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Is eco-terrorism really terrorism?(21 posts)

Is eco-terrorism really terrorism?PdxMark
Aug 6, 2003 11:25 AM
The arson and vandalism by some eco-extremists, such as burning down the condo development in San Diego or the lodge at Vail, are clearly criminal and those responsible deserve to be prosecuted. But are they terrorists?

American Heritage calls terrorism "The unlawful use or threatened use of force or violence by a person or an organized group against people or property with the intention of intimidating or coercing societies or governments, often for ideological or political reasons." "Eco-terrorism" seems to fit within this definition, but in theory, so would a rioter tossing a brick through a store window. While also criminal, a brick through a store window doesn't "seem like" terrorism to me.

It looks like a pair of political scientists (Magstadt & Schotten) have a better definition: "terrorism comprises a political effort to oppose the status quo by inducing fear in the civilian population through the widespread and publicized use of violence, including murder, injury and destruction." This seems like a better definition for TERRORism because it includes inducing widespread fear (ie, "terror") - rather than just intending to intimidate a government or society.

The point of all this is that we ought to have a clear sense of what terrorism is, and what it isn't, so that it doesn't become a meaningless epithet. Under this definition, I'm not so sure the criminal eco-arsonists are actually terrorists, at least not yet, because I doubt that there's fear of them in the civilian population.

Here's the link to the Magstadt & Schotten definition:
re: Is eco-terrorism really terrorism?ClydeTri
Aug 6, 2003 11:28 AM
American Heritage definition sounds good for me..also they can be known as thugs, criminals, psychopaths, low life, scum, vermin..lots of good words!
thugs, criminals, psychopaths, etc.PdxMark
Aug 6, 2003 3:12 PM
I think that terrorists are thugs, criminals, psychopaths, low life, scum, vermin, as you say, but not all thugs, criminals, psychopaths, low life, scum, vermin are terrorists. I'm just trying to figure out what it takes for thugs, criminals, psychopaths, low life, scum, vermin to graduate to becoming terrorists.

Is it just that they commit their crimes with a social or political purpose in mind? That does not seems accurate enough. There ought to be more... maybe a persistence, repetitiveness, scale of crime factor that generalizes the public fear about being attacked by that person, group, etc.
Depends on the action.Steve98501
Aug 8, 2003 1:51 PM
Some actions are consistent with the principles of terrorism; that is, getting civilians and government to or not do particular things because of fear of consequences. Some actions could just as easily be defined as eco-defense; that is, protecting certain environmental attributes by unlawfully making it uneconomic (monkey-wrenching, tree spiking, etc.) to degrade or destroy that attribute.

Most of the actions lumped as eco-terrorism are certainly illegal, but fall below the threshold of terrorism.

It depends,TJeanloz
Aug 6, 2003 11:37 AM
It seems to me that you're drawing the line at personal vs. property damage. However, lighting a match at Vail in the summertime is a very dangerous proposition, due to wildfire potential, and could well have done much more personal damage than it did. I think you don't feel threatened, but there have certainly been people who did - mostly those who live in the targeted areas. And I can say, from experience that those who live in the mountains of Colorado (where eco-terrorists do their thing) are very worried that an eco-arsonist will start a wildfire that will burn their house down. So, I would say that that is terror.

The other issue is that some eco-terrorists, particularly those on the animal rights front, have sent poison-laced letters, mail bombs, and other physically destructive devices to farmers they believe are in the wrong. And I would say that it is terrorism when you can't open your mail without worrying.
UNABOMBER was a self evowed eco terrorist...nmClydeTri
Aug 6, 2003 11:38 AM
Well I guess that settles it.53T
Aug 6, 2003 12:09 PM
Not really.

Throughout the last three centuries, terrorist is the term that well established regimes assign to opponents of the regime that use non-parlimantary means to establish thier objectives. Famous terrorists include Wolf Tone, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, the entire French proletariate, General Robert E. Lee, Jerry Adams, Lech Wallesa, The Governor of Kosovo, and Osama bin Laden. Strong offical characters do not qualify regardless of the depth of their depravity, such as A. Hitler, Stalin, Maggy Thatcher, S. Melosovitch.

By the way, if you win the war you get to change from a terrorist to a hero.

I've heard several technical qualification to be a terrorist, such as: you have to target civilians, you can't operate like and army with uniforms, your operation must fall outside the international conventions on warfare, you shoudl have a political objective even if it is as simple as down with the US, down with the WTO. However, when interpreting history, the terrorist label applies to thiose who fit my first description far more often that it fits any of the technical descriptions offered. As for how teh term is used today, well the News at 10 is simply next years history.
Well I guess that settles it. I think so...PdxMark
Aug 6, 2003 2:33 PM
That's my point. I guess it's just a term that gets splashed about almost randomly, with the eventual victors deciding whether it sticks or not. It seems that in usage we ought to expect some minimal level of political objective or or incitement of fear among civilians (as oppososed to just scorn of political leaders).
It depends,PdxMark
Aug 6, 2003 3:05 PM
Of course, it's that line that I'm trying to draw, or to least see where everyone else here draws it...

I agree that animal rights people sending destructive devices to people are acting as terrorists. No different from targeted assassinations or assassination attempts.

The Vail attack is interesting. The danger you point out, which I didn't have in mind, is actually a bit incidental to the attack itself. A real and reasonable concern for everyone in the area, but the fear relates to a possible consequence of the attack, rather than the attack itself. I mean, from how you stated it, it seems that folks living in the area aren't afraid that they'd be attacked. It could be a distinction without a difference, but it seems that Vail (alone) could seem to be close to the edge...

On the other hand, in the universe of developers, the attacks are very targeted, repetitive, and destructive. From that perspective, property attacks like Vail and San Diego, particularly as a part of a larger pattern, very much seem like terrorism.

In the realm of logging, for example, spiking trees seems like a terrorist act because of the threat of injury to workers. Persistently damaging logging equipment, while certainly criminal, seems less like terrorism - maybe because the property being attacked is less expensive than the Vail and San Diego properties.

So, through all my rambling, I think that attacks against multiple people, either as a group or as separate attacks, with a political or societal purpose, amounts to terrorism. Property attacks can get there to as part of a persistent pattern, particularly against large (expensive) property "targets." For me, I think that an attack against just one person, or property worth less than $X, doesn't really amount to terrorism.
Whosoever defines the language controls the issuecritmass
Aug 6, 2003 5:13 PM
The word eco-terrorist was first used my Wise Use leader Ron Arnold in the early 80's to further the idea that only a zealot would support organizations like Earth First. Many of those early "terrorists" with Earth First have gone on to develop projects like the Blue Mountains Biodiversity Project and the Native Forest Protection Alliance into powerful research and legal organizations.
For some people using a word like eco-terrorist is just an easy way to paint large movements as extremist.
ELF/ALF activities like the Two Elk Lodge fire and mink farm supply building bombings are a minuscule part of the movement. Just like the killing of Earth Firster David Chain and the pipe bombing of Judi Bari's car and the bombing of the Forest Guardians offices are a small part of the extreme anti-environmentalist movement. But then Earth Firsters Judi Bari's estate did win a 4.4 million dollar verdict against the six F.B.I. agents and the Oakland Police Dept for trying to frame the bombing of her car on her and her husband. As the evidence at trial showed the F.B.I. agents falsified, fabricated and manipulated evidence, perjured themselves, blamed the victims despite clear evidence of their innocence and created over 500 F.B.I. dossiers on environmental activists whose only "crime'" was to receive a long distance phone call from Judi, her husband or one of 14 other people working in Earth First with Judi.
re: Is eco-terrorism really terrorism?Alpedhuez55
Aug 7, 2003 10:03 AM
What about the eco-terrorists who put spikes in trees. They are going after "Big Business" but the one who gets hurt or killed is a lumberjack who may have a family to support. That is an act of terrorism. There are also people in some of the mountain bike trails near my house that are booby trapping trails and have injured several riders and hikers on both legal and ilegal trails.

They are crtiminals and I also feel they are terrorists. THey are trying to keepm people from doing their work or using public lands through fear. They are resorting to violence and intentionally inflicting injury. Sounds like an act of terrorism to me, even if you do agree with their cause.

Mike Y.
What deaths?critmass
Aug 7, 2003 11:05 AM
I know of no deaths and only one substantiated report of human injury. That injury came as a marked spiked tree, that was cut illegally, was being milled by Pacific Lumber Co. in Northern California. Would you please share with me any information you have on deaths and injuries.
May be an Urban MythAlpedhuez55
Aug 7, 2003 12:42 PM
May have been wrong there. Found nothing on the internet about an actual death. Just plenty of articles saying injury and death are the goals of tree spinking and monkey wrenching by groups like ELF & Earth First.
Sounds more like intentional disinformation. (nm)czardonic
Aug 7, 2003 12:47 PM
Disinformation, Maybe I can get a job at the NY Times ;-) nmAlpedhuez55
Aug 7, 2003 2:26 PM
Not the goal.Steve98501
Aug 8, 2003 1:46 PM
The goal of tree spiking is to persuade timber managers to leave a specific area of trees standing. The goal is not achieved if the warning is ignored and the tree is felled and milled.

The term eco-terrorism was coined and is used by those whose interest is served by degrading or destroying various environmental attributes. It could just as realistically be termed eco-defense.

Not the goal.Alpedhuez55
Aug 10, 2003 10:17 AM
They are doing that with complete disregard for the safety of workers. Are they marking the spiked trees to let them know where they are? No. They also employ Monkey Wenching to disable the or damage timbeing equipment. Often times this comprimises the safety of the equipment and can lead to injury.

It is like the idiots who die baby harp seals orange. They think they are saving them by painting them orange so their pelts are useless to furriers. How ever they remove the natural camoflage that the seals have making them easy pickings for other predators such as polar bears. Either way, the damage is done.
Not the goal.critmass
Aug 10, 2003 4:52 PM
Spiked trees were mapped, ribboned and or spray painted. Maps of the areas would be sent to the appropriate agencies. In the instance of the injury that I mentioned earlier, after a three month investigation by the Humboldt Co. Sheriffs Dept. three loggers were arrested for illegal cutting in the Van Duzen River watershed. They had used the edge of their chainsaws to remove the red paint sprayed on the tree to signify it had been spiked. During the investigation there were many articles in the local papers of Northern Cal. about Earth First and spiking. The arrests were covered by one article with no mention of the paint removal or that one of the stolen trees was the one that caused the injury. But then that just wouldn't have fit with the message they wanted to get out. My Ashcrotch disclaimer: There is no personal info on my part here but then it's also true.
Evergreen? Your zip reminded me of it. nmcritmass
Aug 10, 2003 4:42 PM
If it walks like a duck........TWD
Aug 8, 2003 4:19 PM
I'd say eco-terrorism is in fact terrorism.

Using violent and desctuctive methods as a deterrent against a certain activity sounds like terrorism to me.

Those that go out and spike trees or do other forms of eco-terrorism are not ignorant of the possiblity that someone may get hurt or possibly even be killed.

My wife has worked at biotechnology labs at three different universities and for two large corporations. She does genetic research on trees. Each of these labs has been subject to the threats and actions of eco-terrorists. A bomb was planted at one of them, which was luckily diffused before it went off, and numerous instances of vandalism occurred. There are at least two other labs who do similar work at other universities that were completely destroyed by similar groups. University of Washington was one, can't remember the other one.

The basic MO of these groups is to go in late at night "when noone is around" and set a fire or plant a bomb. It's all harmless right? It's just property damage. Nobody is there at night. Bullsh!t!!!!! Anybody that has attended or works at a university can tell you that Grad students and researchers work all hours of the day and night. Not to mention the janitors and security staff that are in these buildings at night. The fact that noone has been killed or seriously injured is only blind luck. Oh well, just collateral damage.

The ironic thing is, the focus of my wife's research has dealt with sterilizing genetically modifed trees so that they can't spread and mingle with native populations, and to find ways to make trees used for pulp and paper to grow quicker and more efficiently in plantations in order to reduce the need to go out and harvest trees in natural forests with sensitive habitat.

So, I sound like some right winger eh? Not really, I'm actaully an environmental engineer. My job is to find ways to clean up haz waste sites, deal with environmental permitting issues, minimize pollution etc..... I probably do more good for the environment in one week than these activist types do in their whole lives. Their ignorance irks me quite a bit.

I ride my bike to work every day, year round, rain or shine. I live in an area where there are tons of environmentalist types. I see them every day. Most of them driving around town in an ancient VW bus with no emissions controls, spewing out choking black smoke. You know the ones, all plastered with bumper stickers touting their causes.

I have strong feelings about protecting the environment, but instead of joining some mindless group of idiots out vandalizing things, I chose to go out and educate myself and go into a career that actually backs up my beliefs.

And these people are supposed to be the elite of the socially aware and enlightened. What can't come up with a better solution than violence?

As long as "terrorist" is the new buzzword, all we need to really concern ourselves with is getting motorist who threaten cyclist labeled as terrorists.

My $0.02
If it walks like a duck........critmass
Aug 10, 2003 4:39 PM
Not being an apologist for ELF/ALF activities and this being the Internet in Ashcrotch times and putting your histrionics aside, I will just say the ELF/ALF direct actions, by design, respect life. I'll also say the Earth First and others were working with honesty and integrity in building opposition to the destruction of the Vail Two Elk Roadless Area and that ELF's senseless direct action there did nothing to stem the duplicity and greed of Vail Resorts Inc. What's really sad is that one fire gave more attention to lynx habitat issues than 5 years of legal work.
Smoke belching V.W. van's is such a quaint stereotyping. Is that kinda like saying everyone in or sympathetic to the Patriot Movements drive smoke belching, beat up, yellow 1997 Mercury Grand Marquis's with no license plates? But then that car was driving away from Oklahoma City and an action that was designed to take lives. Why is it that organizations like the clinic bombing, doctor killing Army of God and the murderous Christian Identity Movement aren't called anti-choice or race or better yet Christian Terrorists. Could it be that in the U.S. to get the full attention and persistence of Congress, the Corporate Media, the F.B.I. and the B.A.T.F. and to get your very own ‘eco-terrorist' name you have to be a large movement that, unfortunately, also has a very small group of specialistic anarchist kids doing economic damage to multinational agrochemical companies like Monsanto and corps like Exxon and Boise Cascade. I'll say it once more: whosoever defines the language controls the issue.
If you are interested in what real proactive and concerned environmentalists are doing attend a conference like the annual Public Interest Environmental Law Conference at the University of Oregon. You'll also see many efficient, low emission cars in the parking lot that were driven there by some of the most radical activists out there.