The FBI has grayed out Osama bin Laden on its Most Wanted Terrorists List
. Nearly 10 years after September 11, his death is clearly a historic point in the War on Terrorism and one that some have even applauded as a victory for America, for freedom. However, another legacy of September 11 endures. Next to bin Laden's photo on this list of the FBI's top terrorism threats, sandwiched between people who have murdered countless civilians, is a listing for a very different type of "terrorist": an animal rights activist.
Daniel Andreas san Diego is accused of serious, potentially dangerous crimes, including the use of explosives to sabotage two office buildings tied to a controversial animal testing company. But unlike bin Laden and the others on the Most Wanted Terrorists List, these crimes did not harm anyone.
In fact, in the history of both the animal rights and environmental movements, in the history of both mainstream and underground groups, not a single human being has been injured. Not one. Yet the FBI has labeled animal rights activists and environmentalists the "number one domestic terrorism threat." And the FBI and Homeland Security routinely omit anti-abortion extremists and other right-wing threats from its lists.
How did this happen? How did the word terrorism, which most people naturally associate with flying planes into buildings and murdering civilians, become a tool to target not only property destruction, but also non-violent civil disobedience and protests?
In my new book Green Is the New Red: An Insider's Account of a Social Movement under Siege (City Lights), I document the rise of these completely contradictory terrorism priorities, beginning with the creation of the term "eco-terrorism" by corporations and industry groups in the 1980s. Through relentless public relations efforts and theatrical Congressional hearings, they slowly began to shift public opinion. They made some gains over the years, but after September 11 everything changed. Now, what was once a fringe argument by corporations has become indistinguishable from official government policy.
I'll be talking about this issue in-depth tonight at Powell's on Hawthorne at 7:30 p.m. And as I blog here the rest of the week, I'll be highlighting some of the key issues I confronted in the book, including the power of language to automatically skew public opinion, the lack of checks and balances on government power, my own struggle with being an "unbiased journalist" versus an advocate, and the greatest danger of this terrorism rhetoric — the power of fear.