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Academic Facilitators of Eco-Terrorism By: Bruce S. Thornton
FrontPageMagazine.com | Friday, January 31, 2003


Imagine a university-sponsored conference called "Radical Anti-Abortionists: A Dialogue between Activists and Academics." Its purpose, according to one participant, is to explore "practical, political, and spiritual aspects of radical anti-abortionists." A faculty sponsor enthuses that the conference "will bring together for the first time, in a national setting, activists and academics to discuss the ethics and politics of anti-abortion activists." Responding to complaints from local abortion clinics and doctors who fear vandalism or violence from some of the attendees, the university responded that its role is "to provide a place where ideas can be freely exchanged and dialogues can occur."

Such a conference, of course, would never take place at a state university campus, and any attempt even to propose such a meeting would set off mass hysteria among faculty, administrators, and the local liberal media. Yet something similar will take place at Fresno State in February, when known advocates and practitioners of arson, vandalism, and worse will congregate for a confab called "Revolutionary Environmentalism: A Dialogue Between Activists and Academics," which has generated the statements adapted in the paragraph above.

These "activists" include members of radical environmental groups such as the Earth Liberation Front and the Animal Liberation Front, organizations responsible over the past six years for $43 million in damage to labs, ski resorts, car lots, research centers, offices, and other venues deemed to be guilty of assaulting animals and nature.

Both ALF and ELF frankly advocate acts of violence, arson, and terrorism that only by sheer luck up to now haven't resulted in people getting killed. Last year ELF's web site posted manuals such as "Setting Fires with Electrical Timers," and a communiqué announced that the group was targeting "FBI offices and U.S. federal buildings," as well as "liberal democracy" and "industrial civilization." Nor are such announcements mere bravado: ALF's representative at the Fresno conference, Rodney Coronado, spent four years in prison for burning down a lab at Michigan State. Likewise "ALF's Beginner's Guide to Direct Action for Animal Liberation" sports as its opening slogan "Devastate to Liberate," and includes instructions for making incendiary devices.

Other groups scheduled to be represented at the conference include People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, a presumably more moderate organization not usually associated with "ecotage." Yet at a conference last year, PETA's Bruce Friedrich said, "If we really believe that animals have the same right to be free from pain and suffering at our hands, then of course we're going to be blowing things up and smashing windows." Such violence, he adds, is "a great way to bring about animal liberation. I think it's perfectly appropriate for people to take bricks and toss them through the windows."

The radical environmentalists coming to campus on the state taxpayer's nickel are up front about their right to use violence to achieve their aims. Craig Rosebraugh, a former spokesman for ELF who will attend the conference, invoked the 5th Amendment when called to testify before Congress. He did answer written inquiries, and when asked if he worried over an ELF act killing someone, he replied, "No, I am more concerned with massive numbers of people dying at the hands of greedy capitalists if such actions are not taken." This explains the working title of Rosebraugh's master's thesis at Goddard College: "Rethinking Nonviolence: Arguing for the Legitimacy of Armed Struggle."

As can be seen by these statements, all these movements are clearly on a trajectory that will culminate in increasing violence against people. The Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty organization (SHAC), which has been targeting England's Huntingdon Life Sciences for testing drugs on animals, already has moved beyond arson and vandalism to death threats and physical assaults. Just like anti-abortion radicals, SHAC has posted the names and addresses of "wanted" Huntingdon employees on the web, announcing that they are "wanted for collaboration with animal torture." In February of 2001, Huntingdon's managing director was badly beaten outside his home, and the marketing director was temporarily blinded by some sort of chemical spray. SHAC's actions were applauded by other eco-radicals.

This evolution from violence against property to violence against people--terrorism----is the natural consequence of radical environmental ideology. Radical environmentalism is at heart a species of anti-humanism: it regards human beings as just another life-form inhabiting the planet, one no better than trees or dogs. Rather than "anthropocentric," they tell us, we should be "ecocentric" and make the whole of nature our ethical and moral focus. As one of the godfathers of this movement has put it, "Ecocentrism means rejecting the position that some life forms (such as humans) have greater inherent worth than other life forms." This blurring of the divide between people and animals and trees can be seen in the Disneyesque statement made by conference participant Gary Yourofsky of PETA: "What we must do is start viewing every cow, pig, chicken, monkey, rabbit, mouse and pigeon as our family members."

This position, however, has frightening implications that connect with the escalating violence employed by groups such as ALF and ELF. If humans are just one more species, if human suffering is no more significant than the suffering of a whale or owl, and if humans are threatening the integrity of the ecosystem that supports all those other species threatened by humans, then the destruction of human beings is the logical answer to this problem.

That, of course, was the conclusion reached by the Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski, whose "Manifesto" contains ideas completely consistent with those of radical environmentalists. Kaczynski, however, was ahead of his time: he carried the logic of those ideas to their conclusion: destroy those destroying the planet. Rather than an extremist aberration, Kaczynski was a harbinger of the inevitable culmination of radical environmental ideology.

What we should have learned this century is that dehumanizing people by reducing them to the merely material or natural is the first step on the road to mass murder. The Nazis, after all, didn't start with ovens. They started with ideas, then progressed to vandalism, and ended up at mass murder, each escalation making the next step easier. Radical environmentalism appears to be on a similar trajectory. It's only a matter of time before one of those fires set by activists kills people, or assassination is embraced as a legitimate tool for stopping what this movement believes is a massive assault on the earth. This would be one way to achieve what another radical group, the Justice Department, believes to be a necessary goal: "For [animal] abusers to have but a taste of the fear and anguish their victims suffer on a daily basis." That's why the group sent letters booby-trapped with razor-blades dipped in rat poison to 80 researchers and hunting guides in British Columbia. And in the Netherlands, the future is now: last year Dutch politician Pym Fortun was assassinated by animal-rights activist Volkert van der Graaf.

These are the sort of people a state university has invited to campus for "dialogue." The excuse that "ideas should be exchanged freely" is, of course, dishonest. Apart from the problem of legitimizing violence and criminal behavior by giving them a university venue, none of the invited speakers is a critic of these movements who could challenge these noxious ideas and create a genuine "exchange" and "dialogue." As usual, the "dialogue" will be between the preacher and the choir. Worse, the "ideas" selected for campus "dialogue" are those that suit the leftist ideology and prejudices of academics. You'll never have a conference that invites other proponents of violence such as anti-abortion radicals, or white supremacists, or neo-Nazis to campus so that they can "dialogue" with academics. It's no accident that the radical environmental movement is also anti-capitalist, as can be seen in Rosebraugh's use of stale cliches like "greedy capitalists," or in an ELF video's proclamation that its ultimate target is "the entire capitalist system."

Ideas have consequences, and it is the responsibility of the university to provide multiple perspectives on ideas so that those consequences and implications can better surface. To legitimize a noxious idea without those other perspectives is a betrayal of that responsibility.


Bruce Thornton is the author of Greek Ways and Decline and Fall: Europe’s Slow-Motion Suicide (Encounter Book}. He is 2009-2010 National Fellow at the Hoover Institution.


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