by William Skink
I respect people willing to put themselves physically in the way of environmental destruction because frankly I don’t have the guts to engage in direct action. I’m also pretty pessimistic about the capacity of humans to change course at this point because corruption and greed are so deeply rooted, and the tactic of divide and conquer so effective, I have a hard time seeing how the necessary changes to how we live will occur.
The Standing Rock Sioux tribe in North Dakota has been operating to protect their source of water for weeks and weeks without much media attention, but that has certainly changed recently. Getting support from celebrities has raised the profile of the protest, and now private security thugs have descended to deploy violence, sparking even more outrage:
A private security firm guarding the highly controversial construction of $3.8 billion oil pipeline turned mercenary on Saturday, unleashing vicious attack dogs against a sizable crowd of peaceful protesters — including women and children.
Members of the Standing Rock Sioux and at least 100 other Native American nations as well as activists and advocates peacefully chanted “water is life” while guards held dogs nearby to intimidate the crowd. Without warning, these security henchmen showered the demonstrators with pepper spray and released the dogs — at least six people were bitten, including a young child.
The challenge of climate change and the primacy of water for human survival on this planet is going to be an increasingly critical issue. Vast migrations are virtually guaranteed to increase as the climate becomes less and less hospitable. Even the Syrian conflict has its origins in a devastating drought that provided the catalyst for rural migrations into urban centers.
Here in Montana, the environmental movement has suffered from the divide and conquer tactic of corporate funded “collaborators” constantly bashing those damn purist “serial litigators” who have the audacity to use the courts to get the government and the private sector to follow the law. Sadly, Democrats have by far been more effective in perpetuating this divide and conquer approach to environmental activism, especially Montana’s Jon Tester.
With the refugee issue in Montana, supporters have decried the dangerous rhetoric and misinformation they claim is motivating those critical of relocating hundreds of refugees to Missoula. The Missoula Current has a piece up citing concern from the Montana Human Rights Network, which starts with this:
The Montana Human Rights Network believes the misleading and often hateful sentiments directed largely at Muslim refugees are slipping into mainstream discussions, thanks in part to the strong rhetoric cast by political candidates seeking office at both the state and federal level.
The article doesn’t specify what kind of political candidates are using the strong rhetoric, but I think it’s safe to say the concern isn’t about politicians with a “D” beside their name.
Why am I referencing the refugee issue in a post about environmental direct action? Because I don’t recall the same concern when Jon Tester used strong rhetoric with the Missoulian editorial board, stating the following about the environmentalists who opposed his forest bill:
“The work doesn’t get done on the far left and it doesn’t get done on the far right,” Tester said during a meeting with the Missoulian editorial board on Monday. “It gets done in the middle. If you look at the folks opposing this bill, they’re the extremes. Quite frankly, extremists are extremists and I don’t really care. If they’re willing to become less ideologues and more realists, then come on board.”
When I think of extremists, I think of right wingers who bomb abortion clinics and Muslim jihadists. I guess Tester thinks extremists are people who don’t agree with his triangulating tactics to get bad legislation passed into law.
And then there was the infamous and totally bullshit claim that every single logging project in Montana was being held up by litigation. Here are Tester’s exact words:
“Unfortunately, every logging sale in Montana right now is under litigation. Every one of them.”
It’s not just that Tester has spread misinformation, misinformation that those who despise environmentalists probably still believe to be true. A subsequent consequence of constantly demonizing environmentalists who use the tool of litigation to compel government agencies and private interests to follow the law is that a legitimate tool becomes negatively associated with hair-trigger obstructionism, making it more risky for the collaborators to use the same tool they criticize those “extremists” for using.
Today in the Missoulian, columnist George Ochenski has a great piece, titled When Kumbaya Fails: Collaborators Sue the Forest Service. Here’s the opening paragraph:
Ever since collaboration became the mantra for many of Montana’s conservation groups, a strange dynamic has existed that paints other conservation groups that litigate over forest projects in a very unflattering light. Called “serial litigators,” “environmental extremists” and worse, the lawsuits are often filed to protect habitat for wolverine, lynx, grizzly bears, fishers and other “non-game” species. But when it finally came down to logging and road-building projects threatening elk habitat, well, the collaborator groups finally had to realize their only option was doing what was very hard for them to contemplate – suing the U.S. Forest Service.
In the same vein, when you mock and ridicule activists, like Don Pogreba did a few years ago when it was the Keystone XL pipeline receiving the attention of direct action in the state Capitol, it makes it very hard for those of us who see Democrat apologists for what they are–partisans steeped in hypocrisy–to take them seriously.
While it wasn’t Pogreba who wrote this post about Standing with Standing Rock, it was Pogreba who wrote the following tweets (h/t Matthew Koehler):
Nothing says I am a serious protester like wearing a stylish trucker hat.
It’s always important to capture your anti-consumption protest on your smartphone so you can post it on Facebook.
Someone should definitely pick up all that shredded paper those environmentalists left behind on the floor of the Capitol. #protest
I was headed to the Capitol for the redistricting meeting but I am too allergic to patchouli and self-righteous self-promotion to risk it.
I’m just saying…I hope that the Earth Firsters keep protesting for a while in the rain.
Why would someone who identifies himself as an intelligent progressive stoop to this kind of juvenile, hippie-bashing mockery of activists taking a stand for what they believe in? It’s especially disturbing that a teacher would put out those tweets. I guess for partisans invested in electing Democrats, the ends justify the means.
But how many Democrats will be elected this election cycle when the sad reality for progressives in 2016 is, politically, they don’t matter? Those who felt the Bern have been neutralized, the effort to impact the platform was a failure, and Hillary’s transition team undermines any hope her campaign rhetoric will be followed with action.
This demoralizing reality will ensure many of the young people excited by Bernie Sanders will either stay home or vote 3rd party. With more and more Republicans, Neoconservatives, and military brass coming out for Hillary, progressives can either accept being figuratively punched in the face, and vote for Hillary, or they can vote 3rd party, becoming the perfect scapegoats if the horror of horrors happens, and Trump is somehow “elected” president.
Either way, progressives–and the environment–will lose.
*CORRECTION: I removed the term “state-sanctioned” because it was an inaccurate depiction of violence perpetuated from private security contractors.