A would-be American terrorist stormed the Discovery Channel building and took hostages today in what's understood as an attempt to force the channel to air programming espousing his extreme environmentalist viewpoint. Workers at the building apparently recognized the man as a crackpot who had frequently picketed there and had once been arrested for disorderly conduct. He is believed to be the founder of the Save the Planet Protest group -- if it was ever more than himself -- and this is believed to be his list of demands. He was mortally wounded by police and his hostages were rescued.
There was something retrograde about this whole episode. The perpetrator seemed to think that he could compel Discovery to publicize his views just as major newspapers had published the Unabomber's manifesto, without realizing that the Unabomber's demands were compelling because he had already demonstrated a power to kill and maim people. Even the Unabomber didn't demand that newspapers change their editorial policies, however, while the late hostage-taker rather imperiously insisted that Discovery conform all its programming to his viewpoint. Nevertheless, his views will be more widely publicized now than they were in his lifetime, especially if right-wingers follow up on early reports that the dead man claimed to have been inspired by Al Gore. Having left an extensive trail of opinions on the internet, the man might have been expected to let those speak for him after a more lethal confrontation with the Discovery Channel. More typical of our time would be the man who flew his plane into an IRS office earlier this year after leaving a farewell manifesto on a website, or the Virigina Tech amoklaufer who mailed videotaped rants to TV for posthumous broadcast. Today's terrorist was most likely not prepared to die for his beliefs. The evidence suggests, at first glance, that he craved the satisfaction of seeing a cable network comply with his will. He died like an amoklaufer or suicide terrorist, but probably not with anything like their presumed sense of satisfaction.
There's something inhuman, or maybe just inhumane, about the "Save the Planet" ultimatum. It reads like the work of a primitivist anarchist, only more misanthropic. Some people may find parts they sympathize if not agree with, but too much of it is along these lines: " Saving the Planet means saving what's left of the non-human Wildlife by decreasing the Human population. That means stopping the human race from breeding any more disgusting human babies!" Someone can make an objective case for population control or even gradual population reduction, but "disgusting" is not an objective case. It'll be easy to dismiss the author as a madman or simply sick, but given how his sickness found political expression, it might be wise to ask whether his sickness is a symptom of a larger social disorder.