Morning Edition's broadcast (7/3/01)(NPR Audio) about so-called "eco-terrorism" supposedly being waged by The Earth Liberation Front (ELF) featured self-serving remarks by Oregon State University researcher Dr. Steven Strauss, Ph.D., whose genetically modified (GM) trees were recently cut down by ELF. In the course of the report Morning Edition also interviewed Dr. Gary Perlstein, Ph.D., a criminologist at Portland State University who defined these acts of property damage as "terrorism."
I am getting to the point that I no longer consider the label "terrorist," and "terrorism" as negative. The US media slaps these tags onto any event and anybody that takes direct action against business interests or US Government activities and policies. By the definition suggested by Perlstein (actions that are politically motivated and which take or risk the taking of life), the Boston Tea Party and much of the Revolutionary War were terrorism.
Some consistency is important. I suggest, for example, the following incidents should be referred to as terrorism: the 1988 US downing of the Iranian Airbus by the USS Vincennes, and the 1998 US attack on the Sudanese pharmaceutical factory (erroneously suspected by the Clinton Administration to be a chemical weapons factory after bombings of two US embassies in Africa). In addition to the above examples, I would suggest the definition of terrorism be expanded to include profit-motivated acts demonstrating extreme indifference to human health and safety such as the 1987 Bopal, India, pesticide disaster by Union Carbide, which killed 2000 and poisoned 200,000.
As of now, no action by the US or US businesses has ever been labelled as terrorism by the media. Why not? ("Propaganda" is the correct answer.) It is particularly disappointing that supposedly objective academics (as well as NPR) are enthusiastically promoting the witch hunt for terrorists.
On the other hand, the best part of the NPR story was the interview with Dr. William C. Denison, Ph.D., of Oregon State University Botany and Plant Pathology Dept., who insisted that there were risks involved with genetic engineering and that the profit motive of the commercializers of the technology, and not the science itself, was the major source of avoidable risk.
Business interests' willingness to ignore the risk inherent in commercial licensing of genetically modified organisms in fact parallels the hazardous and disappointing course of the premature commercialization of nuclear energy.
ELF's letter to Dr. Strauss is also available on the NPR website.