The Green Scare — that US government tactic of persecuting environmental and animal rights activists as terrorists — has not yet ended. While in the paranoid years since 9/11, ordinary Muslims in the US have taken pole position in terror suspect profiling, the government's draconian approach to eco-activism has not softened.
Just this week, two activists have been indicted on terrorist charges. They did not hurt any people or animals, nor did they plan to do so. Allegedly, Tyler Lang and Kevin Olliff released 2,000 mink and foxes from fur farms in the Midwest. Apparently, it is enough to disrupt corporate flows and industry to earn the label "terrorist."
This is no secret in US law. In 2006 Congress passed the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act. As Will Potter, author of "Green is the New Red," noted, this act "sweepingly targets a wide range of political activity as 'terrorism' if done in the name of animal rights." While no individual convicted or charged under the act has been found to have physically harmed a single person or animal, according to the FBI, so-called eco-terrorists caused 200 million dollars in property damage between 2003 and 2008. Property, by the letter of US law, can occupy a vaulted position of victimhood above and beyond millions of animal lives.
According to Potter, outside Lang's bail hearing an FBI agent was overheard on the phone saying, “No, he is being charged with damaging property. Not damaging animals—they are against that.” Lang was asked to post a $30,000 bond for his bail. Olliff, meanwhile, awaits his terror trial in jail in Illinois, where he was sentenced to 30 months for possessing bolt cutters in his car.
When it comes to Green Scare convictions, punishments have been as grave as the "terrorist" parlance would suggest. Take, for example Marius Mason, serving a 22-year sentence for arson and property damage aimed toward targets in the fur industry and genetically modified crop research. I repeat, no one was hurt; there were no plots to cause injury discovered. Or consider Eric McDavid, sentenced in 2008 to 20 years for allegedly planning to sabotage the Nimbus Dam with explosives. Consider that the average sentencing for violent offenses is around seven years.
There is an argument — one that I reject, for the record — that property damage is an offense deserving of time in a cell. If these activists have broken the law, some would argue, then they ought be duly penalized. It's beyond my purview here to address fully the problems of aligning that which is legal with that which is right. We know too well that what passes as legal is malleable to corporate interest and national security state mania. But we are talking about more than what is deemed illegal, we are dealing with what is named "terror." I've never seen terrified property. I've never seen a window scream, nor a broken padlock cry. I don't believe that vehicles feel pain, even when on fire; I have not seen fear in a handful of dust. It takes little more than an online glance to find evidence of animals in terror, however — although even the existence of this evidence is itself under threat.
The federal government and numerous state houses across the country have made their allegiance to factory farms clear. So-called "ag-gag" laws have gained purchase in making illegal reporting on, whistle-blowing — essentially collecting any data from within factory farms. Under the thinly veiled pretext of defending privacy (read, "private property"), ag-gag laws work to ensure that the public is removed from the vicious realities of mass meat and fur production.
The story of who gets to be a terror suspect in this country is importantly telling of the ideological underpinnings behind government policy and law. For one, it is racist. As Rick Perlstein pointed out in Rolling Stone in 2012, since 2008, "there have been 55 cases of right-wing extremists being arrested for plotting or committing alleged terrorists acts, compared to 26 by Islamic militants during the same period." Meanwhile it is entire mosques that the NYPD designated "terrorist organizations" in order to increase surveillance; it is distinguished Muslim-American leaders who get to be NSA targets.
And while policy and practice make clear that US authorities will target Muslims as an ideological enemy, it is also clear what they work to protect. It is not, to be sure, the rights of animals and humans. As victims of the Green Scare well know, property — corporate property, that is — comes first. Even John Locke would turn in his grave at the disregard for life and liberty in this equation d'Etat.
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