Confidential Corporate “Risk Analysis” Says Placing Stickers on SUVs is Eco-Terrorism

by Will Potter on June 1, 2010

in Terrorism Scare Mongering

inkerman report on eco-terrorismChances are, you have never heard of the Inkerman Group. I certainly hadn’t, until I began researching the web of faceless “risk mitigation” companies that help corporations identify threats to their profits.

These companies produce briefing documents that identify business “threats,” including special interest groups, key activists, and legislation. It is a niche industry built upon fear: the business of risk mitigation depends upon the identification of a constant stream of threats. Corporations commission briefing documents which identify (or create) threats to corporate interests, which leads corporations spending money addressing these threats, which leads to more reports… you get the idea.

This financial motivation to identify threats results in some interesting reports. For instance, I previously wrote about the Society of Toxicology commissioning a “threat analysis” that included such detailed information as who animal rights activists are dating.

It is impossible to know the true scope of these reports, and the impact they have had on the broader political climate of the Green Scare. It is fair to say, though, that for many corporate executives, these think tank documents may be the only exposure they have had to the history, motivation and tactics of the animal rights and environmental movements. They are a critical component of broader efforts to label activists (the “threats”) as “terrorists.”

One such report is by the Inkerman Group, called “The War on ‘Eco-Terror’: An analysis of the use of anti-terrorism legislation on activist movements in the UK & US.” It was sent to me with the request that I not identify the commissioner of the report. (The report, from 2007, is marked “confidential” and does not show up in a search of the Inkerman website, but a Google search of the volume number returns a back-end link to the source document on the Inkerman server. Good thing Inkerman is not a security firm, I guess.)

Like many other risk analyses, the Inkerman report is hilariously bad at times. The authors of the report appear to either be quite clueless about the true nature of the radical environmental movement, or quite malicious in their attempts to label mainstream, non-violent tactics as “terrorism.”

For instance, its timeline of “eco-terrorism” begins with the formation of the Sierra Club in 1892, and the formation of the Humane Society of the United States in 1954.

It goes on to identify key developments in the radical environmental movement, including… stickers.

Towards the end of 2000, a new form of eco-terrorism emerged in the US against Sports Utility Vehicles (SUVs). Activists, some reportedly part of the ELF, decided to demonstrate against the environmentally-unfriendly vehicles by placing homemade stickers on them. These ‘Mad Taggers’, as they became known, used to sticker the cars in question, chosen at random with messages such as “I’m Changing the Climate. Ask Me How”, “Bin Laden Used Your Gas Money”, “If You Love America, Get Rid of Your SUV” and “I Don’t Care About the Air”.

However, despite these claims and despite the financial interests involved in this report, the authors do not side in favor of more “eco-terror” legislation.

The introduction of new anti-terror laws seems only to be further complicating the definition of terrorism and what constitutes it, rather than clarifying it. This inherently implies that the Government is still struggling with legally defining the term ‘eco-terrorism’.

In today’s terror climate, the authorities’ fear that terrorist individuals and organisations may ‘slip through the net’ has justified the use of wide-ranging legislation against activists. Many times, actions of ‘eco- terrorists’ are perpetrated to induce fear, and this should rightly be clamped down upon and prosecuted. However, where peaceful protest such as the Camp for Climate Action 2007 intends not to disrupt or threaten human security, the threat alone of anti-terrorist legislation being used against protest is extreme. The issue lies in the blurring of lines between those extremists willing to carry out eco-tage, and those looking to undertake peaceful protest, which should be encouraged in a democracy. This is especially problematic where the two kinds of protests exist side by side at a demonstration, or within groups.

In contrast with the US, which declares eco-terrorism to be the most serious form of domestic terrorism today, the UK must respect the fine lines between democratic voice, illegal activity, terrorism and scare- mongering. [Emphasis added]

Unfortunately, corporations in the United States have not gotten the memo.

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