The world becomes a sum of lifeless artifacts; from synthetic food to synthetic organs, the whole man becomes part of the total machinery that he controls and is simultaneously controlled by. He has no plan, no goal for life, except doing what the logic of technique determines him to do. He aspires to make robots as one of the greatest achievements of his technical mind, and some specialists assure us that the robot will hardly be distinguishable from living men. This achievement will not seem so astonishing when man himself is hardly distinguishable from a robot. ~ Eric Fromm, The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness, 1973
I recently watched the documentary film If A Tree Falls…, a film which documents the activities of the ‘Earth Liberation Front’ in North America.
For those of you coming in late, the ELF was a name first adopted by a handful of environmental militants in the UK in the early 1990s, barbarians who decided to sabotage various industrial projects they believed were especially harmful to the (natural) environment. Closely allied with and taking its inspiration from the Animal Liberation Front (ALF), in the mid- to late-1990s the term crossed the Atlantic and also began to be used by small circles of friends in the north-western United States.
In the US, the naughty elves’ efforts to monkey-wrench parts of the industrial Juggernaut brought them some small reward — in 2002, the FBI estimated that “the ALF/ELF have committed more than 600 criminal acts in the United States since 1996, resulting in damages in excess of 43 million dollars” — and sparked a massive effort by the US state to halt the movement and terrorise radical environmentalists into submission. Thus, having declared in 2001 that the ELF was Domestic Terrorist Enimy Number One, a so-called “Green Scare” was inaugurated by the FBI. Since that time, under the rubric of The War on Terror, police campaigns like ‘Operation Backfire’ have been supplemented by numerous other punitive state actions, reinforcing existing efforts to curb the growth of social movements in opposition to capitalism, war, animal abuse and environmental destruction.
If A Tree Falls… focuses on the trials and tribulations of one elf in particular, Daniel McGowan. In June 2007 Daniel was sentenced to 7 years in prison. Currently, he is being held at a Communications Management Unit in Terre Haute, Indiana, having been found guilty of arson, property destruction and conspiracy and declared a “terrorist” by the US state. (Note that the term ‘eco-terrorism’ was apparently coined in 1983 by Ron Arnold in an article for Reason magazine. See : “Ecoterrorism”?: A Critical Analysis of the Vilification of Radical Environmental Activists as Terrorists (PDF), Rebecca K. Smith, Environmental Law, Vol.38, No.2, 2008.)
Daniel has thus become one of over a dozen people to be convicted of crimes of ecological passion, a majority of whom eventually agreed to become state informants (including Chelsea Gerlach, Jennifer Kolar, Stanislas Meyerhoff, Lacey Phillabaum, Suzanne Savoie, Kendall Tankersley, Darren Thurston and Kevin Tubbs) in order to lessen their sentences. On June 14, 2011 they were joined by former non-cooperating defendant Brianna Waters. In addition to Daniel, just a handful of alleged and convicted saboteurs — Nathan Block, Marie Mason, Eric McDavid, Jonathan Paul and Joyanna Zacher — remained ‘non-cooperative’ upon arrest and prosecution. Most recently, on December 20, Justin Solondz pleaded guilty to arson and conspiracy charges. A handful of other alleged saboteurs — Joseph Dibee, Josephine Overaker, and Rebecca Rubin — remain at large, and the FBI is offering a reward of up to $50,000 each for information leading to their arrest.
While the FBI naturally credits their own I.N.T.E.L.L.I.G.E.N.C.E. for the successful prosecutions, the film makes it plain that it was the decision by one member of the extended family, Jacob Ferguson, to betray his comrades that was the principal cause of the downfall of this particular clan of elves. Be that as it may, relying upon its ability to exploit such vulnerabilities is a tactic with obvious flaws, and the state has devoted considerable resources to the infiltration of police agents into radical circles and social movements. In the US, a small number of these agents, such as “Anna”, have gone public, while in the UK police have been both fucking over — and fucking — activists for some years, their actions now the subject of legal proceedings (cases which bear no small resemblance to that of Rob Gilchrist in Aotearoa/New Zealand; in which context, see also : October 15th Solidarity).
In addition to infiltration and disruption of (radical) social movements and social movement organisations, US governments and US government agencies have utilised the provisions of “anti-terrorist” legislation, in particular those relating to sentencing, to crush eco-saboteurs. Although not resulting from this enhanced judicial framework, perhaps the most egregious example of disproportionate punishment is Jeff ‘Free’ Luers, who in 2001 was sentenced to 22 years and 8 months imprisonment for setting fire to a number of vehicles with damages amounting to $30-40,000. (After a successful appeal against his sentence, Jeff was freed in December 2009.) The threat of life imprisonment for ecotage has placed enormous psychological pressure on those accused of such acts, and few if any actions have been claimed on behalf of the ELF since the Scare took hold. Still…
Finally, filmmaker Franklin Lopez will be touring Australia in January and February 2012 to promote END:CIV and to encourage further discussion on developing alternatives to and resisting the encroachments of industrial civilization on The Environment.
Or something like that.
You can listen to a recent interview with Franklin whenever Dr. Cam gets around to uploading it on to the interwebs… meaning: soon(ish).