You don't have to get past the back cover blurbs to know where "Green is the New Red" is going; they are written by Bill Ayers and Paul Watson. You don't have to read a lot of TreeHugger either, to find that a lot of people consider it to be, as one commenter said about one of my posts, "typical of leftist / marxist smearing." And although I do not cover the American political beat on TreeHugger (inappropriate as I live north of the border) I am fascinated by the Birthers and the Truthers and the craziness. But after reading Will Potter's book, I no longer think it to be just weird, it is scary. He lays out the story of how, and why, animal activists and environmentalists have been targeted and positioned as terrorists.Potter first has to define terrorism, questioning why actions such as property damage in Vail are comparable to blowing up innocent people in a public market. Why property is equated with people. He goes back to Dr. King:
I am aware that there are many who wince at a distinction between property and persons- who hold both sacrosanct." wrote Dr. King. " My views are not so rigid. A life is sacred. Property is intended to serve life, and no matter how much we surround it with rights and respect, it has no person being. It is part of the earth that man walks on; It is not man."
Tell that to the FBI. Tell that to politicians who introduced the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act, which gave "law enforcement the tools to catch eco-terrorists, and [putting] more ecoterrorists in jail will help others too, from miners to loggers to recreationists."
In other words, we are all painted with the same brush.
The book follows the arrest of the members of Stop Huntington Animal Cruelty, or SHAC. They were trying to close a New Jersey lab tested pesticides and important things like suntan lotion on mice and dogs. But it is about more than just this case of break and entry; Potter notes that government reaction to the environmental movement is completely out of proportion to the actions, describing a 2006 bulletin to Federal, State and local law enforcement agencies from Homeland Security, that:
warned about eco-terrorism like "flyer distribution" and "tying up company phone lines.... extremist tactics like "organizing protests" and "inundating comptuers with e-mails. ...Explaining the need for vigilance, the DHS warned: "Attacks against corporations by animal rights extremists and eco-terrorists are costly to the targeted company and, over time, can undermine confidence in the economy."
Potter draws a direct corelation between the treatment of environmental activists and the red scare, even to the point of titling one chapter "Are you now, or have you ever been, a vegetarian?".He complains about the use of the word terrorism:
Since September 11th, the word has been stretched and pulled and hemmed and cuffed and torn and mended to fit a growing body of political whims.
Busting into buildings to free animals being used to test cosmetics is illegal. But it is not terrrorism. That is a powerful word that is being misused and degraded; we have seen new legislation that essentially applies it to anyone with a camera near a factory farm.
Green is the New Red bills itself as "a guided tour into the world of radical activsm that tells the story of how everyday people are being prevented from speaking up for what they believe in." That is not quite accurate; they are not quite everyday people and they are doing a lot more than just speaking up. But it is a powerful expose of how civil liberties are being threatened, how big corporations put young activists behind bars. It is truly scary. And in passing, Potter gives us an interesting interpretation of why the environmental movement is such a threat to corporate power:
The animal rights and environmental movements, more than any other social movements, directly threaten corporate interests. They do so every time activists encourage people to go vegan, stop driving, consume fewer resources and lives simply. They do not advocate boycotts so much as life-changes, and the changes lives they envision do not include some of the most powerful industries on the planet.
It's not paranoia; they really are out to get us. More at Green is the New Red.