Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Keep CounterPunch ad free. Support our annual fund drive today!

Barbra Streisand Environmental Hypocrite


In the on-stage preamble to his song “Love Me, I’m A Liberal,” the late Phil Ochs used to describe the classic liberal as “ten degrees to the left of center when times are good; ten degrees to the right of center if it affects them personally.”

Classic liberal Barbra Streisand seems to be offering an update to the line. When a cause affects her personally, she’s fifty million dollars to the right of center.

That’s how much Streisand is demanding in a new lawsuit against the California Coastal Records Project, brainchild of environmental activists Kenneth and Gabrielle Adelman, whose California coastline website contains over 12,000 frames of the California coast shot since 2002. Streisand is also suing, the Adelmans’ ISP, and, a firm that sells high-quality prints of photos on the site.

The Adelmans, retired dot-commers formerly known for owning the largest solar electric installation in the state, have provided an absolutely invaluable resource for coastal protection activists. Shot by Ken from a helicopter flown by Gabrielle, the photos cover every inch of the California coastline other than for a few miles along the Vandenberg Air Force Base near Point Conception. The website displays the photos in an accessible, easy to search database: grassroots activists have already used the site to stop construction of illegal seawalls, track changes since historic photos were taken, and promote the natural beauty of our delicate coast. It’s one of the most innovative environmental projects ever to hit the Web, and the Adelmans offer it to the world for free.

Enter Yentl. One of those 12,000 shots of the California coast, visible here, frames her garish Point Dume estate–looking for all the world like a handful of Nantucket crackerbox houses stapled together by a drunken contractor–at a distant enough remove that her poolside chaises longue occupy about twelve pixels each. She’s claiming that the photo, one of dozens available on the web, invades her privacy, and that the rough map available on the site will encourage stalkers, who presumably have missed until now all the mentions of her address on the web, some of them with explicit directions to the estate at the end of Wildlife Road in the hoity toity Mahou Riviera section of Malibu.

It is probably beside the point to suggest this diva get over herself. We’re talking, after all, about someone whose biography on her personal website runs 3261 words sprawled across four pages. (By contrast, the official biography of United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, arguably the most important person in the world, runs one page and 1082 words.) This is not a woman who got where she is by having an insufficient sense of self-importance.

But it does seem she’s gotten some bad advice along the way. For one thing, her suit over the photo might be construed as making the photo’s republication on journalistic and diswcussion websites permissible under fair use doctrine. If she succeeds and has the photo pulled down, it’s a safe bet a hundred mirror sites will pop up that day. That photo is out and in the world now, and Streisand may as well get used to it.

More ominously, if Streisand successfully gets her photo yanked from the Adelmans’ site, a precedent will have been set. Every homeowners’ association that wants to riprap their beachfront, every rancher who’d rather not control runoff from his eroding fields, every used car dealer along Highway One will be able to launch privacy suits to shield their activities from public view.

Faultline contributor Mark Massara, the director of the Sierra Club’s Coastal program, is blunt. “It is inconceivable to me that someone who proclaims herself an environmentalist would threaten to dismantle one of the greatest high tech projects to protect the California coast in all time just because they chose to place their backyard on a coastal bluff. At some point, someone needs to sit her down and tell her the public interest is at stake here.”

I wish I thought that would help. Malibu’s upper crust is well known for personifying Phil Ochs’ characterization. Streisand’s neighbor and liberal Democrat David Geffen led the rich folks’ reaction to unfettered public access to the town’s public beaches; the town’s beachfront denizens led the recent campaign to oust environmentalist Coastal Commission Chairwoman Sara Wan when the fight over the town’s coastal plan became too contentious.

Streisand’s suit is frivolous, says Ken Adelman. I’m not a lawyer, but I tend to agree. It looks groundless enough that it may well be thrown out of court, eventually. But the damage will be done. Fortunately, the Adelmans are better off than the average environmentalist web publisher, but wouldn’t it be better to spend those legal fees on something to benefit the planet, maybe? Some liberal. Some environmentalist. Yentl the yeshiva boy would have had the Yiddish readily at hand to describe Streisand the litigant: “Blufferke.” Hypocrite.

CHRIS CLARKE is the editor of Faultline: the magazine of the California environment. He can be reached at:


More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine


October 25, 2016
David Swanson
Halloween Is Coming, Vladimir Putin Isn’t
Hiroyuki Hamada
Fear Laundering: an Elaborate Psychological Diversion and Bid for Power
Priti Gulati Cox
President Obama: Before the Empire Falls, Free Leonard Peltier and Mumia Abu-Jamal
Kathy Deacon
Plus ça Change: Regime Change 1917-1920
Robin Goodman
Appetite for Destruction: America’s War Against Itself
Richard Moser
On Power, Privilege, and Passage: a Letter to My Nephew
Rev. William Alberts
The Epicenter of the Moral Universe is Our Common Humanity, Not Religion
Dan Bacher
Inspector General says Reclamation wasted $32.2 million on Klamath irrigators
David Mattson
A Recipe for Killing: the “Trust Us” Argument of State Grizzly Bear Managers
Derek Royden
The Tragedy in Yemen
Ralph Nader
Breaking Through Power: It’s Easier Than We Think
Norman Pollack
Centrist Fascism: Lurching Forward
Guillermo R. Gil
Cell to Cell Communication: On How to Become Governor of Puerto Rico
Mateo Pimentel
You, Me, and the Trolley Make Three
Cathy Breen
“Today Is One of the Heaviest Days of My Life”
October 24, 2016
John Steppling
The Unwoke: Sleepwalking into the Nightmare
Oscar Ortega
Clinton’s Troubling Silence on the Dakota Access Pipeline
Patrick Cockburn
Aleppo vs. Mosul: Media Biases
John Grant
Humanizing Our Militarized Border
Franklin Lamb
US-led Sanctions Targeting Syria Risk Adjudication as War Crimes
Paul Bentley
There Must Be Some Way Out of Here: the Silence of Dylan
Norman Pollack
Militarism: The Elephant in the Room
Patrick Bosold
Dakota Access Oil Pipeline: Invite CEO to Lunch, Go to Jail
Paul Craig Roberts
Was Russia’s Hesitation in Syria a Strategic Mistake?
David Swanson
Of All the Opinions I’ve Heard on Syria
Weekend Edition
October 21, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Wight
Hillary Clinton and the Brutal Murder of Gaddafi
Diana Johnstone
Hillary Clinton’s Strategic Ambition in a Nutshell
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Trump’s Naked and Hillary’s Dead
John W. Whitehead
American Psycho: Sex, Lies and Politics Add Up to a Terrifying Election Season
Stephen Cooper
Hell on Earth in Alabama: Inside Holman Prison
Patrick Cockburn
13 Years of War: Mosul’s Frightening and Uncertain Future
Rob Urie
Name the Dangerous Candidate
Pepe Escobar
The Aleppo / Mosul Riddle
David Rosen
The War on Drugs is a Racket
Sami Siegelbaum
Once More, the Value of the Humanities
Cathy Breen
“Today Is One of the Heaviest Days of My Life”
Neve Gordon
Israel’s Boycott Hypocrisy
Mark Hand
Of Pipelines and Protest Pens: When the Press Loses Its Shield
Victor Wallis
On the Stealing of U.S. Elections
Brian Cloughley
Drumbeats of Anti-Russia Confrontation From Washington to London
Michael Hudson
The Return of the Repressed Critique of Rentiers: Veblen in the 21st century Rentier Capitalism
Howard Lisnoff
Still Licking Our Wounds and Hoping for Change
Brian Gruber
Iraq: There Is No State
Peter Lee
Trump: We Wish the Problem Was Fascism
Stanley L. Cohen
Equality and Justice for All, It Seems, But Palestinians