What does the word communist mean to you? For a person born after November 1989 the word does not have the same impact to someone born before that time. Why November 1989? As a child of the Cold War I vividly remember when the Berlin Wall “fell” and how it signaled the end of the monolithic threat of the communist-bloc.
The word “communist” has lost its menace in the period of almost 25 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the subsequent dissolution of the Soviet Union. Had the countries under the yoke of Soviet dominance, including the Soviet Union itself, gone down in a violent and spastic death spiral the impression of communism may have been different. However, the relatively peaceful transition away from totalitarian communist regimes rendered the perception of communists as diabolical bad guys anachronistic.
For anyone in the United States on September 11,, 2001 or afterward a different word conjures up many of the same feelings that communist did for 1950s America…terrorist. If you want to delegitimize and place someone you oppose into a very particular kind of hell in modern America you find a way to get that person or movement labeled a terrorist.
In Will Potter’s Green is the New Red: An Insider’s Account of a Social Movement Under Siege the story is how the environmental movement, specifically those associated with animal rights, are being painted as terrorists to curtail any opposition to corporate interests.
To illustrate the issue at hand Potter uses the SHAC 7 and Operation Backfire criminal investigations and trials as prime examples.
The simplest description, short of reciting passages from the book, is that laws have been written or interpretations of laws have been changed to support the idea that protesting the activities of a commercial enterprise can be considered terrorism because it threatens the profitability of that commercial enterprise. The tentacles of the legalese are complex and Potter does yeoman’s work in laying out the convoluted logic of the supporters of such a change. Suffice it to say, activities that would be considered by a majority of humans to be nothing more than benign civil disobedience can now get a person classified as providing support to terrorists.
Consider this for a moment, none of the SHAC 7 were convicted of any violent crimes. Instead they were convicted of conspiring to promote terrorism via a raft of activities heretofore considered benign.
The two things that I find the most chilling about the book is its exposure of a burgeoning terrorism industrial complex and the zeal in which the enforcement regime has applied the change in logic to the environmental movement at the expense of focusing on groups with a history of violence.
Law enforcement agencies have discovered the “gift that keeps on giving” in terrorism. To keep the funding spigot opened these agencies need to find more threats and keep the fear alive. Fear leads to funding. Never mind that the environmental movement has a fundamental respect for life in all its forms, which is somewhat diametrically opposed to the stated objectives of most terrorists whose respect for life ends shortly outside the bounds of their perverted belief structure. This priority shift to terrorism—which does not actually represent the true threats facing most communities—is fostered by the federal government, who rains down largesse on those departments operating counter terrorism operations regardless of the efficacy or need. Much like the recent trend of police militarization, the focus on terrorism is not a result of actual threat analysis but threat marketing.
On a day to day basis the citizens of the United States face a greater threat to their well-being from drivers who are text messaging as opposed to terrorism. Yet, I do not see giant data centers being built to correlate text messaging and driving data.
The other aspect of this story that gets to me is the zeal that law enforcement has jumped on this bandwagon. It’s like some deep seated psychological need to “put the hippies in their place.” Potter points out and I want to drive home that there are a multitude of domestic groups with a history of violence and even murder who do not get the same attention as the green movement. Why? No politician is ever going to stand on the floor of Congress and ask for a law classifying anti-abortion activists as terrorists even though the actions and rhetoric of these groups makes them look like bedfellows with Hamas. Don’t believe me? Check out the chronology of murders associated with these zealots. Or, check out the arsons and bombings associated with the same. Who is the terrorist?
This is scary stuff. Take a moment out of your day and spend a little time on Will Potter’s site to get acquainted with the latest news related to the new “green scare.”