Tuesday, July 8, 2008

News reports about animal rights activists provide an example of a disturbing trend

There appeared a particularly disturbing report from AP on AOL, Yahoo! and ABC News, by reporter Marcus Wohlsen, that some research scientists in California are being targeted personally by animal rights activists. The AOL headline characterized the activity as "personal." This is also reported in Australia. Similar activities have occurred in the US with abortion providers, and sometimes with judges who have tried organized crime cases. In Europe (and Britain), this sort of thing generally has been a problem with “free speech” (not always as well protected as in the U.S.) in any media (books, film, or political cartoons). Examples would include threats against authors (Salman Rushdie) or filmmakers Theo Van Gogh (who was assassinated in Amsterdam), or the activities that led to the pulling of another Islam-critical film Fitna by Geert Wilders, from Livelink. Still another example is the Jyllands-Posten-Muhammad Cartoon Controversy in Denmark in 2005.

The ABC copy of the story appears here in its “The Law” section.

Whatever the issue, countries should treat such incidents as terrorism and prosecute them accordingly. Back in the 60s and the 70s, such behavior (as with the Weathermen, the kidnappers of Patty Hearst, etc.) was sometimes seen among the far Left who saw anyone associated with the “system” as “enemies” of the “people.” At one point, in 1972, the Peoples Party of New Jersey had adopted a platform provision indicating that it would take matters of justice into its own hands if it had to. And in the 50s and 60s, Communism was distinguished from democratic Socialism by the idea that (in Communism) force (instead of legitimate democratic political processes) could be used to impose an “equalizing” political system in everyone. In the past, the use of force was associated with establishing new authoritarian or totalitarian states; in recent history the use of “force” or aggression has emphasized asymmetry and non-state or rogue state actors. This is an evolving, rather than a new, troubling concept.

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