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The War On Eco-Terrorism Is No Big Deal

The recent indictment of 11 people for "eco-terrorism" has the environmental community all a-twitter. Right now I count 7 out of 20 posts on the front page of Gristmill, for example. The folks over there are convinced that this is evidence of a devious plot by our government to demonize environmentalism. They warn of the feds siezing despotic powers, with combatting eco-terrorism as the rationale. Dave Roberts says "It seems to me the Bush administration is using it quite crassly, for political purposes, in a manner all out of proportion to the real danger it poses."

To me, it seems that the environmental community is engaging in a bit of self-flattery here. The fact is that the recent arrest was not all that high-profile -- the major papers appear to have given it all of one story, on a Friday (the notorious slow-news day when the administration likes to release news it doesn't want people to hear). There has been no ongoing coverage, no follow-up stories, no widespread stoking of fear about environmentalists coming to burn your house down. President Bush certainly hasn't said a word about it. It sounds to me like the DOJ had one big ongoing investigation, and they're excited that they've wrapped it up.

Sure, there are threats bigger than eco-terrorism. But I've seen no evidence that tracking down ELF has diverted some major share of resources from efforts against al-Qaida or the Mafia.

Besides, what does this administration have to gain by demonizing environmentalists? It's not like greenies have been successful at thwarting any key elements of the GOP agenda (aside from the minor issue of drilling in ANWR). And insofar as the government wants to slam environmentalists, calling us over-litigious has much more traction -- and has been far more high-profile -- than calling us terrorists. The public is not predisposed to put environmentalists in the "security issues" box, but they will put them in the same category as pro-choicers, pro-marriage campaigners, personal injury lawyers, and others who do their damage through the courts.

Fear of al-Qaida and other Islamic terrorism is doing just fine in keeping Americans scared and convincing them to condone expansion of the government's power. It's attractive to think that environmentalists are being targeted by the government, but I think the much bigger threat is that we'll be ignored by the political world.


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