Ask Mr. Rhetorical Guy


Sub-hed on an L.A. Times thumbsucker today:

In torching SUVs or construction sites, do extremists help or hurt the effort to protect the environment?

Later in the story, another rhetorical:

Are such attacks, labeled domestic terrorism by the FBI, justifiable as a means of change?

I'll take a swing: "Hurt," and "no."


NEXT: Another Rush, Another Bill

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  1. This reminds me of the anti-fur activists who try to save animals by pouring paint on fur coats. This does not bring the animals back to life, nor does it prevent the death of further animals; instead, the victim must buy another coat and somore animals die.

  2. When I see environmentalists torching SUVs, I think to myself, “Wow, that’s a really well-thought strategy of getting people’s attention. I’m very interested in hearing what their message is, since it must be similarly well-thought.”

    Sort of like the WTO protesters. I think to myself, “Wow, they made the effort to trash a Starbucks. They must have some very well-thought reason for their behavior. I’d like to know more about their cause.”

  3. How many miles does a 12m/gal SUV have to be on the road to match the CO2 output from it being set ablaze?

  4. Its also as productive as setting minks free. They are canabalistic, and will eat each other when given the chance. Some earth worshipers found this out the hard way earlier this month.

  5. JA-
    Your reasoning assumes that when people get their fur drenched in red paint, they run out to replace the coat with a similar one. The point is to make people afraid that if you wear a fur coat in public, you run a risk of having an expensive garment destroyed. I have no idea whether this actually deters people from buying fur, but the principle is sound from a strategic point of view.

  6. Julian, it isn’t necessarily sound from a strategic point of view. A fur coat is not a necessity, it is a luxury. Those who buy them new (as opposed to used, which doesn’t directly involve more animals being killed) have money. They didn’t buy those coats to be cost effective (unlike a business where financial burden could be effective). I once met a woman who had had the displeasure of having her fur coat spray painted by an AR supporter. Her response, she used the insurance money along with her own money to buy two to replace it. She also said the spite that she felt from this assault on her property made her more likely to buy fur in the future.

  7. Have to disagree Julian. In that situation, I would buy another one, and try to run over a couple animals with my SUV on the way to the mall. Then maybe I’d torch an animal shelter for good measure.
    (full disclosure: I don’t own fur or an SUV, and don’t know the location of the nearest animal shelter. I’m an omnivore)

    Fortunately for the PETA people, they choose to do this to women, not men. Any ideas on this?

    Keep in mind they would/WILL do this to wearers of leather products if (huge if) they “win” the fur battle. What’s next, releasing livestock, poisoning beef at the supermarket? Makes sense strategically!

    BTW, how can they tell at a glance if its REAL fur you are wearing? Or is simulated cruelty just as bad – a sort of hate crime perhaps?

  8. “How many miles does a 12m/gal SUV have to be on the road to match the CO2 output from it being set ablaze?”

    A better question is – how many miles would the SUV have to travel to release the same amount of *actual* pollutants as it releases being set ablaze?

    It’s a trick question of course. An SUV could never release as much pollution being driven as being burned. Not to mention that the SUV is just going to be replaced so there are no fewer SUV miles driven. Nevermind the cost of producing a new SUV…

    All this crap has nothing to do with “strategy.” It serves the same purpose as the belief system responsible for this behavior in the first place – it gives bored kids something to do.

  9. I would looooove to see animal-righties spray-painting leather wearing folks. Hope a few would try that at a biker rally. *big evil grin*

    Continuing on the cynical note, wouldn’t doing that to women only (as seems to be the case so far) be called “sexism” in their lingo?

  10. I think their real issue is that with the empty worthlessness of their envorinmental education most will never earn enough to own either an SUV or a fur. It is nothing more than a hatred of success born of jealousy and an overriding sense of their own worthlessness and failure.

  11. One of my buddies tells a great story about the time one of these PETA loonies accosted his mother (who was wearing a fur coat at the time), and he punched his lights out with one shot.

    So I guess there are risks involved in harassing people who wear fur in public.

  12. Another hit on the environment. When the extremists torch an SUV it can?t be traded in on a new SUV. Therefore it never becomes a used SUV that someone can trade in an old 1970s gas guzzler (which produces MUCH more pollution) on. It isn?t modern SUVs you follow down the road choking in their exhaust trail.

  13. When I was in school, the local PETA chapter and other assorted animal rights groups would get together for a monthly protest outside of McDonald’s. I didn’t think much of it until i happened to witness one of these protests. They were rude, obnoxious and (when dealing with old people or kids) even threatening.

    The following month, I went along with a couple friends. We explained to the protesters that in 5 minutes time, we were going into McDonald’s for lunch. For each one of them standing there when we went in, we were going to buy an extra cheesburger that would simply be wasted and thrown away. They scoffed and we bought 15 extras cheeseburgers. We took them out with us when we were done and pointed to each one of them as we threw their particular burger away. Much wailing and gnashing of the teeth insued.

    The next month, we returned. We made the same statement to the protesters. After 5 minutes, as we went for the door, almost half had left. The rest got cheeseburgers purchased and wasted in their honor. The following month, most left when we approached parking lot.

    Maybe they just moved to a different location and didn’t advertise it as widely, I don’t know. But they sure as hell didn’t like having their own type of ridiculous, heavy-handed tactics put back on them. Plus, their cries were delightful fun to listen to.

  14. Gordon – you rock! I wonder, though, if it would have put them in an even more untenable bind if you had given the burgers away to homeless people. The protestors were causing more burgers to be bought – bad! The burgers were feeding homeless people – good! The burgers are made of meat, and eating meat is – bad! Homeless people are made of meat, and . . .

    The cognitive dissonance might have caused the meat-free heads to explode.

  15. If you really wanted to send theminto seizures you should have hung out and fed the burgers to passing dogs.

  16. Jullian is nearly right. It does make strategical sense, but in this way. If you’re a hardcore enviromentalist there is a nexus where your values cross, wanting to be sensational so as to get public attention, costing the offenders alot of what they care about most ($), and not hurting others in the process (also not getting caught so that you can rinse and repeat). Fur damage, million dollar SUV loss, burning a ski resort are all very successful actions in this regard.

  17. The second question (“are such attacks…justifiable?”) is a value judgement, but the first (do the attacks help the cause?) is purely a question of strategy. It’s certainly possible that the answer is “yes”. The eco-terrorists certainly think so. And offhandedly asserting that the answer is self-evidently “no” dismisses the complexity of the issue. It’s always hard to put aside you values when judging the tactics of your opponents, but I think Julian is correct. The strategy is sound. If it became genuinely dangerous (or even very inconvenient) to be an SUV driver, then SUV drivership would go down. If you don’t agree with this premise, just increase the hypothetical danger factor until it becomes true. If your goal is a decrease in SUV drivership and you don’t care how it happens, terrorizing SUV drivers seems like a pretty good way to go. This is obviously not an endorsement of the tactics, but whether or not they work is an objective question. There’s a cost-benefit analysis to be done here, probably one that the article in question gets into (didn’t read it). But it just seems awfully dismissive to assume the answer is obviously that such tactics are harmful to the environmental movement. How does anybody know?

  18. VH,

    You are correct in your assertion that the first question is one of strategy. Perhaps Matt was being to quick with his answer of “hurt,” but that’s the answer I most often hear (usually quite quickly) when this type of question is answered by self-described environmentalists and others. The general public opinion being fairly negative towards this type of activity (yes, my experience is merely anecdotal and not a truly random sampling, but I’d be willing to bet dollars to donuts that it’s largely representative. Anyone have a scientifically researched poll?), they are unlikely to win many converts to doing things in a more eco-friendly manner.

    Now, on the level of a pure scare tactic, you are correct that given enough of a threat, they may change peoples vehicle buying and purchasing behavior. But given widely reported studies on roll-over dangers in SUV’s, along with all of the tire problems, the numbers of sale have risen over the last several years (there has been a recent dip, but this is in line with other economy based drops in sales). I fail to see how the intermittent vandalism scattered about the US on SUV’s (not drivers) would even come close to the threat level. Perhaps if they were to start a DC sniper-type shooting rampage of SUV drivers they might come close in the short run, but I don’t think the subtleties of a few acts of vandalism are going to change the hearts and minds of the great unwashed, illiterate SUV-driving masses.

    As a tactic on businesses, it’s got a better chance of working, but again the level activity would have to be stepped way up, and would therefore come coupled with increase risk of getting caught. Will they close down a business or two? Maybe, but that would be of such minimal effect on the supply, and have zero effect on the demand for these things that there would be no overall effect.

    Now, in this complex picture, you also have to look at the negatives. The damage each of these attacks does to the environment is substantial. The negative press that the money donating public reads may cause it to give less to charitable organizations that are doing something to help the environment. Most people are not going to bother to spend the time to dissect out factions of the environmental movement. If they think their money is going to go to some kids causing mischief, they might just send it elsewhere. The people who have been busted for this are obviously committed in some fashion and could have perhaps had more of an impact if their efforts were better channelled. Now they rot in jail. And finally, this type of activity can cause certain resentments in some of the public who may now be more likely to buy an SUV.

    My analysis: Hurt

  19. chthus, I don’t disagree at all, and yours is exactly the kind of objective analysis needed to intellegently address the question.

    from anonymous: “If you successfuly put aside your values how are you to judge anything?”

    When I said “judge”, I meant “determine the facts” as in, does the tactic work or does it not. And the facts are independent of your values or mine. Too many people are willing to believe something for no reason other than they want it to be true, or it would be really cool if it were true. All I’m saying is that the “right or wrongness” of a tactic like pre-emptive invasion, terrorism, or torture has nothing to do with its effectiveness.

  20. Purportedly, after the perpetrators set the blaze, their getaway vehicle was an . . .

    (Wait for it …)

  21. You really want to cut down on the smog? Ban gas powered lawn mowers for any property below a set square footage, for example 1/2 an acre. A gas mower pumps out more pollutants, based on it’s displacement, than almost any car.

  22. Easyrider,
    After you’re done reasoning with them, maybe you could try some brow beating.

  23. Fois Gras or death! 🙂

    On a more serious note, the US and French press have reported that so-called “environmentalists” have been ripping up test plots for plants grown for pharmaceutical purposes. Attacking people for making or serving fois gras is one thing (it is a luxury food no one really “needs”); but destroying research for life-saving medicines is another. It is utterly appalling and those caught at these acts should be locked away for life and forced to listen to the outrage of their victims on a daily basis.

  24. Property damage is not different in degree from harming a human being. There is a big, bright line between inanimate objects and somebody’s mom/dad/son etc.

    Hurting people for politics is terrorism. Harming objects is vandalism. Now, thanks to years of seeing spraypaint and tree spikes described as “terrorism,” we’ve got a nation tired of hearing people cry wolf, just as a wolf appears on the horizon. Thanks, “property rights” movement!

  25. “It’s always hard to put aside you values when judging the tactics of your opponents”


    If you successfuly put aside your values how are you to judge anything? If they are your values and you truly hold them as values, not nice sounding platituede you spout when convenient, then they are the standard by which you judge everything.

  26. When will Americans start to protect Fois Gras restaurants?

  27. JB,

    Thanks for the notice, I hadn’t heard about this one. These tactics have been in use for years by the AR crowd. It’s especially scary when they start the implied threats against the families. I knew a woman who was research MS who was targetted. The most frightening thing that she said happened to her was one day when she got a call at work from some one who described in detail what she had packed her 7yo son for lunch. No threat was made, just, “guess what we know.” Acid on cars, car bombs, harrassing neighbors, property destruction, following children to school, razor blades in envelopes, fake anthrax, these are just some of their tactics.

    They lack convincing arguments, so they seek to strong arm the world into the way they want it. Unfortunately they have a never ending supply of young, emotional, impressionable, and potential violent and destructive teens ready to do their bidding.

  28. Joe2,

    It’s been my experience talking to some AR folks that fake fur is ‘just as bad’ as real fur, since according to them it ‘perpetuates the idea of wearing fur’ (paraphrasing). Therefore, the folks I’ve talked to will accost and deface people wearing anything that looks like fur.

    I have to agree with chthus and others that these tactics hurt the overall cause. Also that it shows they have no persuasive argument. The threats and destruction I find absolutely abhorrent, and serve more to drive sympathy to their cause away, as people don’t want to be associated in any way with their thuggish and terroristic actions.

  29. Frankly, whether or not it hurts the ’cause’, whatever that might be, is not the issue. Terrorism is an attempt to force a solution to an issue using fear as a tactic. I see no difference between terrorism in the middle east and terrorism in the car lot. That one kills humans and the other does not is only a matter of degree – terrorists are trying to force THEIR values on EVERYONE else. And the ‘I’ll force you to do what I want you to do’ philosphy is against my values.

  30. I have a nice leather coat, enjoy ground cow, don’t really have any use for SUVs (I ride a motorcycle) but I don’t mind them. I’d be delighted to ‘reason’ with some of your environmentalist zealots. I can reason pretty hard with my fists…

    …here PETA, PETA, PETA, PETA…

  31. None of the ELF ALF people I’ve spoken with had tried anything before being asses in public. Not even little things like being a registered voter.

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