SMOULDERING ISSUES: Green Is The New Red

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Britches in the arms of an ALF member, with stitches removed. This stump macaque became famous when animal liberation “terrorists” raided the lab where she was being subjected to frivolous experimentation, and found her eyes had been sewn shut as a form of early maternal and sensorial deprivation. (See below) As a critical part of the establishment complex, a lot of universities work hand in glove with corporations, the military and other institutions in projects that the public would readily disallow if properly informed.

BY WILL POTTER // Dateline: “Green is the New Red: How the Bush Administration Is Using Terror Laws to Prosecute Nonviolent Environmental Activists,” Counterpunch, May 04, 2006.

A version of this article was also published by Earth First Journal and Green is the new red blog

• Reproduced here with comments from Green is New Red blog

The Red Scare was less about evidence than really great PR. Joseph McCarthy and crew flacked one word so relentlessly, so virulently, that it became a political albatross to hang around anyone’s neck. The true meaning of the word fell by the wayside: communism became a fluid brand to slap on the enemy of the hour.

Now, Green is the new Red.

The administration is slowly replacing communists lurking in every shadow with terrorists. And terrorism may become an even better brand than communism for demonizing dissent. In March, six green activists found themselves among the first victims of a new front in the War on Terror, and of an old PR game.

They were convicted on “animal enterprise terrorism” charges — that’s right, terrorism — for campaigning to shut down an animal testing lab. On June 7, they will be sentenced: two defendants face up to a year in federal prison, and others likely face five to 10 years.

Did their terrorist campaign involve anthrax? Pipe bombs? A plot to hijack an airplane? Nope. They ran a website. They posted news about the campaign — legal actions like protests and illegal actions like stealing animals from labs — and unabashedly supported all of it. Since the feds haven’t been able to catch the saboteurs, they’re now cracking down on those in the spotlight. Think red baiting, with a green twist.

The activists work with Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty, an international organization dedicated to closing Huntingdon Life Sciences. HLS has labs in New Jersey and England, and five undercover investigations have shown workers punching beagle puppies in the face, dissecting live monkeys and falsifying scientific data.

SHAC brought the company to its knees, primarily through a Wall Street level knowledge of how corporations operate. The SHAC website schools activists in business savvy: primers on investors, market makers, and pink sheets. It also lists home and work addresses for anyone doing business with HLS, from bankers on down to toilet paper suppliers.

Activists take to the streets, the phones, and executives’ homes with bullhorns, phone blockades and plenty of smart-ass, aggressive rhetoric. Illegal actions have taken place as well, ranging from crude pranks to ominous threats. It all gets posted on the SHAC website.

It worked. The lab now teeters on the brink of economic collapse, after more than 160 companies, including Marsh Inc., UPS, and Fedex, have pulled out. The New York Stock Exchange dropped HLS in 2000, and the London Stock Exchange followed in 2001.

Britches with stitches still attached.

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So how did the government do it? How was a landmark grassroots campaign turned into “terrorism”?

The government took the “you’re either with us or against us” rhetoric of the War on Terrorism, the same mentality as the Red Scare, and applied it to animal rights activists. If activists don’t prove they are “with us” by condemning sabotage, then they are clearly “against us” and one with the “terrorists.”

SHAC never tried to be in the “with us” camp. The defendants posted news of illegal actions with tongue-in-cheek commentary (think Nelson from The Simpsons pointing and laughing). Posted actions include subscribing a CEO to porno mags, setting off stink bombs in offices, and paint-stripping cars. They’re sometimes crude (calling a church and accusing a CEO that attends of fondling children) and often ominous (phrases like “we know where you live” appear in many communiqués).

SHAC put itself out on a limb by vigorously defending direct action, even as groups like the Humane Society of the United States and Sierra Club condemned underground actions to win political points. The F.B.I. then started sawing at the limb.

Take the testimony of F.B.I. Deputy Assistant Director John Lewis before a Senate committee last year. “SHAC’s overriding goal is to put HLS out of business, by whatever means necessary-even by violent means,” he said. “SHAC has used a variety of tactics… including bombings, death threats, vandalism.”

A few breaths later, though, he concedes “when these companies or individuals are threatened or attacked, it is not necessarily the work of SHAC itself.” SHAC has never been accused of any crimes posted on the website, but Lewis implies guilt for simply not condemning the perpetrators. That’s a lot like placing Americans on blacklists for not condemning communism.

He says that while “the SHAC organization attempts to portray itself merely as an information service or media outlet, it is closely aligned with these groups, as well as with the Animal Liberation Front.” By “closely aligned,” Lewis must mean ideologically. That’s another branding idea from the Red Scare toolbox: it’s risky to not condemn “eco-terrorism” (or communism), but vocally supporting it is downright suicidal.

The tactics SHAC supports don’t fit most Americans’ wholesome image of social change. The F.B.I. and biotech industries frequently note that and say something like, “It’s ok to protest, chant and leaflet, but it is inexcusable to advocate illegal actions.” Change the world, but play by the rules.

McCarthy and his cohorts would often say the same thing. They didn’t criminalize advocacy of fair economic systems: they did say, though, that some ideas-like communism- weren’t up for consideration.

The courts, though, have consistently said that the First Amendment protects even the most unconventional, commie and inflammatory speech.

For instance, the SHAC website included a lot of posturing, but it didn’t go as far as civil rights activist Charles Evers when he urged a Mississippi crowd to boycott white businesses with the words, “If we catch any of you going in any of them racist stores, we’re gonna break your damn neck.” The Supreme Court found that speech constitutionally protected.

Speech has limits, of course. In 2002, a federal appeals court ruled that the First Amendment did not protect a website called the Nuremberg Files, which posted pictures of doctors who performed abortions with their names underneath the photos, and crossed off the names of three of them as they were killed. That’s a far cry from SHAC posting a communiqué from “Pirates for Animal Liberation,” claiming responsibility for a sunken yacht that belonged to a Bank of New York executive.

Those Pirates are in murky water when it comes to their connection to SHAC-perhaps much murkier than Hollywood elite who philosophically supported communism, but didn’t advocate anything illegal. The pirates may have looked up an address on the website, or they may have used that old-fashioned listing of names and addresses: a phonebook.

Stratfor, a “global intelligence” company praised by Fortune Magazine for its research, explained it well. There are three legs to the SHAC campaign: illegal activists (the smallest group), legal activists (with signs and bullhorns) and passive sympathizers (opposed to animal cruelty, but not sure how to help). “Since there is no formal membership,” Stratfor says, “the numbers are in no way fixed — anyone can wake up tomorrow, read about SHAC on the Internet, and engage in an activity that night that propels them directly into the first tier.”

True, SHAC may inspire illegal activity, just like communists may inspire someone to pick up a gun for the Red revolution. But, Stratfor notes, SHAC’s conviction may inspire even more. “Ultimately, the conviction of the SHAC Six could serve to inspire more illegal activity, rather than less, and the trend could spread to involve larger numbers of groups and industries.” In that case, could U.S. Attorney Charles McKenna be held responsible for inciting angry environmental, antiwar and abortion rights activists?

Animal rights activists won’t be backing down from this witchhunt, and neither will Big Business. Corporations have been pushing the government to crack down on “eco-terrorists” since they lobbied to criminalize “animal enterprise terrorism” as part of the Animal Enterprise Protection Act of 1992. The SHAC case has only whetted their appetites.

Underground activists have claimed credit for more than 1,200 criminal incidents since 1990, according to the F.B.I., and there are 150 pending “eco-terror” investigations. As David Martosko of the Center for Consumer Freedom, an industry lobby group, said after the conviction: “This is just the starting gun.”

Corporations will keep the pressure on lawmakers and the F.B.I. to catch the saboteurs. And if the feds are either too lazy or too incompetent to score arrests of “eco-terrorists,” they’ll go after the next best thing- above-ground activists with the same goals, and the guts to say so. In this post-9/11 climate, evidence matters less than rhetoric and fear.

The “War on Communism” operated under similar terms. If citizens didn’t “name names,” they were clearly “against us.” Witchhunts will test the backbone of today’s social movements, just as they did 60 years ago.

It’s not enough to cowardly distance ourselves from the “eco-terrorists,” as many did during the Red Scare. That won’t protect us. It’s up to progressive activists to stand with the defendants, and say loud and clear that “terrorism” can’t be batted around in political games. Speaking out against this government smear campaign doesn’t mean we’re balaclava-wearing animal liberationists: it means we know we could be the next communists.

I mean, terrorists.

***************
ADD YOUR OWN COMMENT BELOW!

9 Responses to ““Green Is The New Red,” Counterpunch”
on 06 May 2006 at 6:14 am Kirston Otis
Very well written article. And especially frustrating to read. I had no idea that SHAC had been so successful. Actually, I had no idea their campaign existed. With so much focus on the administration’s work in Iraq, it’s easy to miss noble struggles such as this. Thank you for your work on this.

on 30 Aug 2006 at 11:36 am Gayle Dean
Thanks to Will Potter for this article. The ACLU recently filed suit saying that for political reasons, the FBI has expanded the definition of domestic terrorism to include mainstream groups who criticize government policy, i.e., groups such as Greenpeace, PETA, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, and the ACLU itself.

The bottom line is that animal-rights groups threaten big business and when mega-profits are at stake, the threat becomes political and goes all the way to the top. It’s no wonder the bulldogs of the FBI have been set upon the activists.

But when we follow the money and the special-interest politics, it is clear who has the hidden agenda and the profit-driven motivation to distort the truth. And it is not the animal-rights advocates!

Gayle Dean

on 11 Sep 2006 at 1:00 am Dominic
The animal rights wackos had beter learn when and where to leave better off alone.
The day is coming when they will be met with deadly force by trained military,instead of being able to attack some guy in his PJs in the dead of night.

They want to play hardball?
Well,just keep it up.
A few of you WILL get mown down by the Marines,and the rest of you jailed as traitors and anarchists.
Terrroist is what you are,and make no mistake,you will see the U.S. justice system from the inside out.
for about 10 years to life for each offence .
i do not think even one of you has the balls it takes to do a dime in the joint for your ‘’lofty principles’’which include genocide against the human race itself.
I hope you all take a very hard fall.
Enjoy the descent that you so richly deserve.

on 03 Oct 2006 at 7:30 pm bildad
Dominic: Just read your own post. What makes you hate animals so much? Why would you think that people who defend helpless creatures from torture and abuse are traitors and anarchists? And come on, “genocide against the human race itself”? You are the one threatening violence (which is, by the way, the legal definition of criminal assault). Try to remember what Abraham Lincoln said: “I am in favor of animal rights as well as human rights. That is the way of a whole human being.”

on 13 Nov 2006 at 10:43 pm Taking Place » Blog Archive » Congress passes legislation labeling activists as terrorists
[…] n in passing, that the existing law– the Animal Enterprise Protection Act– was used to successfully prosecute […]

on 03 Dec 2006 at 5:03 pm Elaine Vigneault » Blog Archive » Terrorist Cells
[…] u want privacy. Lest you think no one would want to spy on you, remember you are reading a terrorist’s blog, and that makes you a terrorist. *note: I’m not really a terrorist. I&#8 […]

on 11 Dec 2006 at 4:41 pm justin
its is so depressing to hear a comment like dominic’s. His responses are indicative of the kind of dog-headed and aggresive ignorance that it seem the powers that be subscribe to.

its has been said many time that when the option for peaceful revolution is taken away it encourages violence. It is unfortunate but true. I don’t condone violent means to achieve an end, but i do sympathize with those that are frustrated enough to consider it. Only because of how frustrated they must be. It has also been said most revolutionaries begin their path with nothing but love in their hearts.

Those that understand the world as one living organism made up of countless parts – realize that we all have intrinsic value. When we fail to understand this, and “other” the rest of the planet we are able to falsely remove our being from the greater whole. Under these circumstances great evils against the whole are possible, because of the ignorance of how one is related to the whole.

Animals, plants, bugs, bacteria, etc.. exist as one, have complex relationships, and are utterly interconnected. It is only the undeveloped mind that has been bread to think otherwise that does not see this.

When an animal activists says animals have intrinsic value and should not ever be taken for granted, intentionally treated with malice, or not respected they do so with great love for that animal presuppose on the belief they are deeply connected to that animal. This is the reality of human’s place in the world.

It may be a better strategy to instill this value in people than take a reactionay approach that gets oneself labeled as criminal or terrorist within a political structure that is build on the “othered” state of the natural word (which includes animals)

I have great love for you beautiful people who are working to progress our barbaric relationships with animals. Namaste

on 28 Jan 2007 at 10:19 am Nylene
Punching puppies in the face? This was filmed?
Dissecting live monkeys? Falsifying scientific data?

Why is the FBI not investigating these acts?
When the law is corrupt…it leads to violence.
That is why we are supposed to have good laws in the first place.
Now just where does it say…when the government becomes so corrupt…the people have a DUTY to have a revolution…oh yeah..on one of those “dirty old pieces of paper” as President Bush said..the Bill of Rights and the Constitution of the United States.

on 24 Mar 2007 at 1:04 pm Teresa
I feel sorry for this “Dominic.” Most people involved in the military are prone to violence, so his tone does not surprise me. I am a proud animal activist, myself. I am also a suburban housewife. I volunteer in my community quite a bit: unwanted animals, unwed mothers, the homeless and hungry. Would you consider me a “wacko?” I don’t think so. Instead of criticizing “do-gooders” such as animal rights activists, why don’t you do something positive to give back to your community.

7 comments on “SMOULDERING ISSUES: Green Is The New Red
  1. Thanks for posting this important piece that concerns everywone, not just animal defenders.
    Day after day, it’s simply disgusting how the corporate media miss or avoid the real issues. The more I read websites like this the more I realize the mainstream media are worse than useless, and this is the only form of journalism for our age.

  2. What a disgusting excuse for a human being this “dominic” is on this thread. His real moniker should be “demonic.” In sheer ignorance and bellicose imbecility he certainly has few peers!

  3. I am glad that people like Dominic write in. It means that this site, and others like it, are being read far and wide. He won’t convince anybody of his point of view, since there really is no moral center to it. Just what is he defending? Does he have stock in that company? Well I have stock in human decency, and the overarching view that justice includes not just humans, but the whole living web that is the earth. If enough of us pull together, and we become the majority, are we still terrorists?

  4. Whoa…has Dominic gone off his medication? What a seething ball of hate. Sure, I’m one of those “wacko” activists. I’m decent human being who goes out of my way to help not only animals, and, believe it or not, people too. I vote, I pay my taxes and my bills on time, and I have excellent credit for that matter. It is my privilege to help those who are weaker, and who have no voice to tell us of their suffering. So I’m the one that’s going to burn in hell? Perhaps you might try posting again when your prescription is refilled. Dominic, call your therapist NOW!

  5. The Dominics of the world abound and their hateful reactions and comments astonish anyone with a shred of compassion for the animals suffering in silence behind closed laboratory doors, but truly scary is the reaction of our government in the attempt to gag, blind and handcuff reporters of truth……that’s terrorism!

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