GREEN Flaming SUVs
June 25, 2005 9:25 AM   Subscribe

A conversation with convicted ecoterrorist Jeff Luers A rare interview with one of the few jailed arsonists.
posted by warbaby (31 comments total)
A powerful interview. Thanks.
posted by nickyskye at 9:56 AM on June 25, 2005

The man makes a lot of good points.
posted by leftcoastbob at 10:02 AM on June 25, 2005

The interview was worth the read, but... radical eco-terrorism appears to always lead toward an escalation of the criminal behavior.
to quote him :
" The SUVs were kind of a baby step."
The propensity to continue the escalation can only at some point lead to the loss of human life.
And as regards EARTH FIRST! and the ELF making Sierra Club look moderate.
Execution by hanging seems grisly until compared with being run through a brush chipper feet first, but the end result is still the loss of another human life.
posted by garficher at 11:18 AM on June 25, 2005

What a dipshit. What he accomplished was to incite fear in the average Joe that his own property may be at risk because it clashes with someone else's ideology. No way this moved the world even a baby-step toward more ecologically responsible behavior. Quite the opposite.

Coercive power is the lowest form, and should only be used as a last resort and then only if it can be prosecuted relentlessly until it succeeds in producing the desired change.

The net result of these small acts of coercion is irritation of the defense mechanisms of the organization targeted. (Oh, and a temporary inflation of the egos of those involved, which is probably why otherwise intelligent-seeming people do these stupid things).
posted by gregor-e at 11:39 AM on June 25, 2005

Given the fact that I have never heard of this person, I would call his efforts pretty meaningless overall.
posted by perianwyr at 12:14 PM on June 25, 2005

He does make good points, especially regarding the definition of "terrorist" in his and others' cases. This is clearly of wider interest these days. I support non-violent civil disobedience only, but if someone goes further, they should pay the same penalty as someone not politically-motivated. This clearly hasn't happened. Therefore one can conclude the punishment is partially political, and that the Luers is a political prisoner the moment his punishment exceeds that of a non-political arsonist.

A parallel case in Canada is accused American "eco-terrorist" Tre Arrow, who will undergo extradition hearings next week. Tre in his own words, and on his experiences as a raw foodist in a small-time jail. There is fairly widespread community support for Tre here on Vancouver Island, which is something of a Green hotbed.
posted by Rumple at 12:20 PM on June 25, 2005

Obviously you are not from the Pacific Northwest, perianwyr. Jeff "Free" Luer and Tre Arrow are both well known around here. (Also both eco terrorists according to the US govt.)
posted by leftcoastbob at 12:20 PM on June 25, 2005

Gah, raw foodists make me crazy. That, and Tre's facial hair. Please, Tre, shave it!
posted by ladd at 12:33 PM on June 25, 2005

I love Tre, facial hair and all, but I must admit that he has gotten stranger and stranger ever since he left Oregon.
posted by leftcoastbob at 12:38 PM on June 25, 2005

i'm really pissed that this asshole has actually managed to invent one of the most annoying orwellianisms out there. "ecoterrorist", i mean. why is Free an ecoterrorist when someone who cuts the top of a mountain, causing floods that wash away houses... (and didn't people actually die?) is just a businessman?

the point's been made a hundred times (to/in the media too) to counter the use of that word, but it doesn't seem to make a damned bit of difference. too sexy, i guess.

The propensity to continue the escalation can only at some point lead to the loss of human life.

why? most of these actions are planned fairly carefully, it would seem. i mean, sure--i guess that statistically, death occurs if you do just about anything often enough. the more you mow your lawn, the more likely it is that you're going to get your toe chopped off. the more you drive, the more likely it is you'll get in a car accident.

but does that mean that the message behind these actions aren't actually fairly effective? not only do they make a big splash, causing discussion, meme ripple, etc... ad nauseum... they, as mentioned above, also scare certain people. (mostly politicians, it seems to me.)

people who commit this sort of serious anti-corporate/anti-deadearth/anti-capitalist action are pissed off. they feel as though they're channeling their anger positively. our (the non-active majority) interpretation of that is somewhat irrelevant, i think. there's a hope that we notice, that we think deeply about what it means. that we discuss it. (that we join them.) but there is a deep sense of apocalyptic thinking in elves and their tribe. it's "if we don't start doing something RIGHT NOW, and really STOP THE nature-vacuuming ASSHOLES, then the earth will die. it is DYING right now." there is a sense of responsibility to action, because when, after all, is too late?

and are they inciting "fear in the average Joe"? at first blush, i think i agree with you, gregor-e, but then i think, well... i'm not so sure that the average Joe can't see through the hype and realize the fear-mongering wound up by the mainstream media is just that... know anybody whose property has been lost or damaged by ecotage? but i'm probably underestimating the power of that hype.

i am a lazy supporter of most of these actions. i couldn't actually participate, because i'm too caught up in agonizing over the multitude of consequences. but i can see what they do as somewhat brave, if sometimes shortsighted. and it pisses me off that merely saying that in a public forum raises my chances of getting an asterisk put next to my name by some trolling, mis-funded agent of our government.

my assessment: those who are getting rich off my tax dollars (going to anti-terrorist work) are doing a helluva job making sure that if we run out of middle eastern threat, we've got a backup in so-called eco-terrorists. that makes me madder than anything going.
posted by RedEmma at 12:42 PM on June 25, 2005

Yeah, it seems that for every individual citizen afraid their SUV might be torched there are 10 politicians afraid their financial backers are gonna screetch in their ear, 20 cops with a long standing grudge against hippies, 30 businessmen with an inalienable right to rape the earth, and 100 rabid freeper keyboarding wankers cheering them on. The meta-crime in the world today is not to be anti-American, exactly, it is to be anti-corporation and anti-consumption. From that, we will see the conflicts of the 21st century.
posted by Rumple at 1:00 PM on June 25, 2005

the Buffalo Creek flood was what i was remembering, due to mountain-top removal.
posted by RedEmma at 1:11 PM on June 25, 2005

Redemma has a handle on it. "ecoterrorism" was mostly a defamation campaign started by Moon-unit Ron Arnold in the late 1980s. Helped out by thugs like Chuck "rent-a-riot" Cushman and nutcases like Barry Clausen.

The wave of Wise Use violence against environmentalists in rural areas ultimately created a backlash of which Luers and others are the result. What I find interesting is that the ELF ninnies are too young and too self-absorbed to grasp the history and conditions that led them to act out.
posted by warbaby at 1:27 PM on June 25, 2005

Looks like RedEmma and Rumple beat me to it.
posted by Lusy P Hur at 1:29 PM on June 25, 2005

My overall feeling after reading the interview is one of sadness. This idealistic young man acted on his beliefs and got smacked down mighty hard-- 22 years behind bars for "killing" 3 SUVs. That works out to over 7 years per car. Christ! If only he had bought the cars and then torched them!
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 2:14 PM on June 25, 2005

Isn't the point of terrorism terror? Show of hands, how many of you are terrified of "ecoterrorists?"

That's what I thought. Orwell would be so proud of these times.

Which is not to justify this guy's actions. He should serve the time: for an arson in which nobody was hurt.
posted by teece at 8:29 PM on June 25, 2005

There was another time when simply accusing someone of something caused them to get smacked down by The Man.

Let's just call this the Salem Terrorist Trials.

Someone explain this to me:
1) Torching three vehicles- minor jail time
2) Torching three vehicles while being openly motivated to protect our environmental resources- rotting away in prison
posted by Lectrick at 6:02 AM on June 26, 2005

Increasing the punishment based on the motivation is the basis for hate crime legislation. What's good for the bigot is good for the eco-terrorist.
posted by darukaru at 9:11 AM on June 26, 2005

at least if it suits your agenda, that is.
posted by RedEmma at 10:40 AM on June 26, 2005

In this case, the punishment should be decreased based on his motivation imo, a phenomenon one sees in Good Samaritan laws and individual judgments all the time.
posted by Rumple at 11:18 AM on June 26, 2005

at least if it suits your agenda, that is.

My zealotry good! Your zealotry bad!

Pardon me while I laugh my ass off.
posted by jonmc at 12:23 PM on June 26, 2005

well, in all fairness, it depends on your view. let's take a closer look:

someone who burns down a house because they want to make a black family go "back to where they came from" generally doesn't care if the family dies in the process. loss of life is incidental, or even sometimes a bonus.

there have been historically far fewer--and always empty--houses burned to get revenge on builders who don't follow the environmental rules (often actual laws that are bent because big money rules), but it might be argued that there is a purpose of intimidation or revenge. (and those sorts of activities might increase.)

in this SUV action, it was meant to hurt the economics of a car dealer who's profiting from selling earth-munching vehicles. pretty simple. (and then the publicity and meme ripple outward, but that's extra. and let's not get into the facts of insurance, and petro-chemicals released into the air... that's what i meant about a multitude of consequences...)

certainly it is true that those who simply can't or won't get their heads into an understanding of environmental degradation (which elves and others consider to be a dire emergency) see these activities as intimidation, pure and simple. stop hurting the earth, OR ELSE.

i don't think many elves would necessarily mind that fear, at least in those who profit from that hurt. (even though there is great care taken in not hurting human or animal in an action, there always seems to be a certain glee or bemusement in causing the right people to freak out.)

is that a "hate crime" against those who maintain a certain bravado in gleefully driving their hummer around as a big fuck-you to treehuggers everywhere? or maybe just against that money-oriented car dealer?

i guess the purpose of a hate crime is to make someone fear for their life, isn't it? fear for their life enough that they go away or become subservient in their behavior? (and with the added purpose of instilling similar fear in all others who are like that person?)

i don't think, therefore, that the analogy works, because all this talk about "it's only a matter of time until someone dies" is hysteria bound by the fact that nobody's even been hurt (except for the "ecoterrorists" who've been killed in the woods) and the knowledge that these treehuggers are generally known pacifists who don't count property crime as violence. (another difference of opinion for those who somehow equate their material wealth with their personhood.)

sometimes i wonder why those who are so rabidly anti-environmentalist insist on projecting their violent desires on the elves... perhaps that's the only way to get folks up in arms? or just their own hatred is so pervasive that they can't believe that smelly hippie doesn't want to kill them as much as they want to kill him?
posted by RedEmma at 12:27 PM on June 26, 2005

i was responding to Rumple and darukaru... that's what happens when you don't read Preview.
posted by RedEmma at 12:31 PM on June 26, 2005

Someone explain this to me:
1) Torching three vehicles- minor jail time
2) Torching three vehicles while being openly motivated to protect our environmental resources- rotting away in prison

I don't know what case you're thinking of WRT your (1), since it doesn't seem to be linked to here, but:

If I commit a crime for normal boring reasons -- if I set fire to a few empty vehicles because I'm drunk and pissed off at the trade-in I got, or because I got fired, or because a salesman there is gettin' it on with my wife, or just because I'm a drunk yahoo -- then there's not really much reason to think that I'm going to do that particular crime again, since it was rooted in the passions of the moment.

But if I commit a crime out of some deep-seated ideological, religious, or similar motivation, there's good reason to think that I'll commit similar crimes when I'm released, since my ideology or religion isn't likely to change in a few years.

AFAIK, people who think that their crimes were actively good ideas, and who seem to have every intention of committing similar crimes when released, get longer sentences than your typical jackass who regrets it ten minutes later.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 2:11 PM on June 26, 2005

google "elaho violence" for a nice case study in just how seriously pro-corporate terrorism is taken, as opposed to anti-corporate non-violent civil disobedience.

eg. Judge rules Interfor gave "tacit corporate approval" for mob violence in the Elaho Valley but weak sentences given to criminally violent Interfor employees and contractors

Basically, about 70 loggers were given a day off so they could attack a protest camp - they arrived masked and armed with clubs, which they proceeded to use to beat up a bunch of unarmed protesters and random passers-by, threatening them with murder & rape and destroying their property. This was clearly a case of violence and threats of violence being used to influence the behaviour and political activity of an identifiable group. But this is not defined as "terrorism", simply because of the political and socio-economic orientation of the attack - if it's being committed by established authority, it's *not terrorism*, which is a term reserved for the activities (whether violent or not) of those opposed to established authorities. Double-plus ungood, y'all!
posted by dinsdale at 3:19 PM on June 26, 2005

I would like to add an interesting factoid to my recent post. It turns out that newer SUV's that DO pass stricter exhaust regulations actually go through more gas in a cleaner manner than most other vehicles. So the end result is that we go through our oil supply quicker, and with less environmental impact overall. Ironic, eh?

I personally can't wait for the day when we can't economically rely on oil anymore. Hopefully in my lifetime. That would be awesome.
posted by Lectrick at 3:33 PM on June 26, 2005

Lectrick: newer SUV's that DO pass stricter exhaust regulations actually go through more gas in a cleaner manner than most other vehicles

I haven't heard of any new regulations or technologies that make newer SUV's burn that fuel any "cleaner" than other cars. Do you have a link to back that up?
posted by Popular Ethics at 4:05 PM on June 26, 2005

The best terrorism definition I've seen comes out of the UN working group: An action that in time of war would be considered a war crime.

Luers tried to make his arson justified by "necessity," showed no remorse and encourages others to do likewise. This goes very badly in the sentencing phase.

He could have chosen otherwise. As far as being a political prisoner, maybe so since his criminal act was politically motivated. But on the other hand, so what? He made his bed and should lie in it.

What this case (and indeed most of the controversy about the FBI idiocy over "ecoterrorism") demonstrates is the utter uselessness of distinguishing ideology as making some acts less bad than others. It's the act, not the ideology. Unless of course, the desired outcome is the continuation of terrorist crime. When the police are politicized, political violence becomes an acceptable norm.
posted by warbaby at 5:30 PM on June 26, 2005

I personally can't wait for the day when we can't economically rely on oil anymore. Hopefully in my lifetime. That would be awesome.

Uh, why?
posted by Snyder at 5:57 PM on June 26, 2005

There seems to me to be a lot of wrong-headedness in the comments on this thread.

First of all, the right to property is a cornerstone of America - the fact that TJ couldn't get it into the Declaration notwithstanding. Regardless of what multinational corporations do to the individual's right to property, this criminal violated the right to property of the owners of those SUVs. I doubt anyone reading this would cheer to learn that some possession of theirs had been burnt. In fact, I imagine most of you would call the cops.

This crime was different than a regular arson because it was intended to incite others to like crimes, violence, revolt, and treason. Call it what you want - agreed, terrorism is a kind of silly name - but this kind of sedition is a high crime because it is aimed at the very fabric of the Republic that exists to preserve our freedoms.

Finally, the fact that this interview was permitted points up the essential inadequacy of simple incarceration as a punishment for this type of crime. The fellow is Constitutionally protected from cruel and unusual punishment for his crimes - so what does he do? He continues to incite and behave seditiously.

There are plenty of checks and balances in place to assure representation for ideas, even minority ideas, in our government. Setting things on fire just isn't one of them and it can't be tolerated.
posted by ikkyu2 at 12:07 AM on June 27, 2005

ikkyu2: ... the fact that this interview was permitted points up the essential inadequacy of simple incarceration as a punishment for this type of crime. The fellow is Constitutionally protected from cruel and unusual punishment for his crimes - so what does he do? He continues to incite and behave seditiously.

What exactly are you proposing here? Death penalty? Torture? Luers got a pretty stiff jolt. What is "inadequate" about that?

More to the point, the underlying escalation was the decade of tacit permission granted to arson, assault, bombings and even murder (David "Gypsy" Chain comes to mind as one of the more egregious cases) perpetrated against environmetalists. Luers doesn't really seem to be aware of this, blaming instead a car dealer.

The rise of the militias in the Pacific Northwest was strongly linked to Wise Use groups. Specifically, the Washington State Militia case began as an investigation into paramilitary "preparedness" (the propaganda / recruitment campaign) activities in Okanogon that got completely out of hand. It spread statewide through Wise Use organizing (which was heavily infiltrated by white supremacists.) In Snohomish County, the militias rallied around Sheriff Pat Murphy. When he was taken down for unrelated drug charges, the leadership shifted to John Pitner and the WSM front group. Not only did the cops do nothing about this, they actively collaborated with right-wing extremists in numerous localities. Finally, it got so out of hand (after the Oklahoma City bombing) that the FBI stepped in (in their usual snitch-driven incompentent manner).

What is your proposal for that? Luers is an immature dolt, but the circumstances he was responding to were quite real. Should we always have to wait 20, 30, 50 years before right-wing violence is treated like the terrorism it is? Should law enforcement be allowed to function as a biased political police? I don't think so.

Politicizing the criminal justice system contributes to the problem. The solution lies in equal protection under the law, not harsher penalties for a few.
posted by warbaby at 8:29 AM on June 27, 2005

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