Monday, August 18, 2014

Threatening Profits is Terrorism

"Green is the New Red,” an Insider’s Account of a Social Movement Under Siege,” by Will Potter, 2011

This impressionistic title is both a compliment and an inaccurate reference to the left-wing movements that preceded the environmentalist movement, both in scale and depth.  Potter says as much at the end of this book.  He likes the phrase because it brings the present animal rights and environmental movements into an historical context.  As they say in the factory, ‘same shit, different day.’

Potter focuses on the deeds, arrests and imprisonments of young activists in Earth First (“EF”), the Animal Liberation Front (“ALF”), the Environmental Liberation Front (“ELF”), and SHAC – “Stop Huntington Animal Cruelty,” in the period 2004 to 2011.  He himself was at one time arrested for protesting Huntington, the biggest animal torture/experimentation lab in the world, then became a journalist covering those movements.  He switches back and forth between a personal angle on the young radicals and a policy angle.

Potter traces the development of various laws aimed at stopping ‘eco-terrorism’ – a phrase that he spends much time dissecting.  The prime law was in 2006, signed by Bush II – the “Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act,” which broadened the concept of terrorism (as did the Patriot Act before it) to speech, protest and basically interfering with profits.  Adding a ‘terrorism’ charge to a crime vastly increases the sentence.  Laws such as the prohibition against taking pictures of animal cruelty in slaughterhouses in Iowa is one of its step-children.  The pharmaceutical, beauty and meat industries and other capitalist concerns that are based on the exploitation of animals lobbied for it.  It passed without notice in an almost empty Congress.  Dennis Kucinich, the vegan, could have stopped it by calling a quorum, but did not. 

The definition of terrorism, as we all know, is now so broad it includes almost anything the capitalist state wants it to mean.  One day it is possible that strikers could be charged with terrorism – as they are already accused of by Fox News.  The FBI, our political police, says it is “…use of force … against people and property…”   In internal documents, the FBI clearly thinks interfering with the economy can be terrorism. Potter traces every act by the EF, ELF and ALF and not one person has been injured or killed.  Well-planned arsons are the most ‘violent’ thing the latter two groups have done.  The longest sentence handed out was for an arson by a female animal-rights activist at a Michigan lab was 21 years.  Which might be the longest arson sentence in history!  Another couple got 13 years for burning 3 empty new SUVs – probably the longest sentence for destruction of SUVs.  Letting minks out of mink farms?  That will get you long time too.  Animal rights and environmental direct activists are normally included along with Al Qaeda and nuclear terrorists in the government’s handling of terrorism. A 2003 audit of the FBI told them they were wasting resources on the exaggerated threat of ‘eco-terrorism’ instead of white-collar Wall Street crime and native right-wing fascist groupings.  The FBI rejected the criticism.  Of course they would.  Subsequently Wall Street criminals and right-wing fascists blossomed.

The worst example of government overreach was the ‘terrorism’ indictment in 2006 of those running the SHAC website, which organized the campaign against Huntington.  SHAC was able to bring Huntington almost to its knees, getting it delisted from the NYSE and forced on to the penny stock 'pink sheets.'  Hence the counter-attack. They were never accused of doing anything illegal – only publicizing activities that were going on, and giving out information that illegal activists might have used.

Potter visits some of the prisons that these young ‘terrorists’ are sent to.  One is worse than a super-max – a secret prison inside the super-max in Marion, Illinois - where the inmates have less rights and contact than even the super-max.  Potter says this CMU prison is illegal under present law - the ACLU is suing over it.  At least a 100 ‘eco-terrorists’ are locked up, some in this facility along with ostensible Muslim terrorists as well as innocent Muslims.  One ALF activist was transferred from minimum security Sandstone to Marion without warning or reason.  The ostensible reason for these prisons is to so totally isolate the prisoners from any ‘movement.’  Which should give pause to anyone indicted who is part of ANY movement.  Is this their long-term plan for all activists? 

Most of the animal rights movement is sympathetic to anarchism.  Potter himself sees it as part of a vast ‘culture war,’ not a class war.  While he indicates that corporations are the ones twisting the government’s arms, he ultimately thinks this is for ‘cultural’ reasons.  You know, fear of a vegetarian nation.  Where we can’t wear pretty lipstick, even if it was used on dead baby rabbits.  I’d insist that this is really all about profits first.  They only use culture to enforce and protect those profits.  Stirring up the bacon eaters is an essential defense.

Potter himself does not have an overall political point to make.  He focuses mostly on animal welfare and seems to suggest that if the animal rights and environmental movements were persecuted less, and not accused of terrorism, all would be well.  Well, I will make the political point for him, and I'll focus on environmentalism.

The Republicans are right in stating that the environmental movement - which includes the animal rights movement - threatens ‘capitalism’ – especially the Republican’s immediate financial base among capitalists in the oil/gas/coal industries, and in auto, Big Pharma, Big Ag and Big Meat. The Democrats are 'more' based in ‘cleaner’ businesses – like technology and finance.  Some of the Democrats are putting their faith in 'alternative' industries – solar, wind, nuclear, ethanol, smart-grids, fracking, dike building, even aspects of localism.  This is the Goreite prescription.  However, no capitalist party wants to 'own' re-use, buying less, vegetarianism and acting quickly or drastically -  moving against the real culprits.  Oh no! Instead both support wars of intervention aimed at protecting energy and mineral supplies, or gaining more access to them, such as in Russia.

Can the Goreite prescription work?  If you believe that technology alone will solve hunger, global warming and climate change, ocean acidification, over population, species extinction, peak minerals and peak oil, then yes.  However, if this global complex of problems brought on by unplanned industrial development and a commodity-based, profit-based society seems a bit beyond the reach of a technological ‘silver bullet,’ then you might be led to believe that ‘capitalism’ itself is under threat from this direction.  And you’d be right.

Every industry involved in global warming – like the oil, gas & coal companies - should be immediately nationalized and put under workers’ control.   This includes auto and big agriculture, including big meat.  Just as the banking and mortgage industries have proven to be rogue businesses, which should have been seized during the 2008-2009 crisis.  The gradualist /’evolutionary’ method of a market-based society in which one technology very slowly replaces another is not possible in this situation.  Nor is the continued political influence of these barons of destruction. There is no other way to actually freeze the environmental train wreck in process.

Prior reviews on environmental topics – “No Local,” “The Search For What’s Left,”The Ecological Revolution,” “Foodopoly,” “Fear of an Animal Planet,” are below.  Use blog search box, upper left.

P.S. - Naomi Klein, in her new book, quotes scientists who say 2017 is 'zero year' for climate change.  After that point 2 degrees Celsius is inevitable, which will cause massive problems.

And I bought it at Mayday Books!
Red Frog
August 18, 2014

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