now I live in Las Vegas and the cops of Las Vegas make me long for the relatively sweet and cuddly police force of Seattle. I mean, in Seattle, when the cops kill someone for no reason people still get outraged instead of just shrugging it off as "well, that's what the cops do around here." :(
posted by Jacqueline at 9:32 PM on May 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


That was a hell of a story. Thanks Maude.

Oh, and hi, FBI agents monitoring all these dirty commie hippies on the Blue! You are totally wasting our tax dollars! Hope you feel good about yourselves.
posted by emjaybee at 9:32 PM on May 5, 2011 [12 favorites]


BTW, the current cover of The Stranger is interesting: REMEMBER THAT TIME PRESIDENT OBAMA SHOT OSAMA BIN LADEN IN THE FACE?
posted by twoleftfeet at 9:39 PM on May 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Well, in all fairness, they did make a pretty strong arrest in that MLK bombing case. Based on (of all things) t-shirts which were also in the backpack, amongst other things. If you live in a tiny town like Colville, don't leave shit with your bomb that identifies you as coming from Colville.

Not really sure how that applies here... Eastern WA / Panhandle ID has worked hard to push out as many of the organized white supremacists they could, and the guy they arrested for planting that bomb was unknown to law enforcement before his arrest and any recent ties he had to a larger organization weren't known until after his arrest.

Anyway, this whole Seattle situation mentioned in the FPP smacks of entrapment, but it's not a defense that works often, if at all. Funding members of the operation he's supposed to be undercover in, some of them for a long time? Suggesting more extreme measures as part of the protests and trying to get them to change their tactics to suit his investigation?

Of course, Seattle is probably only being targeted because of the riots there a few years ago in conjunction with the WTO meeting. There's no mention of the Spotted Owl at all in the article. But there are plenty of lesson-teaching examples of how police will lie to you during interrogation.

And LOTS of information about how much money all this probably cost. Which is way more than any of it was truly worth.
posted by hippybear at 9:39 PM on May 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


Maybe I am being over-dramatic, but of all the cities in America that I've resided in throughout my short 31 years, the police of Seattle couldn't leave me with a worse impression if they shot a member of my family by accident and got away with it. And I'm not joking, for the multitudes of King County families who are dealing with that exact situation. That is, too many by far. Do the law enforcement agents of Seattle, and surrounding areas, ever make the news for something useful and/or worthwhile?
posted by JLovebomb at 9:41 PM on May 5, 2011 [4 favorites]


but of all the cities in America , I've never visited Chicago.
posted by Mblue at 9:44 PM on May 5, 2011 [4 favorites]


And does anyone remember the name of the ten year veteran of the King County Sheriff's Office who dealt and ran drugs, never made a felony arrest during the whole decade, ran a thriving escort business including transportation within the county using his police car, and when he got caught he got to retire with full benefits and no jail time due to the county bungling the case? Because the google isn't turning up anything for me, but it's worth reading about.
posted by JLovebomb at 9:45 PM on May 5, 2011


Mblue- I have. I thought they cleaned up, and then came Ryan LeVin. Nothing changes.
posted by JLovebomb at 9:49 PM on May 5, 2011




Wow. And I guess the moral of the story is, if you're reading this in some kind of "law enforcement" role, you need to take a long hard honest look at what you've become, and how far you've fallen. What the hell happened to you? You used to be someone good.
posted by -harlequin- at 9:55 PM on May 5, 2011 [9 favorites]


Do the law enforcement agents of Seattle, and surrounding areas, ever make the news for something useful and/or worthwhile?

They got that guy who was killing cops!
posted by Artw at 10:14 PM on May 5, 2011 [10 favorites]


JLoveBomb: And does anyone remember the name of the ten year veteran of the King County Sheriff's Office who dealt and ran drugs, never made a felony arrest during the whole decade, ran a thriving escort business including transportation within the county using his police car, and when he got caught he got to retire with full benefits and no jail time due to the county bungling the case? Because the google isn't turning up anything for me, but it's worth reading about.
You're looking for Dan Ring; the Seattle P-I did a whole series about him called "Conduct Unbecoming" (having trouble finding the right link, but that should help you google more easily).
posted by hincandenza at 10:15 PM on May 5, 2011 [7 favorites]


Read this on the bus today - amazing, fantastic article. I have a love/hate relationship with the Stranger's "news reporting", and their articles are often guilty of using their journalistic access and reach to bludgeon their political enemies, but when they score a good story, Brendan Kiley especially is awesome, and they've got several other really good writers (as well as a few terrible ones). I know they've been following this story for a long time, and it's so gratifying to see the bright lights turned on this thing.

What is it about Seattle cops, I wonder.
posted by chaff at 10:37 PM on May 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


I like how they don't mention until the very end that he was convicted of exporting guns to the Zapatistas. Just a little gun-running, gentle reader -- a youthful indiscretion, nothing more, back in the old days when he was in a band.
posted by The Tensor at 10:38 PM on May 5, 2011 [7 favorites]


These kinds of undercover COINTELPRO investigations are practically ubiquitous in the US. The true goals are usually delusional (e.g. cracking the ELF "network" ) but they do have one blanket effect: they consistently shatter peaceful dissident movements. Artists, protest groups, environmental activists, forigen policy reform advocates all find themselves abused and intimidated by a giant and unaccountable shadow machine.
"That would seem to be an absurd waste of state financing and funding," Rick says. "And that actually scares me more than the charges... You guys aren't after anything bigger than this? This is it?"
That really cuts to the heart of the matter. The sheer scale of the forces arrayed against them, blindly enforcing the status quo almost as a by-product of its imagined gloas. A vast hive that knows not what it does but does it very well. European leftists I've talked to think that Americans are cowardly for allowing themselves to be herded and detained at protest marches, and for generally poor organization and resolve when fighting corporatism. But I don't think they face this.

The courts don't really recognize entrapment as a defense. It's more or less a myth based entirely on the Catherine Zeta Jones movie.

If anything taught me that it was the sting against Marion Barry in 1990. If it's legal to entrap, arrest and convict the Mayor of the nation's capitol, well, they can do it to anyone. Sure he was corrput as hell, but good on the citizens of Washington for reelecting him in prison, and good on them for keeping him on the council to this very day.
posted by clarknova at 10:44 PM on May 5, 2011 [13 favorites]


I like how they don't mention until the very end that he was convicted of exporting guns to the Zapatistas.

Well, he's convicted of conspiracy... That's different from being convicted of actual gun smuggling. But yeah, it does feel a bit like a bit of a gotcha to the reader.

The true goals are usually delusional (e.g. cracking the ELF "network" ) but they do have one blanket effect: they consistently shatter peaceful dissident movements. Artists, protest groups, environmental activists, forigen policy reform advocates all find themselves abused and intimidated by a giant and unaccountable shadow machine.

More than just abused and intimidated. They create a climate of distrust, where people who are doing anything which may go against what The System wants find themselves questioning the loyalties of any new face who comes within their midst. It's a form of instilling guilt-by-association only coming from the other way around the issue. If enough of these kinds of operations are mounted, soon those who may be working against the wishes of the powers that be (whether they are doing so lawfully or not) will find it impossible to pull together into effective groups, because the level of mistrust and fear are large enough to prevent the groups from cohering.

It's a bit of a "long con" indeed, but in the end, it may wind up that it serves the "desired" status quo more than we all realize.
posted by hippybear at 10:51 PM on May 5, 2011 [5 favorites]


The Seattle police paper sounds utterly vile, and the idea that it reflects their culture is pretty scary.
posted by Artw at 10:52 PM on May 5, 2011 [4 favorites]


but good on the citizens of Washington for reelecting him in prison

D.C., that is... not the state in which Seattle is located. (for those who don't know that particular story)
posted by hippybear at 10:52 PM on May 5, 2011


Um......... ok
First this, then this.

I am more interested in why this poster is trying so hard to spin this.
posted by Stonestock Relentless at 10:53 PM on May 5, 2011


I like how they don't mention until the very end that he was convicted of exporting guns to the Zapatistas. Just a little gun-running, gentle reader -- a youthful indiscretion, nothing more, back in the old days when he was in a band.

The production and sale of arms to foreign powers is one of the largest sectors of the US economy and one of the very few manufacturing sectors we have left. It's as American as apple pie. You read about his motives and what the people he was moving guns to were facing (death squads).

What's your real beef here?
posted by clarknova at 10:54 PM on May 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


I believe that this happened in France as well, where the various paramilitary groups associated with the right wing parties regularly collaborated with the police to go after left wing groups during the 60s and 70s.

The difference is that the French Communist party cut it's teeth fighting the Nazis during World War II as part of the Resistance. Yeah, they didn't do anything until they got orders from Moscow after the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact collapsed, but once they got started it was on. They learned how to operate in the worst kind of tactical environment, literally life-or-death.

For many years, I never understood how the French Communist party could even get elected to ANY positions in France. I knew that they had gone to bat for Stalin [gag] and tried to claim the USSR wasn't so bad. Total insanity. But a few years ago I watched "Army of Shadows" on cable, and did a little reading about the Resistance, which is when I discovered the integral role played by the Communists during WWII. And then I understood. People remember those who fight for them when everyone else just lays down and takes it. It's one of the most fundamental human instincts of all.
posted by wuwei at 10:55 PM on May 5, 2011 [8 favorites]


-harlequin-: Wow. And I guess the moral of the story is, if you're reading this in some kind of "law enforcement" role, you need to take a long hard honest look at what you've become, and how far you've fallen. What the hell happened to you? You used to be someone good.
I have seen this sort of thing play out time and time again on Reddit over the last year where a cop does an AMA and of course they are never a part of the corruption, and people give them respect because gosh darn it, people just like them and the job they are doing. In my interactions with the police, I'm always polite because it's safer to assume you are dealing with corrupt psychopath who know what he can get away with and which fellow officers on his shift will lie to cover his ass. He knows the law and knows he can rely on a thin blue line to hide behind. Add forfeiture laws and the fact that for most of us the cost of a legal defense of our innocence would ruin us financially... It's a massive power imbalance that only be resolved (or eroded slowly) by citizen observation. If you see a cop on duty, film them. Support your local Copwatch!

But this FPP describes an entirely different level of police-state corruption.
posted by Catblack at 10:59 PM on May 5, 2011 [11 favorites]


This was obviously an overreaction but I don't agree that all eco-terrorists are harmless. When you believe that animals are as valuable or more valuable than humanity you can end up doing some dangerous thing.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 11:06 PM on May 5, 2011



The difference is that the French Communist party cut it's teeth fighting the Nazis during World War II as part of the Resistance.

Most European partisan armies had a strong communist or socialist component. The great general of the Yugoslav resistance was a communist, and was wildly popular. They were at the top of the list, after all.

More than just abused and intimidated. They create a climate of distrust, where people who are doing anything which may go against what The System wants find themselves questioning the loyalties of any new face who comes within their midst.

Yes you're right and that was the point I failed to make. The atomization of the people as political animals.. that's the greatest tragedy in all this farce.
posted by clarknova at 11:09 PM on May 5, 2011


What's your real beef here?

OK, you caught me -- I'm a paid astorturfer for the police union. Good eye!
posted by The Tensor at 11:19 PM on May 5, 2011


If you see a cop on duty, film them.

Shame this is illegal in a few states now - with others to follow, I'm sure, if these states manage to get away with it.
posted by mstokes650 at 11:22 PM on May 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


OK, you caught me -- I'm a paid astorturfer for the police union. Good eye!

If only Americans had to be paid to react that way.
posted by clarknova at 11:33 PM on May 5, 2011 [5 favorites]


A significant fraction of the Seattle police force
  1. Lives in the far exurbs
  2. Thinks of Seattle itself as a nightmarish urban hellscape populated by hell-fiends who can only be kept in line by extreme force.
Which is of course really, really hilarious to anyone who has actually lived there, since (aside from the nine months a year of overcast and drizzle) it's without a doubt one of the best places in America to live. Nevertheless, even though Seattle residents understand the deep hilarity of anyone thinking that Seattle's a rough place (I mean, seriously: Seattle), that doesn't stop the SPD from viewing those same residents as being hell-fiends on the prowl.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 11:38 PM on May 5, 2011 [15 favorites]


I just dropped in to say hello to the FBI. I figure you guys drop in here every so often. Possibly some CIA, NSA, military investigative units, as well as the non-US law enforcement. Anyhow, hello boys and girls.

Here's my challenge for you: I'll give you one glorious United States two-dollar bill in return for a letter from your respective agency. Paper format, of course, because e-mailing me is too easy. I'll even scan it and post it in MetaTalk if I get one. And no, I'm not just going to give you my mailing address. You have to earn your two dollars. Make sure to leave a return address, I'm not looking you up.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 11:39 PM on May 5, 2011 [5 favorites]


This story has me fuming- seriously angry at this injustice and I want to do something about it. Who's with me? E-mail me at tips@fbi.gov, also let me know where we can score some guns and/or drugs.
posted by Challahtronix at 11:50 PM on May 5, 2011 [22 favorites]


A significant fraction of the Seattle police force

1. Lives in the far exurbs
2. Thinks of Seattle itself as a nightmarish urban hellscape populated by hell-fiends who can only be kept in line by extreme force.


I believe this partially explains why the mayor recently said that it would be better if more Seattle cops were from Seattle, and why so many of the attendees at the pro-police rally I linked above were not actually from Seattle.
posted by grouse at 12:04 AM on May 6, 2011 [4 favorites]


If you were playing on the same board, finger-painting would beat chess.
posted by telstar at 12:15 AM on May 6, 2011 [10 favorites]


A great analysis of this kind of operation, and its use as a tool of cultural control, comes from Leslie Fiedler's 1969 memoir Being Busted.

A short summary by Fielder was published in the New York Review of books, but I recommend the book itself. It's out of print but used copies on Amazon can be had for less than five bucks. There's scores of evidence details that sound like they were taken from this case's playbook.
posted by clarknova at 12:34 AM on May 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


"Seattle is probably only being targeted because of the riots there a few years ago in conjunction with the WTO meeting."

Seattle activists have been getting a bad rap for stuff done by anarchists from Eugene going all the way back to the Vietnam War.

WAKE UP SHEEPLE. THE REAL THREAT IS IN OREGON.
posted by Jacqueline at 12:37 AM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]




Man, they ain't perfect and get involved in some fucked-up shit from time to time, but reading about the police in the US just makes me want to go hug the first Kiwi cop I see.
posted by rodgerd at 3:41 AM on May 6, 2011 [3 favorites]




Guess I'm a fascist for thinking the Seattle PD are pretty okay guys.

They've always been polite to me, but guess that's the half white/half asian privilege acting up. Didn't get a speeding ticket the two times I've gotten pulled over either. Lucky me.
posted by Allan Gordon at 4:12 AM on May 6, 2011


You know who else gave material support to Latin American militants? I mean, they were ultra-right wing militants, so maybe that's okay.
posted by hydropsyche at 4:35 AM on May 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


I believe this partially explains why the mayor recently said that it would be better if more Seattle cops were from Seattle

Here in Chicago, cops (and all city employees) must be Chicago residents, but there is constant pressure to get rid of this "outmoded" rule. I'm fucking terrified of the day that comes to pass for the reasons You Can't Tip a Buick described.

As it is, there are whole neighborhoods largely populated by police and firefighters in far northwestern Chicago, right near the city limits, that look and feel deeply suburban, are cut off from the rest of the city geographically, and are essentially unreachable on public transportation.
posted by enn at 4:37 AM on May 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


With the exception of Brendan Kiley's article for The Stranger (from the fpp), those newspaper articles paint a bleak picture of Rick Wilson and company. Unfortunately that picture is skewed.

If Rick was busted along with the Honduran's and his dealer at a drug bust that the cops claim netted them a quarter million in illegal substances then why wasn't he charged for it? Why did they charge him with a crime that had nothing to do with their investigation, donating firearms to the Zapatistas? Is that really the best they could do after all the time and money spent on tracking him and his cohorts? and busting him for a small bag of cocaine? That's just petty and vindicative.
posted by artof.mulata at 4:40 AM on May 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


Personally, I blame Nixon.


I just dropped in to say hello to the FBI. I figure you guys drop in here every so often. Possibly some CIA, NSA, military investigative units, as well as the non-US law enforcement. Anyhow, hello boys and girls.

Given the content of the Klein deposition in EFF v. AT&T, I'd say they're not 'drop[ing] in every so often, but rather that they're storing and analyzing it ( and all the other emails, IMs, and website visits ) pretty much in realtime.
posted by mikelieman at 4:46 AM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yeah, Rick Wilson is not exactly coming over brilliantly here himself - but if anything sounds more like a serial fuck up than someone deserving of a multi-million dollar investigation.
posted by Artw at 5:49 AM on May 6, 2011


Does this Rick Wilson fellow sound like a douchebag? Yeah, pretty much. Sending guns to the Zapatistas? As American as apple pie, surely, but stupid to get involved in. Does that legitimize a huge, expensive investigation (that didn't know about a handful of guns) that was focused on roping him into violent schemes and painting him as the ringleader of a big gambling and drug ring?

Some of you mention the article trying to spin it. Everything is spin. Doesn't mean that the situation was fucking bogus.

What makes me sad about this article is that this is not an isolated incident. the FBI and other "law-enforcement agencies" infiltrate, investigate, and harass activists all the time, all over the country. And I don't say that because of hearsay.
posted by entropone at 6:18 AM on May 6, 2011


More than just abused and intimidated. They create a climate of distrust, where people who are doing anything which may go against what The System wants find themselves questioning the loyalties of any new face who comes within their midst. It's a form of instilling guilt-by-association only coming from the other way around the issue. If enough of these kinds of operations are mounted, soon those who may be working against the wishes of the powers that be (whether they are doing so lawfully or not) will find it impossible to pull together into effective groups, because the level of mistrust and fear are large enough to prevent the groups from cohering.

It's not just the level of mistrust and fear - it's that we end up spending all our goddamn time attending people's trials, posting trial updates, meeting with lawyers, raising money, doing "don't talk to the fibbies even if they seem very nice" trainings, visiting folks in jail, suing cops for beating people, going to the City Council to try (almost always uselessly) to get them to act....just surviving a set of faked up prosecutions is a huge strain on any activist community.

And I say this as someone who has been peripherally involved in, jesus, three or four of these situations now. Always friends or friends of friends - because basically I'm the boring kind of activist - but it's creepy when it's close to you.

Take a look at this, in which several people I've known casually for years are have been raided and are under investigation. They're a little bit doctrinaire, those folks, but the real reasons they're being investigated are 1. Local police anger at the work they put into organizing the 2008 RNC protests; 2. an attempt to smash up the US networks doing solidarity organizing against US involvement in Columbia and 3. the FBI/police bureaucracies' need to justify their continued funding by finding "terrorists" who are not conservative.

And of course, when we - the anarcho-commie mostly-but-not-entirely-white left - are doing jail solidarity and courtroom support, we are not spending time doing the work we want to do, supporting progressive and radical groups outside our immediate circle.

I can't wait until the fibbies figure out a way to drag the new radical labor folks around here into this mess - they're the only people in my set who have time and energy for serious anti-racist/cross-class organizing, so of course they'll need to be smashed before they can make strides.

I always figure that these raids are run on a "will no one rid me of this troublesome priest?" level of deniability, so that there really isn't a central core of politicians planning things, just a lot of local law enforcement who know that they have license to bust the heads of the dirty hippies who've been pissing them off.
posted by Frowner at 6:25 AM on May 6, 2011 [7 favorites]


No doubt Rick Wilson is not brilliant - he sounds like not a great guy even in the Stranger article, to be honest - and yeah, it's basically a bad crowd. But that misses the point, which the Stranger article got exactly right:

This story fits into a national pattern of law enforcement going to great lengths to prosecute people who are perceived as serious threats to national security, but who are (for the most part) just people with big mouths and weird lifestyles.

And the thing about going after the people with weird lifestyles, is even if you're successful at stamping out those weird lifestyles, there's just going to be a new fringe of "weird lifestyles". Someone's always the weirdest person in the room - spy on them until you catch them doing something you can charge them for (or trump up and charge them for), throw them in jail, and there's just going to be a new weirdest person in the room...until eventually everyone's in jail or under surveillance. Hey! Lookit that! A dystopian police state that was "okay" because they were always going after "weirdos", you know, "the bad crowd", until they started going after you (because you know you're not weird! Why don't the police get that?) This is why going after people simply for being on the fringe of society is strictly not okay.

(Also because damn, that's a lot of taxpayer dollars.)

And that's just the surveillance. The whole urging people to commit crimes, providing them with opportunities and resources to commit crimes, just so you can get arrest them for said crimes...I don't even know, that's some sort of seriously messed up morality at work there.
posted by mstokes650 at 6:38 AM on May 6, 2011 [6 favorites]


I never cease to be amazed at people who still talk to the cops when they are hauled in for questioning. When will people ever learn to shut up and get their lawyer right away?
posted by Kokopuff at 6:46 AM on May 6, 2011 [7 favorites]


"A significant fraction of the Seattle police force

Lives in the far exurbs
Thinks of Seattle itself as a nightmarish urban hellscape populated by hell-fiends who can only be kept in line by extreme force."


A number of years back the local paper ran an article about the morale of Milwaukee Police Department and mentioned that when the Seattle PD advertised for experienced officers they got more applications from Milwaukee police officers than any other force in the country. The SPD should maybe relax a bit, they seem to have it pretty decent.
posted by MikeMc at 6:56 AM on May 6, 2011


Once again this makes me think that sousveillance is the only way to counteract the abuse. Open source dossiers on agents of the government might make those agents think about what they are doing.

Or it might make them double down.
posted by ryoshu at 6:58 AM on May 6, 2011


This was obviously an overreaction but I don't agree that all eco-terrorists are harmless.

Nice how you just slipped that one in there. Now, let's do this together, shall we? You'll remember it better that way.

Protesting is NOT EQUAL to terrorism. and again. Protesting is NOT EQUAL to terrorism.
posted by hippybear at 7:00 AM on May 6, 2011 [8 favorites]


Rodgerd: Kiwi cops are far from perfect. The trial for the 2007 Anti-Terrorism Raids is coming up soon, and some of the indiscriminate foolishness there should be almost as interesting to read as this.
posted by WhackyparseThis at 7:00 AM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


The courts don't really recognize entrapment as a defense.

Yes, they do. It's that the word "entrapment" means something specific, yet is used by the public in basically every sting.
posted by spaltavian at 7:21 AM on May 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


This was obviously an overreaction but I don't agree that all eco-terrorists are harmless.

Nice how you just slipped that one in there. Now, let's do this together, shall we? You'll remember it better that way.

Protesting is NOT EQUAL to terrorism. and again. Protesting is NOT EQUAL to terrorism.


Where did they indicate that protesting is terrorism? I don't see that anywhere.
posted by spaltavian at 7:22 AM on May 6, 2011


Kiwi cops are far from perfect. The trial for the 2007 Anti-Terrorism Raids is coming up soon

[Possible trigger in 2nd paragraph]

Not to mention the woman whose house they broke into on a drug raid. They got the wrong house, but decided to turn it over anyway. (Though at least the courts held in favour of the plaintiffs on that one, see Simpson v Attorney-General, discussed briefly here).


Not to mention the several cops who are in jail for raping teenagers with bottles.
posted by Infinite Jest at 7:31 AM on May 6, 2011


Where did they indicate that protesting is terrorism? I don't see that anywhere.

It's not in the FPP. It's in a comment made earlier, and it was a nice little bit of weasely guilt-by-association via vocabulary-shifting. It's a favorite trick of Limbaugh and O'Reilly, and I try to call it out when I see it.
posted by hippybear at 7:40 AM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Let me tell you something that happened to a friend of mine during the RNC protests. Oh, that will be after I tell you about my other friend who had a gun held to her head during an anti-road protest, with the cop saying he'd kill her and get away with it.

So I have this friend from activist stuff, see, a nice kid - really a kid, a young guy, very slight in build. During the 2008 RNC protests, he was arrested and beaten hard. Then while he was cuffed the cops slammed his head into the tile floor so hard that he passed out. He got no medical attention. He was lucky to survive without permanent injuries. Meanwhile, the cops were threatening him and calling him "faggot".

Then there were the young women who were strip searched and filmed.

One thing I have observed about cops and activists - they don't usually fuck with big, strong types, or older activists - I have a measure of protection now that I'm not a kid anymore. They like to mess with young folks, women, smaller guys - if you are young and small and visibly queer, you will be a target. There is often a sadistic sexual element in this. You can't convince me that the cops aren't having fun - they're sick in the head, they get off on hurting young small non-gender-conforming people.
posted by Frowner at 7:41 AM on May 6, 2011 [15 favorites]


and it was a nice little bit of weasely guilt-by-association... It's a favorite trick of Limbaugh and O'Reilly

I strongly agree with your overall point, hippybear, but the dissonance of this juxtaposition was kind of amusing.
posted by mstokes650 at 8:25 AM on May 6, 2011 [2 favorites]



The production and sale of arms to foreign powers is one of the largest sectors of the US economy and one of the very few manufacturing sectors we have left. It's as American as apple pie. You read about his motives and what the people he was moving guns to were facing (death squads).

What's your real beef here?


So, according to you, smuggling weapons is alright, as long as it is to "your" sonuvabitches? The Zapatistas are no choirboys, and in general, smuggling arms to Mexico or Central America ranks pretty high in my list of VERY BAD IDEAS.
posted by Skeptic at 8:32 AM on May 6, 2011


The production and sale of arms to foreign powers is one of the largest sectors of the US economy and one of the very few manufacturing sectors we have left.

The prison-industrial complex is also a massive source of revenue for America, but that doesn't mean I get to lock people in my basement, even if I think they deserve it.
posted by dubold at 8:44 AM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


WAKE UP SHEEPLE. THE REAL THREAT IS IN OREGON.

I RUN A PERFECTLY LEGITIMATE DONUT DISTRIBUTION OPERATION AND ANYBODY WHO SAYS OTHERWISE CAN TALK TO MY LAWYER.
posted by cortex at 8:48 AM on May 6, 2011 [4 favorites]


google cache--Richard Wilson sentencing transcript

He pled guilty to drugs and the gun distribution charge. It seems like he was a small time criminal hanging around with activists so he could party. This isn't some peace activist who got their head bashed in (even though that happens). Don't hang out with criminals or people who want to do violent things. If you do dont come crying when you find yourself caught in the crossfire.
posted by humanfont at 8:51 AM on May 6, 2011


Interesting (and infuriating) story, but that writing is all over the place. Needs tightening.

Does this Rick Wilson fellow sound like a douchebag? Yeah, pretty much.

Huh. Why do you say that?

it's basically a bad crowd

Which crowd?
posted by mrgrimm at 9:16 AM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


His band was definitely known for activism and that scene when I lived in Seattle. I honestly don't understand what the sentence "It seems like he was a small time criminal hanging around with activists so he could party" even means.
posted by josher71 at 9:20 AM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


About to go read the article--I'll bet this is mentioned in there, but I don't see it in the discussion. Seattle was the site of a very serious act of eco-terrorism in 2001, when the University of Washington Center for Urban Horticulture was torched by what turned out the be the ELF.

No people (or, apparently, animals--see the comment about the pet snakes in the linked article) were killed in the incident. But it was a deliberate act of destruction aimed at disrupting research in genetic engineering, which was successful and very, very costly. This was absolutely a case of terrorism as protest.
posted by Sublimity at 9:29 AM on May 6, 2011


when the Seattle PD advertised for experienced officers they got more applications from Milwaukee police officers than any other force in the country

Wow, long commute. No wonder they're grouchy.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:39 AM on May 6, 2011


Just briefly on the subject of WWII Communist resistance groups - from the perspective of the Western Allied power agents working alongside of them, they were often seen useless, lazy, and more interested in siezing power after the war than actually fighting the Axis forces. This holds true through most occupied regions that had politically differentiated resistance groups although Greece and the Balkans were particularly bad.

My understanding is that most groups were too busy squabbling with one another, stealing each other's supplies and harrassing the locals for "traitors" and food to actually have much of an effect on the war effort. I'm open to this being disproved but M.R.D. Foot's excellent history of the SOE and several other books that I have read with interviewed agents don't have a lot positive to say about them.

Sozzard for the derail, yo.

posted by longbaugh at 9:58 AM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Nothing is stupider than these operations.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:02 AM on May 6, 2011


He pled guilty to drugs and the gun distribution charge. It seems like he was a small time criminal hanging around with activists so he could party. This isn't some peace activist who got their head bashed in (even though that happens). Don't hang out with criminals or people who want to do violent things. If you do dont come crying when you find yourself caught in the crossfire.


I don't think that the point of the outrage over this story is "How dare they go after this guy?" I think the point of the outrage is that the FBI spent a ridiculous amount of resources on a small-time criminal *because* of his connections to activists, hoping that they could get him to flip up a chain to eco-terrorism, and somehow implicate city council members who were outspoken about the need for reform in the Police Department.

And that is absurd and fucked up.
posted by entropone at 10:15 AM on May 6, 2011 [7 favorites]


About to go read the article--I'll bet this is mentioned in there, but I don't see it in the discussion. Seattle was the site of a very serious act of eco-terrorism in 2001, when the University of Washington Center for Urban Horticulture was torched by what turned out the be the ELF

I think folks outside of the arts and activist scenes really, basically don't know how this stuff works. "ELF" is basically anyone who wants to say they're ELF. There are no open ELF meetings. There are no ELF leaders. It is a cellular organization. This is intentional, so that there is a name for a movement without any structure which can be taken apart. You might be friends with someone for years without knowing anything about their ELF-ish activities - even if both you AND they were radical activists who shared many views. This is how secret, cellular organizations work. And what's more, the fibbies aren't stupid--they know that this is how these groups work. The whole "ZOMG, Joe went to a party with Sara ELFer so Joe must know meaningful things about ELF" is just an excuse.

The thing is, there's this loose grouping of artists, activists, students - what used to be known, in fact, as bohemia. Many of us know each other. We may even do political work together. This doesn't mean that we all agree, or that we all know each other's business. It does mean that we take a dim view of police interrogation of any of us. As a social formation, we tend to support each other through trials and so on, even if we don't agree politically.

This is where, I guess, regular Americans don't get it. Why don't we ostracize the "weirdos" and "extremists"? If we are politically sectarian, why aren't we socially sectarian as well, Greens running with Greens and anarchists with anarchists? Why do I get worried if some Maoist group is under investigation when I'm not myself a Maoist?

It's because we're a scene, we're a community. Big cities are pretty atomized places, especially when most people don't have churches or unions or bowling leagues or whatever. We in our little bohemia aren't atomized; we have group houses and favorite coffee houses and bars and community centers and offices; we have annual marches and picnics and shows. We stand up for each other because we are a village dispersed through a city. We have stories ("back when Operation Rescue came to town in 1990...") and legends ("...his dad was in the Abraham Lincoln brigade") and ancestral quarrels ("...that was the split between the punk anarchists and the labor anarchists, back in 1993"). It isn't a perfect world, but it's a kind of world that has vanished and become incomprehensible for a lot of people - the idea that you have a large acquaintanceship of people who are not quite friends but who are friendly, who share some goals and some parts of your worldview but with whom you can have very significant differences, and who are not relatives or work colleagues--free association with a variety of people, not for money.

And as far as the "guns to the Zapatistas" thing goes, that isn't incomprehensible at all. It's a fool's act to run guns, but if they busted everyone who has ever donated money or medical supplies to the Zapatistas, they'd eviscerate not only the movement but probably numerous city councils, social workers' associations, teachers' groups and many Mexican organizations. There were regular supply caravans going down there all the time in the nineties. And why the hell not? The US government supplies massive amounts of aid (and at times guns) to the notoriously, ridiculously corrupt and violent Mexican government knowing full well that they will be used against against indigenous and labor movements.

The Zapatistas are no choirboys I'd sure be interested in seeing this unpacked. As rebel groups go, the Zapatistas have always seemed to me to be absolutely fucking fantastic - no drug trade, real efforts to bring women into leadership, serious anti-racism, a proven willingness to lay down arms even when the Mexican government was not acting in good faith, serious on-the-ground village initiatives like the Zapatista coffee trading projects and various medical projects...And given the horrible, horrible situation of indigenous people in the poorer parts of Mexico, I am hard put to name people who have more grounds for an uprising. But bring it on...what exactly makes the Zapatistas "no choirboys"?
posted by Frowner at 10:29 AM on May 6, 2011 [37 favorites]


Just popping back in to say that I wish I could favorite frowner's comment more than once.
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 10:37 AM on May 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


Umm. Hi. I live in Seattle. I don't know Rick Wilson but I doubt I am more than two degrees of separation away from him, because nobody who is even remotely weird in Seattle is more than two degrees away from everyone else. (On preview: yes, exactly what Frowner said.) What's really sickening and terrible about this article is just how ordinary the whole thing is: but for dumb luck, it could easily have been me or one of my friends in Rick Wilson's shoes.

I actually went to a couple of parties at Cafe Unamerican, and it's really damn creepy to learn that I was under FBI surveillance the whole time. The parties were great, but they were too big and too visible - it actually makes sense that they had cops on board, or they wouldn't have lasted as long as they did. But you know what? I've been to wilder parties, with louder music and more drugs and more blatant illegality. Hell, I've thrown wilder parties. I've never gotten involved in a quarter-million-dollar drug deal, but neither did Rick Wilson - he just had the bad fortune to make friends with a cold-hearted bastard asshole undercover cop, and trust him.

How do I know I haven't already done the same thing? It is clear that the FBI and the SPD do, in fact, think of me and all my friends as enemies, and are willing to spend countless months and millions of dollars just to fuck with us. To protect and serve whom, exactly?

I live in what you could call the "bad part of town" if Seattle really had any such thing as a bad part of town, and I actually witnessed a little gang shootout last night as I was walking home from the local bar. Four shots, nobody apparently hurt. But I walked right by the guys involved all of 20 seconds before the shots were fired, and you know what? They scare me way less than the cops do. Seriously: there's only one gang around that can afford to burn millions of dollars and tens of thousands of man-hours trying to fuck over one guy whose politics they don't like, and get away with it.
posted by Mars Saxman at 10:38 AM on May 6, 2011 [10 favorites]


I think the point of the outrage is that the FBI spent a ridiculous amount of resources on a small-time criminal *because* of his connections to activists

Or maybe he was targeted because he had a lot of connections to the underground economy and was very visible. He was easy going, overly trusting and manipulatable. The detective used him to get to bigger things, which was always the plan from the police point of view. And he got them there. Along the way he was perfectly willing to engage in criminal acts.
posted by humanfont at 10:52 AM on May 6, 2011


The detective used him to get to bigger things, which was always the plan from the police point of view. And he got them there. Along the way he was perfectly willing to engage in criminal acts and it only cost millions of dollars

FTFM.
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 12:02 PM on May 6, 2011


Oh, America. The more you change, the more you stay the same.

Also:
No people (or, apparently, animals--see the comment about the pet snakes in the linked article) were killed in the incident. But it was a deliberate act of destruction aimed at disrupting research in genetic engineering, which was successful and very, very costly. This was absolutely a case of terrorism as protest.

No. This was a case of arson/vandalism. All the ELF *ever* does is arson and/or vandalism. Calling it terrorism is bullshit, because terrorism is KILLING PEOPLE in order to scare the SHIT out of everyone else who is a member of that country/group/city. ELF activists go to great lengths to avoid the hurting of people and/or animals because they are not murderers or terrorists, but saboteurs. Got it?
posted by RedEmma at 12:35 PM on May 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


Revelry criminal investigation prosecution with multiple defendants is going to cost that much.
posted by humanfont at 12:39 PM on May 6, 2011


Revelry criminal investigation prosecution with multiple defendants is going to cost that much.

I'm not quite sure what you're trying to say. This was obviously a huge waste of funds. Does the FBI get involved in every local drug bust? Do they waste money renting spaces to convince people to throw bigger parties all the time? Is this all SOP?

The FBI and SPD obviously went after this guy much harder—and at much greater cost to the taxpayer—than they should have. Most of us believe that was because of some extremely nebulous ties this guy had to organizations that the FBI and police unfairly demonize. Is that too much of a stretch?
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 1:05 PM on May 6, 2011


"Calling it terrorism is bullshit, "

I'm not so sure about that. I think arson can be called an act of terror depending on the context. Torching a failing business for the insurance money - not terror. Burning down the home of the only black family in town to drive them out - terror.
posted by MikeMc at 1:28 PM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Sure, and in the historical cases where such things occurred, the arsonists made absolutely no effort to ensure the lack of bodily harm or murder, because they were actually hoping to do some killing of black folks.

Why are you bringing this example up? We are speaking of ELF and cases of arson against buildings and projects and businesses individuals found to be abhorrent. Connecting racist terrorism to what ELF does is completely erroneous and meaningless.

I am not advocating arson, by the way. I have participated in protest and some vandalism in my life, but I've generally been willing to stay to take the heat. So to speak.

I just think we should be very careful of our words. The word "eco-terrorism" was invented specifically to conflate and confuse those who otherwise might support sabotage in the name of the health of our overall and specific ecosystems. You know, something we as creatures depend on to live. It could be argued that sabotage and even arson in the name of the survival of humankind is moral. Killing people (and animals) does not have the same arguability. This is why Ron Arnold invented the word. He wanted to separate out and muddy the waters so that the average American would conflate burning a feller-buncher (a rather sinister machine for logging) with burning a cross on someone's lawn. And I will fight that conflation to my last breath, I swear to god.
posted by RedEmma at 1:49 PM on May 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


You'll notice that I'm not arguing the logic behind individual ELF actions. I think their actions generally don't serve environmentalism overall. However, ELF is populated by mostly young, idealistic radicals who are seduced by excitement and believe in the logic of their crimes. I don't think they should be confused with terrorists. Not ever.
posted by RedEmma at 2:01 PM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


ELF is populated by mostly young, idealistic radicals who are seduced by excitement and believe in the logic of their crimes. I don't think they should be confused with terrorists.

But that description, plus the use of violence and threats to intimidate, is precisely who most terrorists are -- even if you sympathize with their goals.

You'll notice that I'm not arguing the logic behind individual ELF actions.

Even when you wrote, "[i]t could be argued that sabotage and even arson in the name of the survival of humankind is moral"?
posted by The Tensor at 2:23 PM on May 6, 2011


I'm a friend of Rick's from way back. He's a great and solid guy. Big mouth? I don't know. Really excited to be alive and prone to hyperbole? Probably a better description.

Why did he talk to the cops? I think when they have you alone in a small room for hours on end and they're all carrying guns and threatening you continuously you get scared. Who wouldn't? With the history that cops have of beating and killing activists in this country you might get a little weak in the knees, too.

Rick's not rich. He didn't have a lawyer on call. It's a sad a torturous economic bracket to be in when they come for you.
posted by artof.mulata at 2:34 PM on May 6, 2011 [4 favorites]


'Why are you bringing this example up? We are speaking of ELF and cases of arson against buildings and projects and businesses individuals found to be abhorrent. Connecting racist terrorism to what ELF does is completely erroneous and meaningless. "


No, it's not. If the purpose of the arson is to not only destroy the structure but also to intimidate the owners/employees of the building being torched it is indeed "terrorism". It is the use of violent action to instill fear and influence the actions of those targeted.
posted by MikeMc at 3:00 PM on May 6, 2011


Suppose someone burned your house down wile you were out of town. Wouldn't you expect to be a bit emotionally tramutized by that. That's terrorism.
posted by humanfont at 3:13 PM on May 6, 2011


Of course the FBI has a rich history of this short of stuff. In 1989, for instance, they were doing the same shit to Earth First! members, particularly founder Dave Foreman.

Here's Michael Fain, the FBI agent who entrapped three people (Mark Davis, Marc Baker, Peg Millett) by leading them into a plot to cut down an electric pylon [May 31, 1989], caught on a surveillance tape:

"[Davis] isn't really the guy we need to pop---I mean in terms of an actual perpetrator. [Foreman] is the guy we need to pop to send a message. And that's all we're really doing, and if we don't nail this guy and we get only Davis, we're not sending any message... They're low-budget, I don't really look for them to be doing a lot of hurting people.... [realizing the tape recorder is still on] We don't need that on the tape. Hoo boy." [turns off recorder.]

Dave Foreman was subsequently charged with the conspirators and found guilty. His association with them: they gave copies of his book "Ecodefense" to another FBI agent. The prosecution would only accept guilty pleas if Foreman also pled guilty.
posted by phliar at 3:22 PM on May 6, 2011


Ugh! This:
... they gave copies of his book "Ecodefense" to another FBI agent.
should have been
... he [Foreman] gave a copy of his book "Ecodefense" to Fain.

See the Wikipedia article Thermcon for more details.
posted by phliar at 3:28 PM on May 6, 2011


He was easy going, overly trusting and manipulatable.

They spent two years giving him a new best friend. A fake new best friend. Two years. I don't think I'm overly trusting and manipulatable, but I've definitely been willing to go out of my comfort zone to help out friends I've known for less than two years. I honestly can't begin to imagine suspecting that someone I've been friends with for two years is secretly a cop.

And really, a big part of the problem is that once they've committed that far, they've got to keep going, they've got to find something. The FBI can't invest that kind of money and time into an operation and come up with nothing - regardless of whether or not there was anything to find. See also this very relevant post by zungzungu.

So sure, replace this Rick guy with someone a little more cagey, a little more paranoid - it doesn't change how this story ends, it just makes it take longer. Someone smarter, someone more law-abiding, so they spend five years instead. Or six, or eight, or ten. Sooner or later they get him for something, because the more money and time they invest, the more they have to get him for something, and nobody, no matter how smart, cagey, or paranoid, is going to never, ever slip up, never, ever give the people he doesn't know are watching him something they can use.

By focusing that much manpower and money on him, they are declaring that he is guilty, and just watching to find out what he's guilty of. It really doesn't matter that he is or isn't actually guilty, or what he's guilty of - what matters is that is not even remotely how justice is supposed to work in this country.
posted by mstokes650 at 8:32 PM on May 6, 2011 [9 favorites]


For those eight card games (i.e., eight police shifts for Bryan), the investigation paid for 112 shifts by supporting officers: 9 officers one night, 5 officers another night, 11 officers another night, etc. One night, an FBI agent came out. Another night, a SWAT team was there. And that's just in a two-month window.

How much of this was just a scam to get overtime? It seems like they chose the lowest risk "investigation" possible, parties and card games without a history of violence, and then piled people into the investigation to rack up pay. I think it was incidental what the political affiliations of the targets were -- these groups were mostly harmless, that's exactly why these cops chose them.
posted by benzenedream at 12:06 AM on May 7, 2011 [4 favorites]


But that description, plus the use of violence and threats to intimidate, is precisely who most terrorists are -- even if you sympathize with their goals.

Can you show a documented case of an ELF action where violence was committed against a human being? Where someONE was threatened with bodily harm? We have debated this on the blue before, but this definition of violence as "anything that *might* hurt a human, should a human be present, is stretching it.

When I say the morality of their actions could be argued, I'm speaking in the general philosophical/ethical sense, not that I personally am willing to argue that ELF acts of sabotage have been useful to the movement toward a better world. I don't think they're "violent" and I don't think they're "terrorism" because the aim is not to "threaten" someone, but to stop them from doing what it is they are doing. Full stop. (Are they successful in that sense? I doubt it. But that's the aim.)

When no human or animal is harmed, there is a case for ethical sabotage, yes. If someone is poisoning the water, and the law of the moment says they can, sabotage to stop that poisoning has an ethical argument to it.

No one's lived-in house has been burned down. In fact, the few cases I can remember where half-built sprawl McMansions were burnt, it turned out to be completely unrelated to ELF despite spraypainted ELF signs. (Someone had a personal beef with the builder, and tried to blame it on ELF to throw off investigators.) I'm sure that if someone burned down my family business in the middle of the night I would be very upset, but I would not feel personally threatened with bodily harm.
posted by RedEmma at 5:56 AM on May 7, 2011


It's like, if some kid is using a stick to hit a kid on the playground, and I as an adult come by and take the stick from him, and break it in pieces. I don't hit the child or even touch the child. I merely remove and destroy the tool he is using to harm others. That's what ELF is doing when they burn down a building that contains the tools of eco-destruction, or an SUV, or a feller-buncher.
posted by RedEmma at 6:04 AM on May 7, 2011




RedEmma, you are being completely disingenuous. Peoples' professional lives were destroyed, invaluable research collections were destroyed, by violent means--that *is* terrorism, absolutely. That no vertebrates were intentionally harmed in the process (do you really think the entire building was devoid of life?) doen't make it any less so.
posted by Sublimity at 9:40 AM on May 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


posted by RedEmma Can you show a documented case of an ELF action . . . where someONE was threatened with bodily harm?

Sure. When ELF terrorists burn down a business or a housing development, the firefighters and first responders who risk their lives to put out the fire set by ELF terrorists and the people who live in the neighborhoods are threatened with bodily harm.

posted by RedEmma I don't think they're "violent" and I don't think they're "terrorism" because the aim is not to "threaten" someone, but to stop them from doing what it is they are doing.

Yes, the IRA, the PLO, Hamas, and al-Qaeda use this logic, too. "This isn't terrorism. We're not terrorists. We're not threatening people. We're just stopping people from doing things we don't like."

posted by RedEmma the aim is not to "threaten" someone, but to stop them from doing what it is they are doing . . . That's what ELF is doing when they burn down a building that contains the tools of eco-destruction, or an SUV, or a feller-buncher.

So ELF terrorists stop people by destroying their businesses i.e. threatening them. "We burned down your business because we don't like what you're doing, and we'll burn it down again if you keep doing it. But hey, that's not a threat!"

RedEmma, you simply cannot justify deliberately targeting and disregarding the safety of civilians by using arson, bombings, and sabotage to further an ideological goal, unless you think terrorism is perfectly acceptable when you agree with the cause it's promoting.
posted by mattdidthat at 11:14 AM on May 7, 2011


Per mattdidthat, "...the IRA, the PLO, Hamas, and al-Qaeda use this logic, too."

No. No they don't. And please stop that; if you want to be a revisionist please do it somewhere else. It's insulting.

"We burned down your business because we don't like what you're doing, and we'll burn it down again if you keep doing it. But hey, that's not a threat!"

Yes that is a threat and as you are well aware or should be, it is not the threat that RedEmma was describing.

It is amazing to me that destroying a gun and shooting someone with one are still confusing to some people. Didn't we cover this in philo-activism 101 back in the 90s? And if you have a blanket definition for 'terrorism' that works for all occasions then I bow down to you as god.
posted by artof.mulata at 3:53 PM on May 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


Artof.mulata are you saying that burning down someone's home, gallery, or office isn't an act of terrorism? That seems a bit far fetched. How do you know the person isn't going to escalate. Are one expected to just ignore that act of violence?
posted by humanfont at 5:55 PM on May 7, 2011


No. I'm saying you don't conflate the two when discussing their histories and tactics. The PLO and Hamas are not the ELF. None of them are related in tactics and history of violence to white supremacists movements here in the states.

And what is terrorim anyway? You know the answer to this already, but here you are:

Terrorism is an act of any kind that the ruling party decides is terrorism. It can be verbal; it can be acts of the body. It can involve external forces.

So am I saying that burning down someone's home isn't an act of terrorism? I'm saying sometimes it is; sometimes it isn't. An interesting philosophical problem is to decide when an act becomes terrorism. Looking at the recent extraction with extreme prejudice of a certain former mujahadeen is a good starting point.
posted by artof.mulata at 6:12 PM on May 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


The state has all kinds of special powers like taxation, execution, eminent domain, sovereignty, declaration of war, application of laws, zoning and parking enforcement which do not apply to individuals. What is there to argue, this principle has long since been settled. You might as well be arguing against evolution or electromagnetism. Your extraordinary claims of moral relativism require extraordinary evidence.
posted by humanfont at 7:39 PM on May 7, 2011


It seems like kind of a slippery slope to say that arson equals terrorism in all cases though, ELF etc...notwithstanding.
posted by josher71 at 7:47 PM on May 7, 2011


Stonestock Relentless and humanfront:

Seattle Weakly, as it's dubbed by the more "local" residents of its town, is nationally owned. Thankfully, The Stranger is not. Seattle Weekly has a conservative bent, which is fine, except their credibility used to stem from being an "alternative weekly". That credibility has since lapsed with local residents, whom are for the most part liberal and extremely well-informed.

After being bought out by a national news corps, and while taking funds from conservative groups, endorsing Republican candidates (how alternative of them) and running eyeroll-worthy cover stories such as young Republicans from Bellevue (not even close to being part of Seattle) being the new "it" thing (really?), SW pretty much become the Fox News version of Seattle's paper weeklies.

As far as arming rebels in Mexico, previous posters have made their points about that. Good points, too.

Seattle Weekly can suck it. I can't wait for that rag to die out.
posted by JLovebomb at 10:36 PM on May 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Humanfront, when choosing to burn buildings or free animals from suffering in opposition to killing your human enemies, it isn't moral relativism or good politics. It's called being decent.
posted by artof.mulata at 1:04 AM on May 8, 2011


Decency doesn't demand political violence. You may be able to justify it but you can never call it decent.
posted by scalefree at 2:33 AM on May 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


Here is the same story, different journalist, in the Seattle Stranger, just in case you don't like the Seattle Weekly's politics.
posted by humanfont at 7:09 AM on May 8, 2011


scalefree, I'll give you a -1 for rhetoric.

humanfront, I'd forgotten about that article. It's weird to read Jonah's account now that so much time has passed. The comments are especially enlightening. They show that people really don't know how to act in an open society.
posted by artof.mulata at 11:24 AM on May 8, 2011


I believe in guns as an absolute good, so I preemptively burn down the workplaces of organizations who will attempt to destroy them.
posted by benzenedream at 10:42 PM on May 9, 2011


A few years ago, pretty much all of my friends were throwing illegal parties, buying or selling drugs and/or getting involved with anti-war protests or were involved with anarchists and black bloc stuff... Some of them owned guns. I'm still friends with all of those people, but they're all just regular people with regular jobs and stuff, families, kids now. Fine upstanding members of society. If there had been an undercover cop pulling this kind of shit in our circle of friends, I can imagine a really similar outcome for a significant percentage of them. For no real reason at all.

Shit like this is why we need to end the drug war, and why it will never be ended. Cops need a reason to arrest anyone, at any time, and drugs are always a good excuse. Terrorism isn't going to swing it, because, let's face it, there just aren't that many terrorists.
posted by empath at 7:07 AM on May 14, 2011




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