Taking a page from the radical right, the eco-radical Earth Liberation Front says it is targeting the federal government and even 'liberal democracy' itself.
There is an obvious ideological gulf separating the radical right, with its racist and fascist appeals, from the left-wing, environmentalist Earth Liberation Front (ELF), which advocates "equality, social justice and ... compassion for all life."
But when it comes to the current economic and political system, the two groups increasingly find themselves on the same side.
To begin with, the ELF's use of underground violence strongly resembles ex-Klansman Louis Beam's concept of "leaderless resistance." The ELF is composed of autonomous and secretive "cells" that initiate terrorist acts independently, and do not communicate with or even know one another.
In fact, with dozens of terrorist attacks causing an estimated $30 million in damages since 1997 — the ELF disavows harm to "any animal, human or non-human," and so far, apparently, has not caused any — the shadowy ELF makes much of the radical right look rather meek. But like most groups on the radical right today, the ELF sees global capitalism as an enemy.
Now, these similarities are even more marked.
A recent communiqué announced that the group, which espouses "militant direct action ... by any means necessary," will now target "F.B.I. offices and U.S. federal buildings," "liberal democracy," and even "industrial civilization" itself.
Until now, the group's nationwide bombings, arsons and vandalisms had been directed only at corporations "profiting from the destruction ... of the natural environment."
In addition, the ELF recently set this year's "International Day of Action" for April 19 — a mythic date for the antigovernment right. It was that day in 1993 when about 80 Branch Davidian cult members died in a fire in Waco, Texas, as federal agents attempted to end a 51-day standoff. It is also the day that Timothy McVeigh blew up a federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995, killing 168.
Leslie Pickering, who along with Craig Rosebraugh is an ELF spokesman, suggests the group chose the 19th to be close to the new moon on the 23rd — when night is darkest. Yet Pickering says that he cannot be sure, since he claims that he knows no ELF members personally and merely passes along anonymous communiqués to the media.
The group's antigovernment stance may have been triggered by intense law enforcement interest. Until very recently, the FBI has had no leads at all in ELF crimes, but now they may be closing in. A standing grand jury investigating the ELF in Portland, Ore., has repeatedly subpoenaed the testimony of Rosebraugh and other activists.
In Indiana, Frank Ambrose was charged in January with crimes previously claimed by the ELF — spiking trees to discourage logging. And in New York, three teenagers pleaded guilty in February to burning down partially built luxury homes on Long Island in the name of the ELF.
Many on the radical right admire the ELF, although it seems clear that the ELF doesn't share their racist views or have other connections to their groups. "To suggest such a relationship is absurd," says spokesman Rosebraugh.
Still, right-wing extremists like the look of those involved in eco- and animal rights terrorism. "A typical group of animal rights activists looks whiter and blonder than a typical group of KKK members," enthused one recent Internet posting from a neo-fascist "Third Position" group, one which rejects the traditional left/right dichotomy.
"The worst abuses of animals are almost always done by mud peoples. ... Hitler and Wagner were both vegetarians."
Such ideas are repugnant to the vast majority of environmentalists. But a message posted to a "deep ecology" Internet group, presenting ideas for protecting the earth, shows how the thinking of some environmentalists verges quickly into violence.
The message suggests a training camp for "monkey-wrenching" eco-vandals and the establishment of a vigilante "Earth Police." From there, the proposals get scarier: "Ask the governments of Iraq, Iran and Libya for a million dollars or so to help harass the U.S."
Or, in the spirit of educating the young, offer a prize "to the high school student who comes up with the best plan to bring about the destruction of civilization without seriously harming the biosphere."