BOOKS: The War Against The Greens

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, March 1995:

The War Against The Greens, by David Helvarg. Sierra Club
Books (100 Bush Street, San Francisco, CA 94104), 1994. 502 pages,
hardback, $25.00.
David Helvarg brought to The War
Against The Greens a background as a war
correspondent in Northern Ireland and
Central America. It serves him well as he
explains how unwitting followers of Che
Guevarra organize in logged-out U.S.
forests, revering not Karl Marx but Ronald
Reagan. Their hatred of “greenies” and
“yuppies” is a paradigm of class struggle,
pitting themselves as workers against bour-
geois “preservationists,” yet they remain as
blind to their own manipulation by rich for-
eign interests as the Marxists of decades past
were to manipulation by Moscow.
The War Against The Greens lives
up to the cover promise that it will expose,
“The ‘wise use’ movement, the new right,
and anti-environmental violence,” docu-
menting a staggering number of attacks––far
more, for instance, than the mere 313 inci-
dents, more than half of them petty vandal-
ism, that the FBI attributes to animal rights
activists over the past 15 years. Many of the
anti-green attacks also go well beyond any
deed of “animal rights terrorists” in degree
of violence toward human beings. Yet
except for the apparent murder of Karen
Silkwood as she tried to expose radiation
hazards at the Kerr-McGree uranium pro-
cessing plant in Oklahoma, anti-green
attacks have rarely drawn media attention.
For example, though I interviewed Vermont
and New Hampshire Earth First!ers Jeff
Elliot, Jamie Sayen, and Michael Vernon
several times between mid-1989 and mid-
1991, following up on stories that made the
regional news wires, I was previously
unaware that all three were burnt out of their
homes by arson during the same interval.
Strangely, Helvarg ignores vio-
lence against animal rights activists––and
takes no note of the Fran Trutt case, perhaps
the best-documented example of an alleged
corporate act of false provocation in many
years. In November 1988, Trutt was arrest-
ed while placing a pipe bomb in the U.S.
Surgical Corporation parking lot. A long-
time target of protest over use of dogs in
demonstrations of surgical staples, U.S.
Surgical publicized the deed as an act of
“animal rights terrorism,” but Trutt turned
out to have only peripheral involvement with
animal rights; was given the money to buy
the bomb and driven to the site by Marc
Mead, an undercover agent for a private
security firm employed by U.S. Surgical;
and was actively encouraged in the plot
since the preceding April by Marylou
Sapone, another agent of the same firm.
Earlier, Sapone had tried unsuccessfully to
interest a variety of other animal lovers,
anarchists, Earth First!ers, and just plain
nuts in bombing U.S. Surgical.
Helvarg’s omission of this and
other animal-related cases is ultimately as
disturbing as his recitation of attacks on peo-
ple addressing land use conflicts and toxic
waste disposal. It seems to signify that the
wise-users have convinced mainstream envi-
ronmentalists to disassociate themselves
from animal people even when animal peo-
ple take the heat for environmentalist goals
and tactics, as in many conflicts involving
endangered species.
“To date the Wise Use / Property
Rights backlash has been a bracing if dan-
gerous reminder to environmentalists that
power concedes nothing without a demand,”
Helvarg concludes. “Only in the cynical
argot of Washington where ‘perception is
realtiy’ could a corporate-sponsored envi-
ronmental backlash successfully sell itself as
a populist movement. Despite an intimidat-
ing combination of local thugs and national
phone/fax guerillas, the anti-enviros lack
the broad middle, either ideologically or in
terms of real numbers.”
Yet since The War Against The
G r e e n s appeared, the anti-enviros at least
think they’ve captured Congress. Helvarg
may be right that the public will ultimately
reject Wise Use, but now it’s open season
on the Endangered Species Act. One hopes
the enviros won’t consider it as expendible
as they apparently consider the animal pro-
tection movement.
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