Archive for April, 2010

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A European Perspective

Earlier this month we had a visit from Rainer Hasters, the executive director of RIAS Berlin, a commission dedicated to the binational understanding of broadcasting in Germany and the United States.  Rainer came to the class to give us a perspective on coverage of news in Europe.
Rainer Hasters (right) with Ambassador William R. Timken Jr. – Chief of the Diplomatic Mission of the United States of America

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Ilias thoughts on Terrorism in film

Unfortunately, Ilias did not see Hurt Locker or any other film focusing on terrorism but here are his brief thoughts on the matter. The conversation was necessarily cut short because it was 4am his time.

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Ilias’s view of Munich

This is the conversation Ilias Kiritsis and I had concerning the bombing of the Munich Olympics in 1972

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War on terrorism with Nhung Nguyen

On the topic of the war against terrorism that the U.S. is the pioneer, I interviewed my pen pal Nhung Nguyen to gain an understanding of her perspective on this war. The conversation is as follow: Read more

News media in Vietnam

Recently, my pen pal and I had a conversation regarding some current media events related to terrorism. In the U.S., everyday, there are new coverage of stories all over the world in different locations. I classify myself as a light viewer, who spend less than two hours per week in front of the television screen. However, I could hardly omit the news each time turning on the television with so many choices of different news channels: CNN, BBC, Fox, MSNBC, etc. And everyday, there is a most current event get covered on television: American soldiers shooting innocent civilians caught on camera, unrest in Iran, etc. Read more

Eco Terrorism paper

Eco Terrorism

            Eco-terrorism is defined by the FBI as “the use or threatened use of violence of a criminal nature against people or property by an environmentally-oriented, sub-national group for environmental-political reasons, or aimed at an audience beyond the target, often of a symbolic nature.”  Eco-Terrorists utilize direct action.  This is politically motivated activity undertaken by individuals, groups, or governments to achieve political goals outside of normal social/political channels. It can include nonviolent and violent activities which target persons, groups, or property deemed offensive to the direct action participant.  Direct action has been advocated by anarchists, in particular, green anarchism groups.        Eco-Terrorist’s direct actions are referred to as “Ecotage.”  The term is only applied for actions of sabotage committed within the context of the environmentalist movement.  Some forms of Ecotage include, arson, even bombing, and tree spiking, which involves hammering a metal rod into a tree trunk in order to discourage logging.  All these methods are used to illicit fear and even, at times, injure the perceived “enemy” of the eco-terrorists.  The Sierra Club and PETA are considered environmental activist groups, yet lie in a grey area, not quite considered to be eco-terrorists.  While the Sierra club takes a non-violent stand, PETA is rarely violent, but creates disruption in society.

            Eco-terrorism may not get as much attention from the news media as suicide bombers or al-Qaeda, but they do make headlines, they are handled somewhat differently. News reports generally make a clear distinction between eco-terrorists and terrorists as we traditionally think of them. The use of the word “eco-terrorist” rather than just “terrorist” demonstrates this perceived dichotomy between the movements.

            Like other terrorists, the eco-terrorists have been loosely described by stereotypes. In one Fox News report, the reporter refers to them as “college dropouts” and “brainwashed”. He also appeared baffled by their radical concern for animals and the environment. While the eco-terrorists’ motives and ideals may not always be taken seriously, the threat the group’s pose certainly is. Many news organizations have stories that quote the FBI calling eco-terrorists the number one domestic terror threat. They also highlight the how eco-terrorists are becoming more violent and beginning to target humans more frequently in their attacks. Another recurring fact is that these are domestic terrorists, which in many ways makes them more difficult to combat for counter-terrorist groups. 

The Unabomber

            The most renowned of all eco-terrorists; the Unabomber has fallen into the category of either independently working madman or political and industrial revolutionary. It is a classic case of the media and the public’s perceptions forming an individual either into a freedom fighter or a terrorist.

            The political agenda of the Unabomber, or Theodore Kaczynski, was to stop the takeover of technology in today’s society. He believed that we are slowly losing our humanity and giving up our freedoms to technology, ultimately ending in the controlling of all aspects of our life by computers and machines. He contributed to this goal by bombing multiple targets from 1978 to 1995.

            His agenda was published in his manifesto; “Industrial Society and its Future”. Ted did this by writing both the Washington Post and the New York Times promising a cease to his campaign of mail bombings in return for the publication of his manifesto. Both newspapers acquiesced to his demands in the spirit of public safety, and so, in 1995 the Washington Post published his 35,000 word paper as an 8 page attachment to the news.

            Fortunately, printing his essay lead to the arrest of the Unabomber. The manifesto was published under the guise of FC, or Freedom Club, the fake organization that Kaczynski created to throw off the FBI.  Kaczynski’s brother, however, was able to identify his work, and reported this to the police, leading to the arrest of the Unabomber in his Montana cabin.

Green Peace, Earth First and Sea Sheppards

            From meager beginnings in 1970 to protest nuclear testing off the coast of Alaska, Greenpeace has turned into a worldwide movement towards environmental protection. As self-described “non-violent protesters”, the group has pushed a non-violent agenda since its inception and has even distanced themselves from radicals like Paul Watson, the founder of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. In recent years, Greenpeace members have been arrested for things like damaging power plants, boarding ships, and interrupting operations at places like logging camps and factories. The group encourages non-violent confrontation as a form of direct action.

      Out of a similar vein as Greenpeace came Earth First! Formed in the southwest United States in 1979, the group felt that environmental groups had bought into mainstream ideas. Using a more radical approach then Greenpeace, Earth First! members became notorious for using tree spiking as a form of direct action. The groups website calls for the use of “all the tools in the toolbox”, including sabotage of equipment.

            The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society spawned from a falling-out between Greenpeace and Paul Watson. Watson differed from Greenpeace in that he desired more extreme action in defense of the environment. The Sea Shepherds have become famous for intervening in whaling, sealing, and fishing operations around the globe. Tactics recently have included the use of stink bombs, boarding of ships, and ramming or ships. The groups website includes a history of encounters with ships they deem “illegal” and talks of ramming and scuttling incidents. Recently Watson has come under attack from the Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador Danny Williams, who called him a “terrorist.” 

Eco Terrorism in the Media

            The mass media is a powerful tool to both gage popular opinion on a matter and to determine the frame by which the public is fed information. Researchers claim that “The mass media is an important factor to consider when evaluating current political phenomena because it provides a filter through which the ordinary American receives news of what is happening in the world” (Smith, 2008). On the issue of eco-terrorism, two mass media productions prove particularly insightful: the Animal Planet series Whale Wars, and the 2010 box office hit Avatar.

            Whale Wars follows one ship, the Steve Irwin, and its crew of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society members as they combat whaling on the high seas. Their target: Japanese whalers. The Sea Shepherd is set out to stop the Japanese from practicing what they deem in violation of international law after “Japan withdrew its opposition to the International Whaling Commission’s (IWC) moratorium on commercial whaling” and subsequently launched its large-scale “scientific whaling program” designed to resume commercial whaling with “set, sustainable limits” (Whaling, 2010). The Sea Shepherd claims it uses “non-violent, direct-action tactics to thwart whaling activity” (Let Your Voice Be Heard, 2010). Ironically, Captain Paul Watson, founder of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society simultaneously claims that ”You don’t beg criminals to stop doing what they’re doing. You intervene, and you physically and aggressively shut them down” (Genzlinger, 2008). Interestingly, it’s this same “confrontational style” that resulted in Watson being kicked out of the organization he co-founded, Greenpeace (Genzlinger, 2008). Critics also disapprove of the Sea Shepherds aggression, going as far as to label them eco-terrorists. The members of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society are, “in the opinion of some of their detractors, eco-terrorists: a band of self-appointed warriors determined to stop the killing of whales” (Genzlinger, 2008). Among these detractors is Japan, who claims “the direct-action tactics of Sea Shepherd are illegal, in essence a form of eco-terrorism” (Whaling, 2010). In addition, one critic turns his comments against the aggressive tactics of the Sea Shepherd towards the existence of the show on television, saying “So what is the problem with [the show] Whale Wars? The problem is that it is cheap exploitation in praise of what is nothing less than eco-terrorism. It is the glorification of vigilantism on the high seas” (Spilman, 2009).

            Though the crew of Steve Irwin may be well-intentioned, it seems obvious to most that its tactics do cross the line of appropriate activism into the realm of terrorism. However, less obvious is the recent movie Avatar, with its eco-terrorism message hidden under layers of sensational graphic effects and fantastical fictional characters. As one reviewer summarizes and concludes,

“The story line in Avatar is simple: Humans invade the pristine planet Pandora with the intent to take all its natural resources for profit. […] Pandora is inhabited by primitive tribes of the Na’vi race (akin to the “Elves” of the Earth Liberation Front) who are in touch with nature and their “mother” planet, [and who are] fighting against those who would take that which lies above or below our planet’s surface.” (Swier, 2009)

Upon evaluation, Swier claims that,

Avatar is pure eco-propaganda designed to subtly and not so subtly force the environmentalist agenda on us all. […] This movie justifies the use of force against companies dedicated to finding, mining and processing natural resources. […] Avatar is the celebration of and a recruiting tool for ELF, ALF, Greenpeace and the Sierra Clubs around the world. […] Avatar is the perfect eco-terrorism recruiting tool” (Swier, 2009).

Avatar subtly dupes its viewers into jumping on board the eco-bandwagon – something that is increasingly easy to do in our society of “green” minded individuals – and endorses violent action as necessary means to combat the demonized “earthly-infestation” – the human race. And, this result is not entirely un-intentioned. When asked during and Entertainment Weekly interview to comment on the critique that “Avatar is the perfect eco-terrorism recruiting tool,” director James Cameron replied “Good, good. I like that one. I consider that a positive review. I believe in eco-terrorism” (Van Der Galien, 2010).

            How can the word “terrorist” be so negatively viewed when in the context of Islamic extremists, but be so “cool” when applied to eco-extremists? Is this a case of the ends justifying the means? Clearly, while the eco-terrorism tactics of those onboard the Steve Irwin are highly criticized, the same message being told through the lens of science fiction in Avatar is celebrated by the director and fans.

            As attacks become more frequent and violent, expect more media coverage on eco-terrorists to increase. Part of the reason for the escalation of violent rhetoric and tactics is that the movement feels it hasn’t made a drawn enough attention or sparked the political change they had hoped for. As James Inhofe, a Senate committee chairman stated, “Just like al-Qaeda or any other terrorist organization, ELF and ALF cannot accomplish their goals without money, membership and the media.

Works Cited

14, Mar. “Biggest Domestic Threat: Eco-terrorism.” Southwest Farm Press | Timely, Reliable Information for Southwest Agriculture | Cotton Farming, Peanuts, Grains, Soybeans, Livestock, Biofuels, Farm Publications, Ag Magazines. Web. 27 Apr. 2010. <http://southwestfarmpress.com/mag/farming_biggest_domestic_threat/>.

“BBC NEWS | Americas | Eco-warriors Are ‘US Terror Risk'” BBC NEWS | News Front Page. Web. 27 Apr. 2010. <http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/4561059.stm>.

Chase, Alston. A Mind for Murder: the Education of the Unabomber and the Origins of Modern Terrorism. New York: W.W. Norton &, 2004. Print.

“FBI: Eco-Terrorism Remains No. 1 Domestic Terror Threat – Local News | News Articles | National News | US News – FOXNews.com.” Breaking News | Latest News | Current News – FOXNews.com. Web. 27 Apr. 2010. <http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,343768,00.html>.

“FBI Increases Reward for Suspected Eco-terrorists – CNN.com.” CNN.com – Breaking News, U.S., World, Weather, Entertainment & Video News. Web. 27 Apr. 2010. <http://www.cnn.com/2008/CRIME/11/19/fbi.ecoterrorism/index.html?iref=allsearch>.

FC. “Industrial Society and Its Future.” Washington Post [Washington D.C.] 22 Sept. 1995. Print.

Genzlinger, N. (2008, November 7). Television Review ‘Whale Wars’; Hunting The People Who Hunt The Whales . The New York Times. Retrieved April 25, 2010, from http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9C01E1DD1E3FF934A35752C1A96E9C8B63&scp=1&sq=%22whale%20wars%22%20Neil%20Genzlinger&st=cse

Let Your Voice Be Heard : Whale Wars : Animal Planet. (n.d.). Animal Planet . Retrieved April 25, 2010, from http://animal.discovery.com/tv/whale-wars/voice/

McFadden, Robert. “Manifesto Distributed; Times and Washington Post Yield to Bomber’s Demand.” Washington Post [Washinton D.C.] 24 Sept. 1995. Print.

Smith, R. K. (n.d.). “Ecoterrorism”? A critical analysis of the vilification of radical environmental activists as terrorists – page 14 | Environmental Law. BNet. Retrieved April 25, 2010, from http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_hb3153/is_2_38/ai_n29440361/pg_14/?tag=content;col1

Spilman, R. (2009, June 5). Richard Spilman: Whale Wars – Eco-Terrorism as Reality TV. Breaking News and Opinion on The Huffington Post. Retrieved April 25, 2010, from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/richard-spilman/whale-wars—eco-terroris_b_211993.html

Swier, R. (2009, December 20). AVATAR – Recruiting Film for Eco-terrorists? | Red County. Red County. Retrieved April 25, 2010, from http://www.redcounty.com/avatar-recruiting-film-eco-terrorists/35036

Van Der Galien, M. (2010, January 17). James Cameron: ‘I Believe In Eco-Terrorism’ | NewsReal Blog. David Horowitz’s NewsReal Blog. Retrieved April 25, 2010, from http://www.newsrealblog.com/2010/01/17/james-cameron-%E2%80%98i-believe-in-eco-terrorism%E2%80%99/

Whaling: Controversy and Questions : Whale Wars : Animal Planet. (n.d.). Animal Planet. Retrieved April 25, 2010, from http://animal.discovery.com/tv/whale-wars/whaling/

“YouTube – CNSNews.com’s Jeff Golimowski on FNC’s “America’s Newsroom”” YouTube – Broadcast Yourself. Web. 26 Apr. 2010. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tUcPsJ9ffSA>.

Mike Boettcher in Oklahoma

When I first agreed to go on the trip to Oklahoma City I must admit I was rather taken off-guard. It was a last minute opportunity that came up and I had a very short time to either accept or refuse, literally only an hour. I was apprehensive all the way up to our first encounter; it was with Mike Boettcher, ex-NBC and CNN correspondent.

                To hear about his war stories and learn about his past experiences were shocking, least of all because he has such an unassuming character about him. For being one of the top foreign correspondents alive today, having survived all manner of dangerous assignments he has none of the bravado you would expect. When he began regaling us with his exploits you could tell that none was needed, the truth was far more fantastic and needed no embellishment.

                As we were in a conference room at the Oklahoma City memorial it only made sense for him to begin with his close ties to that fateful day. It “happened in my hometown” he said, “I thought we were immune.” While he was not living in Oklahoma at the time his news bureau flew him out minutes after the bomb had detonated. “The smell of death…in my hometown stuck with me forever.”

                Mike was also one of the few reporters who had the opportunity to interview Timothy McVeigh after his capture. It was a preliminary interview to see who would get the final sow that would air on television. It was not too long into the interview that Mike was able to see the hatred and anger in McVeigh’s eyes, after which Mike reasoned that there is no way McVeigh’s lawyers would ever allow him t be put on camera. Once he realized this, Mike used the rest of the interview to grill the man who brought destruction and chaos to his hometown. What he left with was an unsettled feeling that his “gut tells me other people were involved.”

                The rest of the conversation revolved around the realm of international terrorism. The stories he related are enough to raise the eyebrows of even the most jaded of listeners. Unfortunately, I was asked to keep silent on these stories. Fortunately, the reason why is because Mike is in the process of writing a book to recount some of his endeavors.

                Needless to say, within the first hour of the Oklahoma City trip I was immediately glad that I came. It was a once in a lifetime experience that I will always be grateful to ASU and Dr. Bill Silcock for allowing me to enjoy.  On a trip to a state I never thought I’d go to, I came back with stories that I never thought I’d hear. You cannot ask for a better education than that.

PenPal Conversation Four

I asked Idyli for more information concerning the group “The Conspiracy of Nuclei Fire.” In our previous conversation, Idyli had described the group as “motivationless” and “anarcharistic.” I wanted her to expand more on what she meant by “anarcharistic.” Surely the group had to have some grounding in motivation. I couldn’t accept that these individuals could simply engage in indiscriminate killing. However, this seems to be the case. Read more

Krygystan’s Bloody Sunday

My pen pal is from Krygystan and is currently going to the University there.  I felt that what she said in response to the attacks at the capital were really insightful and showed how so many people don’t want to believe that this type of violence happens in their country and is happening every where in the world. (I did not fix her grammar, I felt it made it more real and raw this way.) Read more

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Terrorism and the Press

This blog is an integral part of a special section of Honors 394 Spring 2010, Arizona State University. Rather than a routine history course this dynamic, interactive seminar explores the interplay between terrorism and television, and other media sources on-line and in print. 26 students and their global pen pals comprise the bloggers. We welcome all to share their opinions, pertinent observations, insights, comments, feedback. Please post in a responsible manner.