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"They are hardened criminals."
February 13, 2002 1:50 PM   Subscribe

"They are hardened criminals." Is the "domestic terrorism" of radical animal-rights and environmental groups really the same as the 9/11 attacks? Or just an excuse to crack down on liberals?
posted by centrs (50 comments total)

 
I should note that this is my post My fiance centrs was logged in previously on my box and I didn't notice in time.
posted by sixdifferentways at 1:53 PM on February 13, 2002


just saw these two pictures on yahoo.
posted by kliuless at 1:58 PM on February 13, 2002


Civil rights acitivists were viewed as hardened criminals, and at the time, if you had asked the British Empire, so were the founding fathers of the US.
posted by panopticon at 2:00 PM on February 13, 2002


Is the "domestic terrorism" of radical animal-rights and environmental groups really the same as the 9/11 attacks? Or just an excuse to crack down on liberals?

The latter. What better way to try and discredit environmentalists than to put extremists in the public eye and try to associate their issues with terrorism? Great opportunity to try and smear envrionmentalists in general as reckless, irresponsible, and dangerous...
posted by mattpusateri at 2:01 PM on February 13, 2002


[Great opportunity to try and smear envrionmentalists in general as reckless, irresponsible, and dangerous...]

It would seem that these particular environmentalists ARE reckless, irresponsible, and dangerous. I would think that these people have as little in common with the average liberal as Jerry Falwell does with me.

Are you suggesting we shouldn't investigate or prosecute firebombings to avoid associating them and environmentalists? I certainly wouldn't suggest we stop hunting wacko anti-abortion types for attacking doctors or clinics lest we offend the religious right!
posted by revbrian at 2:25 PM on February 13, 2002


Mattpusateri, did you even read the article? Do you have any idea what groups like the ELF do? They don't exactly organize puppet-laden street protests.
posted by aaron at 2:29 PM on February 13, 2002


The difference between civil rights activitists/early U.S. revolutionaries and current animal rights activists is that:

1. The latter usually go out of their way not to hurt people or animals.

2. They rarely get any positive publicity for their efforts.

3. They are international in scope and effort.

4. They have a have a much larger uphill battle.
posted by boardman at 2:34 PM on February 13, 2002


The difference between civil rights activitists/early U.S. revolutionaries and current animal rights activists is that:

1. The latter usually go out of their way not to hurt people or animals.

2. They rarely get any positive publicity for their efforts.

3. They are international in scope and effort.

4. They have a have a much larger uphill battle.
posted by boardman at 2:35 PM on February 13, 2002


Let us all know the current body count for the number of civilians killed in Afghanistan by allied bombing on behalf of "citizens" like our right-wing friends here versus the number of people killed by organizations like ELF, will you? Then let us know who the real cowardly terrorists are.
posted by fold_and_mutilate at 2:36 PM on February 13, 2002


From article: "Let's call the ELF and the ALF (Animal Liberation Front) for what they truly are — terrorist organizations," charged Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., likening the works of the groups to those responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks. "It is imperative to treat all acts of terrorism equally."
Though ELF has not injured or killed anyone, members of the subcommittee said they are ready to start passing laws to crack down on organizations before someone gets hurt.


With all due respect Mr. Representative, sir, but I think it's imperative not to treat all acts of "terrorism" equally. While I won't deny that these extremists are fanatical and will probably hurt someone eventually [yet probably unintentionally] through their actions, there is a critical difference between setting off a) a firebomb in an animal testing lab in the middle night when no one is around, and b) setting off a bomb at Planned Parenthood explicitly meant to detonate at 10am just when everyone is going into work. If ELF and ALF are the worst of the radical left, while their actions are reprehensible they are certainly a notch above the Ann "Benito" Coulters who said:
"We need to execute people like John Walker in order to physically intimidate liberals, by making them realize that they can be killed too. Otherwise they will turn out to be outright traitors."
Or such wonderful freeper passages (found here) as:
"...Open Season on The Left..."

'Open Season' on these red bastards would be package bombs blowing everything from their shoulders up against the walls in their offices.

'Open Season' would be their drivers stopping and parking suddenly in traffic, then decamping seconds before men on motorcycles pulled up alongside and hosed the filthy communists in the back seat down with submachineguns.

'Open Season' would be for the last public sighting of many of these treasonous pigs to be of them being forced into the trunk of a car.
Now I will wait patiently for one of the neocon MeFi cavalry to come in here with a retort based on moral relativism, telling us all that ELF and ALF are really in the same ballpark as those who would assassinate abortion doctors, or those who would destroy entire sky scrapers, because of their beliefs.

Oh wait, on the preview/refresh aaron already has. How... unexpected.

The ALF/ELF people piss me off, the Eugene anarchists that think smashing a Starbucks window is effective annoy me, but the extreme radical right wing (the ones far more closely aligned with Trent Lott or Bob Barr or other "republicans" than Clinton or Gore were to ALF/ELF) actually scares me. These people are twisted by their hatred into something monstrous and dangerous. I'm not seeing their parallel on the left, I'm not see extreme left-wingers calling for assassination or midnight deathsquad style activities.
posted by hincandenza at 2:46 PM on February 13, 2002


I'm with revbrian on this one. I'm a liberal, vegetarian, and a supporter of humane animal treatment, but just because I might have some common opinions with these people, doesn't mean their tactics are right.

I do not buy the connection between civil disobediance and the destruction of property commited by ELF. And, while it is over the top to compare their "victimless" crimes with the murder commited by terrorists, it is still crime and should be investigated as such.

Not to mention I think there tactics are completely ineffective, they aren't helping anything, they polarize opposition to animal rights of any sorts, make other animal rights supporters look bad, and, in my opinion the only thing they achieve is their own self-righteous pride.
posted by malphigian at 2:48 PM on February 13, 2002


Mattpusateri, did you even read the article? Do you have any idea what groups like the ELF do? They don't exactly organize puppet-laden street protests.


No, they are not just outspoken environmentalists. And I'm not defending them.

But if they are criminals, arrest them and prosecute them for crimes. Throw them in jail if they are guilty and let them rot there.

But why haul a spokesperson in front of a Congessional committee to let a bunch of GOP reps grandstand and make indignant speeches? And while we're at it, where's the hearing on Abortion Clinic terrorists? Or southern-black-church-burning terrorists?

This kind of hearing reeks of political grandstanding and posturing, not at accomplishing anything substantive. My beef is with the politics behind this, not the defense of these radical groups. If the GOP didn't think this was good politics, they woudn't bother. They'd let law enforcement do their jobs and focus on the variety of other national problems that need attention.
posted by mattpusateri at 2:48 PM on February 13, 2002


Is the "domestic terrorism" of radical animal-rights and environmental groups really the same as the 9/11 attacks?

The thing is, now that terrorism has landed on the United States' doorstep, politicians are better able to go after these types of organisations, because now they not only have the law on their side, but the sympathy vote as well.

The unfortunate possible outcome is that your local law-abiding protester is more likely to get caught up in this culling and be lumped with more controversial organisations such as ELF and ALF.
posted by cyniczny at 2:54 PM on February 13, 2002


According to the article, the ELF is accused of firebombing property. So, sixdifferentways, to answer your question whether that is "the same as the 9/11 attacks," the answer is, obviously, no. Firebombing property is not the same as mass murder.

But your alternative doesn't hold water, either. It's not true that this inquiry against the ELF is either equated to 9/11, or else it's "just an excuse to crack down on liberals." There are lesser degrees of terrorism (or, at least, crimes). Firebombing private property in the name of a cause -- any cause -- is and always will be illegal in the U.S. The fact that congress is looking into organized, sanctioned firebombing is not "just an excuse to crack down on liberals."

Finally, fold_and_mutilate, I always have to call out flawed logic like yours. There can be no disputing this statement: There is a difference betweeen intentional acts and unintentional accidents. A person who commits the prior is more culpable than the person who commits the latter. Terrorism, by definition, is based on an intent to create terror. The U.S. did not intend to kill Afghan civilians. Therefore, the fact that civilians were killed cannot, under any circumstances, be considered a terrorist act. Unfortunate? Definitely. Negligent? Perhaps. Terrorist? No f'ing way.
posted by pardonyou? at 2:59 PM on February 13, 2002


" ... While I won't deny that these extremists are fanatical and will probably hurt someone eventually [yet probably unintentionally] through their actions, there is a critical difference between setting off a) a firebomb in an animal testing lab in the middle night when no one is around, and b) setting off a bomb at Planned Parenthood explicitly meant to detonate at 10am just when everyone is going into work..."

No there isn't a "critical difference". The power and effectiveness of terrorism does not come from deaths, but from inducing fear. In absolute terms 9/11 killed far less Americans than died due to drunk driving in 2001. Its impact, however, is immense, because all sense of security is stripped away.

I had a very close friend - a decade ago or so - who was the Executive Director of a local Planned Parenthood clinic that was firebombed. It was done in the middle of the night, no lives were lost or even threatened ... but I spent days afterwards with her alternatively weeping and literally shaking with fear at the thought of re-opening. Over half of her volunteers quit.

I don't care whether it is the extreme left or the extreme right, or whether no one at all gets killed. If you firebomb, you are a godamned terrorist ... and I suspect the vast majority of Americans would agree. We have a wide range of opinions in this country, but arson is not the means by which we debate them.
posted by MidasMulligan at 3:01 PM on February 13, 2002


Man, did I call that one. Aaaaand... time! 15 minutes, on the nose. Who had 15 minutes in the MidasMulligan pool?

They [ALF] are terrorizing, but if you honestly can't see a difference between these levels of terrorizing, then there's just no getting through on this issue. Is what they do wrong, even criminal? Of course it is- but even your own example of "firebombing in the middle of the night to terrorize" was at Planned Parenthood, not a Mary Kay lab. I'd say you kind of proved my point. ALF's goal seems to be in these attacks to either a) free the animals or b) destroy the research and documentation. It's still grossly wrong and a terrible way to approach things, even an act of terrorism in the literal sense of the word. But it's still not at the level of advocating assassinations or actually bombing clinics with the intent to kill the baby-killers, or sniper-rifling a doctor in his head while he stands in his kitchen. It is closer to those Starbucks-window-smashers in terms of both effectiveness and terror-quotient.

You REALLY can't see the difference, can you? Wow.
posted by hincandenza at 3:24 PM on February 13, 2002


Comparing anything short of war crimes to 9/11 is dangerous(and irresponsible hyperbole). Also, saying that all enviornmentalists and animal rights activists are like this wackjob is like saying all corporate executives are Kenneth Lay. This guy does his cause a great disservice by alienating those who might otherwise support them(see malphigian.)

And hincandenza* , I gotta respectfully differ with you on this, the ELF types scare me just as much as Trent the Rifleman and his crew. I try to imagine a world run by this Rosebraugh character and it doesn't seem like a pretty picture or that there'd be any place for me in it. Perhaps this is what happens when the great majority of us who lie somewhere in the middle don't participate as we should-the extremes on both ends get louder and more confident and spread more chaos.

*great username, from here on out you may address me as dgately.
posted by jonmc at 3:27 PM on February 13, 2002


If you firebomb, you are a godamned terrorist ... and I suspect the vast majority of Americans would agree.

This American agrees. Environmental extremism of this sort is just more fundamentalism. Some of these wackos lit a fire in a Univ. of Washington research lab a few months back, because the lab did work with GMOs. Unfortunately, the lab also did work with sustainable agriculture. Whoops!

But why haul a spokesperson in front of a Congessional committee to let a bunch of GOP reps grandstand and make indignant speeches?

We could ask the same about hauling Ken Lay before the committee. The answer, in both cases, is that there are elections coming up.
posted by Ty Webb at 3:27 PM on February 13, 2002


Thanks for typing up a response i could use as well malphigian, had to refrain from copying the whole thing.

too many spy novels for me i guess--but if i were a Real terrorist it sure would be handy to use the infrastructure of a group like ALF or ELF. A network within a network. "The explosives will only be used on equipment, i promise, but they need to get to california by march for, uh...logging season."
posted by th3ph17 at 3:33 PM on February 13, 2002


What about the state that harbors these terrorists? Does this mean that U.S. is now in the axis of evil and out of the justice league?
posted by srboisvert at 3:35 PM on February 13, 2002


coparing to terrorists is extreme and inaccurate, but if they commit acts of vandalism, they are criminals. period.
posted by lizs at 3:51 PM on February 13, 2002


" ... Man, did I call that one. Aaaaand... time! 15 minutes, on the nose. Who had 15 minutes in the MidasMulligan pool?.."

Cool. I love thoroughly gratuitous personal attacks. Oddly, my dear, self-important little child, not everyone's world revolves around you. Love your principle though (i.e., state your point of view, mention in the post that someone with an actual different point of view will probably actually respond, then when they do respond - say Ha! gotcha! ... )ok, let's try it ... I think I'll now wait patiently for the MiFi liberal calvery to step up and attempt to claim that really, ELF is not so bad, nothing near what the right wing is, that there really really is a "critical" difference between the Planned Parenthood clinic that was burned in the middle of the night, and the university lab that was burned in the middle of the night, and if Americans don't see it, there is just no reasoning with them.

Wow. What color is the sky in your world?
posted by MidasMulligan at 3:56 PM on February 13, 2002


dgately: (heh) well, the mindset frightens me- that kind of radicalism will eventually bleed into more and more violent and apocalyptic mental states where the fury of one's convictions lead inevitable to murder as an acceptable course of action.

While ALF/ELF isn't currently sniping at anyone (that I know of), their mindset is a slippery slope, and their actions should be taken seriously. But in my book the actually violent are still a notch more dangerous than the fanatical and potentially violent, and those who would equate ALF/ELF with Al Qaida are missing a crucial distinction.
posted by hincandenza at 4:01 PM on February 13, 2002


But why haul a spokesperson in front of a Congessional committee to let a bunch of GOP reps grandstand and make indignant speeches?

Or innocent-until-proven-guilty Enron executives?

I agree with you completely on the concept: Members of Congress routinely abuse their subpoena powers in order to get video of themselves on the evening news issuing prefabricated withering soundbites, often destroying the reputations of innocent people in the process. But let's not pretend this is some trademarked GOP tactic. Just as the Enron hearings have been bipartisan affairs, so too are any hearings held by the House Resources Subcommittee on Forests and Forest Health. That subcommittee consists of eight Republicans and seven Democrats. And the Democrats didn't exactly sit back and defend the ELF, as these two grafs from the AP version of this story show:

Rep. Jay Inslee, D-Wash., said he understands that die-hard environmentalists are frustrated with some of the Bush administration's policies, but ecoterrorism hurts the cause by making it harder for him and others to promote more environmental-friendly policies.

Asked about Inslee's criticism after the hearing, Rosebraugh said, "I was forced to come to Washington, D.C. I'm not going to answer that question."

posted by aaron at 4:08 PM on February 13, 2002


pardonyou? said: Finally, fold_and_mutilate, I always have to call out flawed logic like yours. There can be no disputing this statement: There is a difference betweeen intentional acts and unintentional accidents. A person who commits the prior is more culpable than the person who commits the latter. Terrorism, by definition, is based on an intent to create terror. The U.S. did not intend to kill Afghan civilians. Therefore, the fact that civilians were killed cannot, under any circumstances, be considered a terrorist act. Unfortunate? Definitely. Negligent? Perhaps. Terrorist? No f'ing way.

[Quote produced using the totally cool bookmarklet from growlers.org]

While I am not anti-intervention in Afghanistan and generally think that the bombing was done well, or at least as well as dropping bombs out of fast planes can be, I think your logic correction contains flawed logic. The unintended causalities (that’s collateral damage for those who speak GulfWarian) were not unintended. In no possible scenario could the Pentagon foresee dropping large amounts of explosives on a country without killing innocent people. Everyone knew this before hand and if you know beforehand that you are going to kill innocent people you cannot then claim that those deaths were 'unintended' or ''accidental'. Those unfortunate deaths were accepted as a cost of the operation.

While the terrorists are premeditated murderers in that there actions quite explicitly intended to kill people the more appropriate analogy for the anti-terrorist coalition's behaviour would be a cop spraying machine gun fire into a crowd to kill a hostage taker. Sometimes you have to do what you have to do. Euphemisms or denial might be a valid psychological defence mechanism but they aren't really honest or doing justice to the situation.

Oh ...and I do totally disagree with fold_and_mutilate. Don't mistake this for a defence of his larger point...really it is just a rant against the 'unintended' casualties notion...
posted by srboisvert at 4:10 PM on February 13, 2002


the actually violent are still a notch more dangerous than the fanatical and potentially violent

Absolutely true. I'd never advocate locking up anybody for their beliefs no matter how repellent I might find them.
That said, it dosen't look like it'd take much for this buncha mooks to start shooting.
One of the jobs of our government is to ensure domestic tranquillity. A big part of this is prevention and intelligence work. Exposing fanatics for the self-righteous gasbags they are deflates them in the eyes of those who might otherwise be seduced by the cloak-and-dagger smash-the-state sturm and drang. Also keeping a watchful eye on potentially dangerous groups is simply good crime-prevention policy.
Of course, where this gets sticky is 1)who decides who's potentially dangerous and 2) the blowback on sensible responsible advocates of the same cause. I wouldn't wan't the Sierra Club equated to ALF/ELF any more than the Libertarian Party should be equated with the Michigan Militia.
posted by jonmc at 4:14 PM on February 13, 2002


Thanks to hincandenza for his freeper link which led me to the very funniest thing I've ever read on the internet: The Ultimate Flame..."An insensate, blinking calf, meaningful to nobody, abandoned by the puke-drooling, giggling beasts who sired you and then killed themselves in recognition of what they had done. I will never get over the embarrassment of belonging to the same species as you.";Do not drink while reading unless your nose needs a douche.
posted by Mack Twain at 4:56 PM on February 13, 2002


Foxnews is biased. I bet that they had a hand in the Scottish Affair as well.
posted by RobertLoch at 5:07 PM on February 13, 2002


srbiosvert, I can assure you there's no denial or any other "psychological defense mechanism" at work. I happen to firmly believe that there's a fundamental difference between knowing that something is likely to happen, and intending it to happen.

Anyway, my point wasn't that esoteric -- I was really addressing fold_and_mutilate's labelling of the U.S. as "cowardly teorrists" by pointing out that you can't commit a terrorist act unless you had the intent to terrorize (which by definition excludes accidents or mistakes). Your point would go to the intent to kill. Even if I accept your logic (which I don't) you can't argue that this was done with the intent to terrorize the Afghans. I just get so sick of the lazy accusation -- repeated several times here on MeFi -- that the killing of civilians is evidence that the U.S. is (to use fold_and_mutilate's coy phrase) a "cowardly terrorist." And don't dismiss me as a "hawk" or "right-winger," because I'm neither.
posted by pardonyou? at 5:42 PM on February 13, 2002


In no possible scenario could the Pentagon foresee dropping large amounts of explosives on a country without killing innocent people. Everyone knew this before hand and if you know beforehand that you are going to kill innocent people you cannot then claim that those deaths were 'unintended' or ''accidental'.

The acknowledgement that they will inevitably happen does not make them unintentional. A lot of people don't understand what noncombatant immunity really means. It *does not* mean that "even one" civilian death is unacceptable under all circumstances, or that the military's acknowledgement that civilian deaths will inevitably occur demonstrate intent (any more that Ford's acknowledgement that the probability that someone will inevitably have a car accident due to some sort of mechanical malfunction on a Ford vehicle acknowledges intent to kill customers...)

Jus in bello requirements (rules of engagement) state that noncombants may not be harmed at any time *with the following four exceptions* - (taken from Walzer's "Just & Unjust Wars)
"1) the act is good in itself or at least indifferent" (the primary aim is a legitimate act of war)
"2) the direct effect is morally acceptable - the destruction of military supplies, for example, or the killing of enemy soldiers"
"3) the intention of the actor is good, that is he aims only for the acceptable effect," (destruction of military supplies, etc.) "the evil effect is not one of his ends" (the objective is not to kill civilians), "nor is it a means to his ends." (civilians are not being killed *in order* to bring down an enemy regime.)
"4) the good effect is sufficiently good to compensate for allowing for the evil effect; it must be justifiable under Sidgwick's proportionality rule." (Damage to civilians can't exceed damage to legitimate military targets.)

If anyone understands the rules of engagement and the law on the subject it's the military personnel doing target selection. This stuff is drilled into their heads from Day 1, and aerial bombing targets aren't selected without lawyers in the room.
posted by lizs at 5:59 PM on February 13, 2002


" ... I wouldn't wan't the Sierra Club equated to ALF/ELF any more than the Libertarian Party should be equated with the Michigan Militia..."

Aahhh - finally a bit of intelligent conversation. I believe what is going on here (that the hearings are really only a small part of) is an exercise in social categorization. In a country with 250 or 300 million people, the only real way to make sense of inputs is to at least partially group people - to take the actions of individuals that make the news (especially those that make it delibrately), and place them in general categories. These categories genrally are further understood with a sort of emotional bell curve (i.e., mainstream environmentalists like the Sierra club would be the center of the "environmentalist", with Earth First! or other more extreme ones at one end of the curve, and the parts of populace that would call themselves "environmentally aware" because they seperate recyclables at the other end).

Prior to 9/11, America had the luxury of being almost blindly naive. There simply wasn't a category for the sort of terror that was experienced last September.

While earlier in the 20th century, people like MLK and Gandhi articulated, popularized, and to some degree legitimatized the princples of civil disobedience, during the 1990's the "non-violent" that usually preceeded that term started to get pushed to the very edge. Getting arrested for occupying a public space of some sort gradually turned into smashing windows, destroying Starbucks and McDonalds, splashing blood on furs, etc., etc. (Certainly not in all instances - in fact most civil disobedience in the US is still overwhelmingly noo-violent).

The thing is, within the pre- 9/11 categories, most people sort of grouped those actions as the "upper" end of their respective "bell curves" ... i.e., arson at a lab was categorized on the bell curve that has the Humane Society as it's middle ... certainly on the extreme end, but still, the general goodwill felt for those that want animals treated well was felt for even the extremes - it was only felt that their means were misguided. In other words - their ideas were primary, and their acts secondary.

9/11, however, in the course of one morning, created an entirly new social category called "terrorist"... and what is going on now is the arguments over the nature of it's bell curve. The hearings in question are an attempt to say that ELF, and others like it, are no longer the extreme end of the "environmentalist" category, but are rather now to be considered at the mild end of the terrorist category. (This is also why the hincandenza's are nearly frothing at the mouth to insist that there is a "critical" difference between left wing and right wing extremists ... the entire argument is an effort to insist that these people are still just the extreme end of socially acceptable categories, not the mild end of a new, horrendous category).

hincandenza, however, has lost. It should be noted that the sorts of hearings going on (the Lay hearings, or ELF ones, or the many others like them) are never done for fact finding, nor to attempt to determine anything ... they are political theatre - the way congressmen and congresswomen signal that they are aligned with the general sentiments of the populace. (Doesn't matter a damn bit whether Ken Lay takes the fifth on every single question, i.e., the hearing produce absolutely zero new information ... it's purpose is to show sound bites of the representatives making their statements, and asking the questions that he pleads the fifth to). These hearing are held to confirm opinions the population already feels. Representatives rarely hold them until popular sentiment is settled.

In other words, the 9/11 events themselves created the new category. In going after the ELF, and saying they are "terrorists", congress is simply confirming what they understand the population at large probably overwhelmingly feels: ANYONE that now firebombs ANYTHING, for whatever reason, is immediately going to be placed in the "terrorist" category. And in this category, unlike others mentioned above ... their acts will be primary, their ideas secondary.

I do disagree with the worry of the initiater of this thread ("Is the "domestic terrorism" of radical animal-rights and environmental groups really the same as the 9/11 attacks? Or just an excuse to crack down on liberals?"). I don't have the sense that this needs to be a concern. Simply because the ELF is moved into the terrorist category will not mean that the bulk of the population sees the Sierra Club as having less legitimacy. In fact, many liberal causes actually may benefit from the new category ... because the increasing extremes that some groups were going to was starting to seriously hurt the mainstream parts of categories.

I, for one, am pleased. Is there a difference between the Taliban and ELF? Of course ... but it is not "critical", it is minor ... having the ELF in the "terrorist" category means that it is merely a difference in degree, not in kind. Were they to stay in the "envornmentalist" category, the difference would not be minor, it would be an order of magnitude greater.

My own opinion is that the American public probably has it right. I don't think people that firebomb things are innocuous, merely good people that are misguided in their choice of means to achieve noble ends. I think they do belong in the "terrorist" category ... because the psyche capable of conceiving and executing a plan to firebomb a building with no one in it has traveled 95% of the distance to that place of real evil (that very few humans ever reach) where firebombing a building with people in it is internally justified.
posted by MidasMulligan at 6:39 PM on February 13, 2002


Well, certainly I can agree with many of the earlier posts regarding ELF and ALF as organizations resorting to terrorism. One of my concerns is that the patriot act has a very broad form both of terrorism in a supporting terrorism that permits federal law enforcement agencies to leapfrog back from these organizations to investigating dedicated nonviolent activists who had the bad luck of meeting in the same bookstore. Already, the government doesn't seem to be picky about differentiating between money sent by immigrants back to family in Somalia, and money sent to Islamist terrorist organizations.

Of course, this is not really anything new. Law enforcement has been escalating surveillance and harassment of environmental groups for over a year now, including setting very high bail pending trial in order to keep participants away from Los Angeles during the Democratic convention. (In contrast, a local twice-accused sexual offender is on the streets after forking over $500.)

So certainly I'm not very fond of ELF and ALF, I am quite honestly worried about the potential of becoming a "terrorist supporter" in the eyes of the law because someone decided to use the powers in the patriot act to leapfrog through three degrees of separation between me and them.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 7:07 PM on February 13, 2002


MidasMulligan: You don't draw a "critical" distinction between destruction of property and mass murder? I find that hard to believe.
posted by electro at 7:10 PM on February 13, 2002


Well, Midas, a lot of what you said I agree with.
Perhaps the one truly good by-product of 9/11 is that it de-glamorized the so-called "violent revolutionary" in the eyes of sensible people forever. Fanatics of all political stripes, from Operation Rescue to the ALF, from the Aryan Nations to the Nation of Islam have been unmasked as what they are, fascist-minded thugs. Those who firebomb, destroy property and shoot at their opposition are basically nothing more than gangbangers who've read(and dimly understood) a few manifestos. On 9/11 we saw what the product of holding some absolutist position is when it's put into action.
For instance, pre-9/11, I'll admit that I tacitly sympathized with the IRA. When the towers fell, I got a taste of what folks in Northern Ireland have been living with for years in the form of things like the Harrod's bombing. No matter how angry I might be with British policies, 9/11 taught me that nothing justifies such acts, no matter how righteous the cause.
Post 9/11, Gerry Adams said that the IRA is disarming, whether this is political manuevering or sincere remains to be seen, but I hope Adams has had a similar change of heart to mine.
posted by jonmc at 7:25 PM on February 13, 2002


I should have eludicated a bit - I didn't mean to compare ELF/ALF with run-of-the-mill liberals per se. They're clearly radical and destructive. But they haven't killed anyone and I don't think they plan on it. My thinking was more along the lines of: they start with the radical groups, then could move along to other, less radical, activists like Earth First! and PETA, then maybe the ACLU, etc., etc. So could cracking down on radicals be sort of a "canary in a coalmine"- type warning? History certainally lends it some food for thought. (I personally consider myself as leaning pretty far to the left, for what it's worth.)
posted by sixdifferentways at 7:28 PM on February 13, 2002


lizs said: If anyone understands the rules of engagement and the law on the subject it's the military personnel doing target selection. This stuff is drilled into their heads from Day 1, and aerial bombing targets aren't selected without lawyers in the room.

I am sorry but I don't see how the fact that these incidents fell within the 'rules of engagement' makes them unintentional . If anything it makes them more intentional. If after deliberation and the consideration of civilian casualties one accepts the risk and decides to drop bombs, you cannot simply turn around and say "Whoopsie, didn't mean for that to happen" (unless of course the bomb goes off course or some other error is made..and even then I am not sure since the Pentagon is well aware of how accurate their weapons are). However it would be totally reasonable to say "It's war. They were standing next to an ammo depot. It was worth the cost in innocent lives to eliminate that target". In my reading those rules you mention explicitly cover situations where there is foreknowledge of civilian casualties (and i don't consider them unreasonable either) so how can those deaths be considered accidental or unintentional?


pardonyou? said: I happen to firmly believe that there's a fundamental difference between knowing that something is likely to happen, and intending it to happen.

Maybe it's the hardass in me but I don't really value that distinction. When a drunk driver kills someone, even though everyone knows the risks of drinking and driving, I just can't seem to cut him slack because though he knew it was likely he could kill someone he didn't intend to.

So I guess we will have to agree to disagree. BTW your mention of right wing and hawk in the same sentence had me picturing a one winged bird locked into death spiral that it just couldn't get out of...

My tangential point is largely semantic I guess. What is intentional? If I race a car through a shopping mall do I intend to kill the shoppers or am I just trying to finish ahead of my competition? I know that I will kill shoppers but it isn't my purpose for racing in the shopping mall.

It seems to me like sophistry to claim that any deaths afghanistan are 'accidental' or 'unintentional' . My personal preferenance is to own the responsibility. It is the price paid for our way of life.
posted by srboisvert at 7:41 PM on February 13, 2002


" ... You don't draw a "critical" distinction between destruction of property and mass murder? I find that hard to believe..."

Nope. I don't. Two seperate issues here though. Obviously to the people involved that die, and their loved ones, there is a huge difference between people and buildings. In terms, however, of what category to place people in ... the "critical" difference is between those who choose discourse as the means to make their points, and those who choose violence. Think for a moment of what place you'd need to reach inside of your mind to actually conceive of, plan, and execute the act of torching a building ... because you disagreed with what the people in it.

I'm saying there is a minor difference behind that mind, and the mind of someone that blows up buildings with people in it. But the huge, "critical" difference is between that person and the rest of the environmentalist community - even if he does claim he's doing it for an environmental cause.
posted by MidasMulligan at 7:52 PM on February 13, 2002


I am sorry but I don't see how the fact that these incidents fell within the 'rules of engagement' makes them unintentional

Intent refers to the expected end, not potential side effects of meeting that end. The expected end here is never dead civilians; it's elimination of enemy forces and/or legitimate military targets. Sometimes civilians die in the process of meeting that goal, but the parameters above are designed to mitigate that as much as possible. If the parameters are willfully disregarded, it's criminal negligence.
posted by lizs at 8:02 PM on February 13, 2002


MidasMulligan: I make a distinction between "violence" against an object, and violence against people. Fortunately, the law does, too.

These ELM people are certainly criminals who should be caught and punished. But to call them "terrorists" is to erase all meaning from the word.
posted by electro at 8:56 PM on February 13, 2002


electro: what's tree spiking, if not violence against people and/or terrorism?
posted by jaek at 10:04 PM on February 13, 2002


Better late than never:
I should have observed weblog etiquette and mentioned I originally saw this story linked on Ipse Dixit.
posted by sixdifferentways at 10:07 PM on February 13, 2002


" ... MidasMulligan: I make a distinction between "violence" against an object, and violence against people. Fortunately, the law does, too..."

If you wish to ignore most of what I said for the sake of reducing it to a one-liner that serves whatever purpose you have, that's ok by me. Doesn't mean I didn't say it however.

We are not talking about law - we are talking about congressional hearings, and attempts being made by representatives to categorize someone who firebombs as a terrorist. I'm mentioning that not only I, and those representatives, but ("fortunately") a good deal of the American public would agree.

" ... These ELM people are certainly criminals who should be caught and punished. But to call them "terrorists" is to erase all meaning from the word..."

We simply have different opinions. Meaning can't be "erased" from the word terrorist. Nor would I use it lightly. I worked in the World Financial Center, and watched the second plane fly by my window into the building a few hundred feet away. I live 3 blocks from ground zero. I recognize there are different magnitudes of terrorist. Bin Laden is worse than ELF. Not as bad as Hitler. But I consider them all to be in the same category.

You want to firebomb something? You are a terrorist. And judging by public sentiment, I suspect laws themselves may soon get quite a bit tighter.
posted by MidasMulligan at 10:14 PM on February 13, 2002


I feel compelled to point out that destruction of property has some history in this country. While I'm not cheering on Al Queda or the ELF or various abortion rights groups, I see where destruction of property can make an effective point against the ruling class.

As for the question of whether the government may use 9/11 to crack down on "liberal" groups, there was a case here where a Catholic Worker trespassed on Sikorsky property trying to deliver a letter to the president to ask them to stop construction of helicopters destined for the drug war in Columbia. The prosecutor originally was originally asking for two years, he reduced his request to nine months. He was afraid that others would infiltrate the organization and "strap bombs to their backs" to damage defense manufacturers. (article here, sorry, best I could do) This was a non-violent protest by a Catholic organization. In light of this, I would speculate that you might not see a "crackdown" at the national level, you may see more action like this by local prosecutors.
posted by kittyloop at 10:53 PM on February 13, 2002


" ... against the ruling class..."

Then again, maybe just tossing the "ruling class" out might work better, no? The last few elections have not been won by left or right, they've been won by "did not vote". Anyone that produce a compelling enough case has a full half of the population that doesn't bother to come to the polls. Nader could be president. But America rejected him.

This is bad though ... if it turns out that the population refuses to throw them out - perhaps doesn't even see them as "the ruling class" ... well, that means (oh yeah) that this isn't a glorious struggle for justice, but merely people in a tiny minority who resort to blowing things up.
posted by MidasMulligan at 11:01 PM on February 13, 2002


Well, if you're in a tiny minority, then pretty much anyone else is the ruling class. However, I do not condone the actions of this group. I'm just trying to point out that in the past it's been an effective tool...I wasn't sure if you were taking the position that it was wrong, absolutely, which you clarified in a later post. And I admit ruling class is a little heavy-handed...I'm sleepy (watching C-Span to see if Shays-Meehan passes in the house...break out the popcorn!) and I'd just done the short refresher on the Revolutionary War. Oh, and if I ran the country, I would toss out the "ruling class" and send people around with cattle prods on voting day to get people out of their houses. There would be mandatory civics and government classes in elementary, high school and college. And fudge, lots of fudge, but I guess that's neither here nor there.
posted by kittyloop at 11:38 PM on February 13, 2002



If you wish to ignore most of what I said for the sake of reducing it to a one-liner that serves whatever purpose you have, that's ok by me. Doesn't mean I didn't say it however.


Anyone can page-up in this thread to see what you said. Please highlight the parts that I ignored.

The only point that I wanted to make is that I think its very important to decide exactly what we mean by terrorism.

I don't think that destroying inanimate objects should be placed in the same category as killing people.
posted by electro at 11:38 PM on February 13, 2002


This is merely an attempt to paint anyone with the slightest environmentalist bent as being possibly aligned with terrorists, just like gun owner = potential militia nut. It doesn't have anything to do with the ELF or any other(literally) fire-branding group.

Now, if liberals don't like being kicked in the political gonads like this, then do what the NRA does whenever anyone says that guns are a problem. Take note of who is doing the kicking, brand them as the enemy of law abiding Americans seeking a cleaner environment, and raise a shitload of money with which to raise hell with your representatives and bribe and beat them into submission. Just carrot and stick for the attitude you want in your Congress.

This seems like a very basic political maneuver, and it just seems to me that a lot a supposedly very smart people are debating how dark it actually is, instead of asking who turned out the light.
posted by dglynn at 12:43 AM on February 14, 2002


So, government is attempting to use September 11 as a sin-enhancer. What was wrong before September 11 can now be made "wronger", and fear mongers w/agenda will float a shitload of squeezemharder laws past a slack-jawed public. Surprise, surprise, surprise.
posted by Opus Dark at 1:04 AM on February 14, 2002


I think "politically-motivated saboteurs" is more accurate than "terrorists" for those who merely destroy property. But it'll probably never catch on, if only because of the acronym.
And yes, the anti-libertarians are making the most of the current (cough*post-9/11*cough) climate to advance their agenda. Just the same, this is a worse time than ever for tactics which even look like terrorist acts--and given that logging is already one of the world's most dangerous occupations, endangering timber workers who are just trying to make a living (and stay alive) certainly smacks of terrorism. Tree-sitting is protest; tree-spiking is terrorism.
posted by StOne at 8:36 AM on February 14, 2002


yeah, that's a common technique by authoritarian governments to consolidate power: by overstating and propagandizing threats, whether internal or external (however they define it). so it's kind of disturbing to see our government employing/exploiting it.

cowlix has some links on how definitions of terrorism are evolving.
posted by kliuless at 8:47 AM on February 14, 2002


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