"Ecoterrorism"? A Critical Analysis of the Vilification of Radical Environmental Activists as Terrorists

By Smith, Rebecca K. | Environmental Law, Spring 2008 | Go to article overview

"Ecoterrorism"? A Critical Analysis of the Vilification of Radical Environmental Activists as Terrorists


Smith, Rebecca K., Environmental Law


  I. INTRODUCTION
 II. THE CATALYST FOR RADICAL ENVIRONMENTAL ACTIVISM
     A. Ecological Problems
     B. Rise of Environmental Legal Tools
     C. Rise of Environmental Organizations
     D. Radical Environmentalism
III. DEVELOPMENT AND USE OF THE PHRASE "ECOTERRORISM".
     A. Property Rights Group Creates the Term "Ecoterrorism".
     B. 1988 Congressional Testimony Calls Earth First! Activists
        "Ecoterrorists"
     C. Law Review Article Analogizes Radical Environmentalist Actions
        with Anti-Abortion Murders
     D. June 1998 Congressional Hearing Convened on "Ecoterrorism by
        Radical Environmental Organizations".
        1. Testimony of Congressman Frank Riggs
        2. Background Information and Context of Congressman Riggs'
           Testimony
           a. Police Reaction to Earth First! Protest
           b. Details About the Cloverdale Tree-Spiking Incident.
           c. Death of David Chain
        3. Testimony of Other Witnesses
     E. February 2002 Congressional Hearing on "Eco-terrorism and
        Lawlessness on National Forests"
     F. Industry Group Publishes Model Act: Animal and Ecological
        Terrorism Act
        1. The American Legislative Exchange Council
        2. The Model Act
     G. Senate Environment Committee Hearings on "Ecoterrorism"
        1. May 2005 Hearing.
           a. Testimony of Senator James Inhofe
           b. Testimony from Other Senators
           c. Testimony from the FBI
        2. October 2005 Hearing
     H. Statement of U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales
     I. Congress Passes the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act
 IV. EFFECTS ON ACTMSM FROM THE USE OF THE TERM ECOTERRORISM
     A. Mass Media's Frame of Reference
     B. Ownership of the Mass Media
     C. Media Acceptance of the Term "Ecoterrorism"
     D. Impacts from the Acceptance of the Term "Ecoterrorism"
        1. Increased Government Surveillance of Radical Groups
        2. Increased Penalties/Convictions for Acts of Protest
        3. Investigation of Mainstream Environmental Groups
  V. WHY RADICAL ENVIRONMENTALISTS SHOULD NOT BE BRANDED AS TERRORISTS
     A. Terrorism Means Murder, Not Property/Damage
     B. Government's Conduct Echoes a History of Stifling Political
       Dissent
        1. COINTELPRO.
        2. Infiltration/Discrediting of Radical Environmental Groups
     C. Industry Groups' Motivation is Protection of Corporate Profit,
        Not Protection of Citizens
 VI. CONCLUSION

I. INTRODUCTION

We want to destroy environmentalists by taking their money and their members.... No one was aware that environmentalism was a problem until we came along. (1) Facts don't matter, in politics, perception is reality.

Ron Arnold, Father of the Wise Use Movement and Creator of the Term "Ecoterrorism" (2)

Terrorism is anything that stands in the face of what we want to do ... people's movements of resistance against deprivation, against unemployment, against the loss of natural resources, all of that is termed 'terrorism.'

Edward Said, Columbia Professor of English & Comparative Literature (3)

In August of 2002, as I sat high in an old ponderosa pine to protest destructive logging on public lands in the Bitterroot Valley, federal agents began to cut the tree down from the top while I sat below their saw. After sawing off most of the branches, they tied one end of a rope to the trunk of the tree, and tied the other end of the rope to the bumper of a truck eighty feet below us. They would saw off a five foot section of the tree trunk, the truck would pull the rope, and the section of the tree trunk would crash to the ground. When they had cut the trunk of the tree down to where I was sitting, they lifted me into a cherry picker bucket and brought me to the ground.

Before they could take me to jail, they had to take me to the hospital. For the previous two weeks the federal agents had set up a twenty-four hour, four-person surveillance team--with four high powered spotlights--to enforce severe dehydration, starvation, and sleep deprivation upon me and my companion tree-sitter in a neighboring tree. …

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