01 September 2010

A Genuine Environmentalist Wacko

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.


hobbyfan said...

"How do I know you're not sick? You could be some deranged lunatic!"---Will "Fresh Prince" Smith, "Parents Just Don't Understand", 1987.

Lee, the late founder, and, as you assert, Sam, likely the lone member of the "Save the Planet" group, was a few fries shy of a happy meal, and as I understand it, the local cops killed him, instead of the idiot doing the usual cowardly thing and taking his own life to avoid prosecution. Had he survived, his most likely destination would've been the nearest sanitarium.

He comes off as a disgruntled viewer tired of the same old, same old, and wants change. Discovery and its family of networks are undergoing change, but not the kind he wants. We know Oprah is taking over Discovery Health. Discovery Kids will soon be changing its name to The Hub, and Hasbro bought a stake in the channel, from what I read.

I'll not be surprised if I read that a check of his home discovers some prescriptions that hadn't been taken lately........

Anonymous said...

What if there had been 10 of him instead of just one? 100? 1,000?

Samuel Wilson said...

hobbyfan, my current understanding is that a sniper took him out when he pointed a gun at a hostage. This doesn't sound like the typical suicide run; Lee may have been delusional enough to think he could have gotten his way and gotten away. But I don't know if we can reduce this entirely to a question of his sanity.

crhymethinc, do you care to answer your own question? I hope you mean something like an actual social movement of those numbers, not just a thousand lunatics.

Anonymous said...

I'm saying if there had been a number of armed gunmen in that office, rather than just one, things would have turned out far differently. Something for any future "wackos" out there to think about. The problem with people like Lee, is that they go to the wrong places and go after the wrong people. He'd have to change every channel in the country to be inline with his view, otherwise people would simply stop watching the one channel he may have theoretically managed to change.

What he should have done is to go after the heads of the corporations that are doing the polluting, etc. from a distance, with a long range, high powered hunting rifle/sniper rifle. Instead, all he managed to accomplish was to throw his useless life away.

As I've said before, as long as people are willing to sit on their butts and merely complain about what "evil" men do, "evil" men will continue to profit and to gain power. Once people show that they are no longer willing to wait for providence to take a hand in sorting out our problems, you will see problems solved. Once "evil" men (however you may choose to define that) are held physically accountable to the rest of us for their depredations, they will cease.

Unfortunately, the only way for that to happen is for some examples to be made out of some so the rest of them understand.

d.eris said...

"It reads like the work of a primitivist anarchist, only more misanthropic."

Today, I came across a "Green Anarchist" response to what is now being called Lee's manifesto. In case anyone is interested:


Samuel Wilson said...

Thanks for the link, d. I'd expect anarchists to find Lee's programme a bit authoritarian, especially the population-reduction bit, but the main difference between his stance and green or primitivist anarchism is his apparent rejection of a humanist perspective. Writers like John Zerzan believe that reverting to hunter-gatherer culture will be good for man, while Lee seemed to be indifferent to whether people liked the changes he deemed necessary or not.

crhymethinc, thanks for your clarification. Whether Lee was ever entitled to shoot anyone is deeply questionable, but he seemed like the sort who needed others to take his dictation and implement his will. There was no notion on his part that I can see of just shooting the enemy and doing the work himself. In any event, your points about the complete futility of Lee's mission are well made.