Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Getting your terrorism priorities straight

From the Science Daily blog, I have found that the FBI, galvanized by new opportunities to investigate citizens brought to them by recent events, is actively investigating terrorism--by animal rights activists.

Naturally, the FBI is getting the full cooperation of the pharmaceutical industry.

National Association of Biomedical Research, a group funded by big pharma, maintains a database of "terrorist" actions committed by animal rights extremists. So far this year, the database includes 57 instances of terrorism. They range from "filling out magazine subscription cards for executives of companies that do business with Huntingdon [an animal testing firm] to spray painting and vandalizing homes of pharmaceutical executives to stealing research animals."

Well, these actions are very reprehensible. Moreover, one animal rights nut case, Jerry Vlasak, has reportedly said it would be justifiable to kill animal-testing researchers, if they cannot be stopped any other way. Even more reprehensible.

The problem, however, as I see it, is the misuse of the word "terrorism" here, for purposes having nothing to do with protecting the public from suicide bombers. What we have instead is an instance of the Bush administration and industry propagandists using a convenient scare word to advance their own parochial goals, and in the process fucking over our freedoms, as well as skewing a rational response to _real_ terrorism. (Imagine that, one could say, with heavy irony.)

By real terrorism, I mean things like the deliberate, politically-motivated killing of large numbers of civilians to incite, well, "terror"--as opposed to imaginary terrorism, such as: the spray painting of drug company executives' houses, and subscribing chimp-research magnates to unwanted magazines. Calling the release of laboratory rats terrorism is not only a stretch, it is one with somber implications, if we look at the remedies proposed by the victims of this, um, terrorism.

The pharmaceutical industry is seeking to get our conspiracy laws broadened so the government can prosecute activists who "target individual employees or attempt to damage a company financially." Like, sending a protest email to a large retail chain complaining about a druggist who works for them refusing to fill a Plan B prescription? Like organizing a boycott of Walmart? Well, we would certainly find out, if such laws were passed.

This ongoing willingness to destroy established civil liberties, on the basis of patently insufficient reasons, unsurprisingly does not seem to be confined to business interests. The present government of this country is more than willing to carry water for these bean-counter totalitarians. John Lewis, deputy assistant director for counter-terrorism at the FBI, has gone before congress to campaign for such laws. Maybe it really the other way around: the bean-counter totalitarians are more than willing to carry water for the heavy hitters in the totalitarian thuggery department: the government that brought us Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo and a string of secret torture prisons around the world.

So. Boycott Target. Go to jail.

Thankfully, civil liberties concerns have so far kept these laws from being passed. So, keep your fingers crossed. (If I said keep your powder dry, I'd likely get a humorless visit from the FBI. Keep your figures of speech low-profile.)

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