Saturday, November 15, 2008

civil disobedience is a terrorist threat

My post about the Observer's eco-terrorist article was a hasty on-the-day response.

On reflection, there are other things in it that should be examined, and some really interesting new information about the British military commander who appears to have really written the piece.

I've just posted a new thing that covers all that over at UK Watch called Civil Disobedience Is A Terrorist Threat.

[No comments on this post - the place to leave them is over at UK Watch]


UPDATE 2 APRIL 09: As UK Watch is offline, I'm republishing the posts from there on their poInter-posts here.



We’re used to the right wing media lying about activists. But last Sunday the lefty Observer ran an article titled ‘Police warn of growing threat from eco-terrorists: Fear of deadly attack by lone maverick as officers alert major firms to danger of green extremism’.

Officers from a specialist unit dedicated to tackling domestic terrorism are monitoring an eco-movement called Earth First! which has advocates who state that cutting the Earth’s population by 80 per cent will ease pressure on other species.

Firstly, just to be clear, the unit is not about terrorism. The unit themselves say

NETCU provides the police service of England and Wales and other enforcement agencies with tactical advice and guidance on policing domestic extremism and associated criminality.

And what is ‘extremism’?

The term ‘domestic extremism’ applies to unlawful action that is part of a protest or campaign. It is most often associated with ‘single-issue’ protests, such as animal rights, anti-war, anti-globalisation and anti-GM (genetically modified) crops.

The front page of the NETCU site shows some cops standing around in front of a demonstration of people dressed as clowns.

So it’s not terrorist stuff in any real sense, it’s just protests. Already there’s exaggeration of the threat.

But what about the extremists who say ‘cutting the Earth’s population by 80 per cent will ease pressure on other species’? Given this one allegation is what the Observer hang their whole article on, it’s peculiar that there is not verbatim quote. Surely, if such a statement existed on a blog or in a newsletter somewhere, they’d be quoting it and naming the source.

But whatever, it is not an extremist position. It’s an irrefutable fact. Whether you think there should be such a reduction is another thing, but the statement itself is incontrovertible.

Even if you do think there should be population reduction, it doesn’t mean you believe there should be some sort of random cull, which – by linking it with the word terrorism and all the images that conjures in your mind – is what they’re trying to imply.


By the same token, when the Conservatives say there are too many obese people it doesn’t mean they’re wanting to cull the 20% or so of Britons who are overweight.

But can we rule out that a ‘lone maverick’ in the Conservative party is not planning to carry out an act of lardo-terrorism? Should NETCU be outside Conservative party meetings taking photos and notes (as they are at Climate Camp ones)? The Conservative party is clearly a lardo-terrorist hotbed, and even though – like Earth First! – there’s no policy or any indication they want to do anything terrorist, they certainly have the ability and might be planning it at this very moment.

We’re told that Earth First!

has links to US environmental extremists which have waged a campaign of violence in America, including the firebombing of a string of 4×4 car dealerships in California in 2003 and alleged arson attacks on other property

and that

green extremists have yet to embark on an orchestrated campaign of violence in the UK

Yet the only ‘violence’ they can list from US environmentalists is damage to property. In the UK, Earth First! has been involved with similar damage to property across the country for nearly 20 years.

But if that were pointed out – a campaign of property damage that hasn’t hurt anyone – it wouldn’t seem like a new and terrorist threat.

This malleability of definitions, fudgy thinking and ignorance of fact run through the whole article. That’s because it’s not there to inform in a real sense but to establish an undefined unease, to sow in the public mind a feeling that there are terrorists in the green movement so that reasonable people who share green concerns are discouraged from joining in. Then when, at some time in future, greens are treated as terrorists nobody will complain.

In the meantime, it serves to defuse this burgeoning movement. If you make the radical end seem scary and liable to imprisonment then the more moderate activists will seek to distance themselves.


Incidentally, if you want a campaign of genuine violence in the USA, try anti-abortionists. They too do major property damage, but also have a long history of murdering doctors, nurses and receptionists.

There are also anti-abortion groups in the UK, they also intimidate people and blockade places, therefore they also counts as ‘domestic extremists’. They too could harbour a ‘lone maverick’ who wants to kill. So why aren’t they a NETCU target?

Because action on ecological issues, especially climate change, has such huge public support and scientific backing that is rapidly growing and so represents a threat to government policy and corporate profit, whereas anti-abortionists do not. This repression is a measure of the environmental movement’s success and power.


It’s not the first piece of terror-threat tosh Mark Townsend has written. Last week he did a piece which opened by telling us that

suspected terrorists have attempted to infiltrate Britain’s top laboratories in order to develop weapons of mass destruction.

Yet his own second paragraph say that’s not true, only that MI5 and MI6 ‘believe’ their suspects were attempting it.

It turns out that there’s a stringent MI5 vetting scheme for students that has turned away 100 people. People the article describes as ‘potential terrorists posing as postgraduate students’.

You, dear reader, are a potential terrorist. And anything you declare yourself to be is something you are posing as. So, for example, the driver of the train I was on yesterday could be described as a potential terrorist posing as a train driver.

What is all this guff about? Surely nobody would lie about WMD to create false impression of threat and thereby have an excuse to commit extreme acts that the public wouldn’t otherwise allow, would they?

It seems as though Townsend has a hot new contact in the security services who’s taking advantage of his gullibility and feeding him this cack.

Where is he getting it from? Well, the co-author of the eco-terrorist piece is Nick Denning. Flash back a year and, as Ian Bone spotted, Townsend was an embedded reporter in Afghanistan. The British military commander showing him round was a man by the name of Nick Denning.

Two weeks running Townsend’s written vacuous scare stories of threats, plants that are seemingly straight from the spooks, taken at face value, without checking sources. He clearly hasn’t looked into EF!, or even talked to coppers who’ve actually dealt with EF!.


Earth First! is not a shady new organisation. In fact, it is none of those three things.

It is, as is said on pretty much every publication and website under the name,

not a cohesive group or campaign, but a convenient banner for people who share similar philosophies to work under.

Earth First! has been going since the early 90s. The anti-roads and anti-GM direct action campaigns were aligned with Earth First!.

Earth First!‘s public presence in the UK is a couple of websites, a newsletter and an annual conference in the summer, open to all and attended by about 200 people. All of this is well known to the police and not news. This year’s summer gathering only got police attention in the form of a perusal to see that it was complying with its events license. Which it was.

The general principles behind Earth First! are non-hierarchical organisation and the use of direct action to confront, stop and eventually reverse the forces that are responsible for the destruction of the Earth and its inhabitants.

At a time when government and corporations have proven themselves utterly incapable of responding as science and nature so urgently demand, when figures as mainstream as Al Gore are calling for civil disobedience (which makes him, by NETCU’s definition, an extremist) such action is not only justified but essential.

Conflating terrorism, extremism and anything criminal would be risible if it didn’t raise the spectre of the state meting out the same treatment to all three activities.