February 11, 2014
This has been one of those times that a series of random, seemingly unrelated events have all reinforced a common lesson for me. First, it was reported on January 21 (“Opposed to Fracking? You Might Be a Terrorist,” PopularResistance.org) that Canadian and U.S. law enforcement agencies — Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), the Mounties, the FBI, Homeland Security, and provincial, state and local police — have been working closely with Enbridge, TransCanada and other energy companies engaged in pipeline projects to keep leading anti-fracking activists under surveillance as potential “terrorists.” Scotland Yard has carried out similar surveillance of “radicals” in the animal rights, anti-war, anti-capitalist and anti-GMO movements.
The same day in the U.S. (“So now Homeland Security can detain suspected movie pirates?” IO9, January 21), Homeland Security seized a man for wearing Google Glass in an Ohio movie theater, detaining him for three hours — even though he had the “record” function turned off.
Finally, on February 3, Truth-Out.org reported a lawsuit to overturn the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act, a U.S. law that treats formerly misdemeanor acts of civil disobedience like freeing animals from factory farms — or even trespassing or filming undercover without permission — as acts of terrorism (“Is Freeing a Duck Terrorism?“). By way of background information, bear in mind that — even though the FBI in 2004 designated animal rights and environmental activists the leading threat of domestic terrorism, no one has ever been injured by any of these movements’ protest actions.
All the high-level “counter-terrorism” legislation passed after 9/11 was justified at the time by the urgent need to stop anyone from ever again crashing a jet plane into a skyscraper, spreading anthrax or setting off a “dirty bomb” in a major city. These were supposedly extraordinary powers granted only to counter extraordinary dangers, never to be used by law enforcement against ordinary crimes. But when has the state ever promised that and kept its word? The Espionage and Sedition Acts passed during World War I were accompanied by similar assurances that they wouldn’t be used to suppress ordinary dissent and political debate — and wound up being used as grounds for mass arrests of I.W.W. and Socialist Party members and public critics of the war.
So here we are. The USA PATRIOT Act, and a whole slew of security agencies like the CSIS, RCMP, FBI and DHS are being used to protect the profits of the fossil fuel industries, the movie industry and corporate agribusiness against public debate, embarrassment, or protests. Treating protests that disrupt business as “terrorism?” If USA PATRIOT had been passed a couple of generations ago, I suppose lunch counter sit-ins and bus boycotts would have been classified as “terrorism.”
The ultimate purpose of all the state’s laws and enforcement apparatus, regardless of the many ostensible justifications for this law or that, is to defend the interests of the system and those who control it. Any laws passed by the state, and any armed and uniformed functionaries employed by the state to enforce those laws, will interpret the laws in a way that serves the interests of the system of power.
Kevin Carson is a senior fellow of the Center for a Stateless Society (c4ss.org) and holds the Center’s Karl Hess Chair in Social Theory.