I suppose it was only a matter of time until something like this happened. We’ve got a generation of kids who grew up wondering if someone was going to show up at school with a coatload of guns. And beyond schools, we’ve seen malls, army bases, churches, and of course, more schools. With exploding rates of mental illness, the easy availability of weapons, and the way every Hollywood action movie ends with some anti-hero proving to everyone he was right by gunning down fifty people, it’s a miracle this kind of thing doesn’t happen every day.

James J. Lee, already renowned for his extremist (and somewhat abrasive) protesting, decided to go down to a TV station with a gun. He took hostages, he got gunned down, and he left a manifesto. His views run alongside many in the Anarchist community, especially the greener side of the spectrum. That being said, his list of demands reads a lot more like the rantings of a madman than a coherent political critique. The only real “thinker” he refers to is Daniel Quinn, and even he hardly qualifies as an anarchist – two of his most popular books centre around the parables of a talking gorilla. Throught-provoking, but nothing like the essays which read like anthropology papers by John Zerzan.

It’s thoroughly possible to be “green” without being an anarchist. The radical environmentalist movement has moved past a lot of this in the last two decades, with a lot of help from anarchists, but it was certainly there in the 1980s. Earth Firsters like Edward Abbey (who wrote “The Monkeywrench Gang“) argued against immigration for the same reasons. And then there’s how anti-industrialism extremist Ted Kaczynski’ (the “Unabomber”) felt about equality, which he wrote about in his essay “ship of fools“. Hell, you can even take these things a step further to the “ecofascists” of Nazi Germany, who rallied behind Rudolf Steiner, the creator of Biodynamic Farming, as well as Hitler. As wacky as the primitivist crowd is, we could do a lot worse.

But just because somebody opposes industrialism or civilization doesn’t mean they are an anarchist. Many anarchists (“red anarchists”) are thoroughly in favour of them, and want to see things like large, worker-owned factories. Anarchism is all about how society operates, not what level of technology it operates at. And if the message is all about “getting rid of parasitic immigrant babies”, then it sure as hell isn’t setting people free.

The Evolution Will Not be Televised: A Green Anarchist Reply to James J. Lee (Infoshop News) A great perspective on all this.

The population issue is a very thorny hot potato, but we can’t let it overshadow the rest of the issue. The most successful population-reduction strategies in the last century have all involved things like free access to contraception and education. The “one-child-policy” nonsense is every bit as authoritarian as a ten child policy would be. People don’t want a dozen kids, and if given the choice, just won’t have them. Even small decisions, like delaying childbirth until you’re a bit older, mean long-term drops in population growth rates.

And I don’t deny that population is an important issue. I’m actually usually on the other side of this argument. But it’s only one part of the equation. The total damage to our planet is the product of the total number of resources consumed, and that means both population AND resources used per person. We can have more people living on less, or less people living on more, but the product will be the same. Both population and consumption need to be tackled. And this is one area where I feel Daniel Quinn has a very valid point – growing more food to feed more people will only result in more starving people if birthrates stay high, requiring a constantly expanding amount of land to feed them, and ultimately collapsing the system. What i disagree with is the assumption that returning to low-tech means of life would mean a genocidal depopulation to make space for hunter gatherers or subsistence farmers. The point (at least in the environmental context) is that these lifestyles require FAR LESS land per person, and that we are, at the moment, all actively engaged in many genocidal depopulations to support our massively wasteful lifestyles (what do you think Iraq and Vietnam are?.

This kind of rampage feeds easily into the media paranoia about anarchists, but it says a lot more about the glorification of violence and lack of treatment for obviously troubled individuals than it does about anarchist theory. The world very clearly does need saving, but it won’t be done by some lone gunman taking over a TV station. If we want forms of media that don’t glorify military contractors, we’re going to have to build them ourselves. And I suspect we’ll find more allies among “parasitic” immigrant communities than parasitic television networks. As chomsky once sad in a major network paraphrase. It isn’t that they self-censor themselves – they believe it. They just wouldn’t be there if they didn’t. And that applies to both the Discovery Channel and all the networks trying to villianize anarchists over this.

Advertisements