In mid-December, It’s Going Down published an article about the evolving situation in the Virginias surrounding the broad rejection by many in the local area to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and the Mountain Valley Pipeline. The article outlined among other things, that even in a rural and vastly conservative area, people are coming together to resist in various capacities pipelines and the companies that are spending millions to construct them. Those fighting the pipelines are going up against not only the corporations, but also private security, local police, and politicians who had been bought and sold by energy capital long ago. These struggles, along with others such as the teacher’s strike, have awakened long seeded class antagonisms that both parties would prefer stay buried, and brought many people out into the hills and hollers of the area in a collective battle to fight these various projects.
In the face of this, as if on cue, far-Right ‘journalists’ were quick to attempt to draw a divide between those they began calling “Green Antifa” (anti-pipeline protesters and organizers) and everyday people living in the areas affected by the pipeline. But in doing so, those on the far-Right needed a hook and a way of moving beyond the debate around land and property rights, eminent domain, and threats to water and ecosystems – the answer of course was the threat of “terrorism,” and thus various journalists began to play up the idea that those involved in the various pipeline fights would soon resort to acts of violence against members of the public.
When the #oil and #gas #industry is getting #desperate but you’re #exonerated by #aesthetics. Nice try #RepublicanStandard but #corporations who #destroy #water and #oppress #communities are the #terrorists. We have #standards even when it comes to spray paint. #GreenAntifa #NoACP #NoMVP #WaterIsLife #WeWillWin #Repost @riverhealers
Bu of course this hasn’t happened. Despite months of harassment and deprivation at the hands of the police and corporations, those involved in the campaigns against the ACP and MVP haven’t attempted to harm members of the public. Instead, what has happened is that the anarchists involved in the tree sits have been seen as heroes to the surrounding population and large amounts of people in the surrounding area, from school children to residents who’s land is threatened with eminent domain, have joined the fight or come to actively take part in the blockades and tree-sits.
In doing so, those in the trees and fighting the pipelines have created a political crisis which has forced the Governor, a Democrat, to finally acknowledge the pipeline resistance, but also attack it and expose what side of the line the State is on, while cries of support to those in the trees such as “Red” and “Nutty” have grown even louder.
But with support for the tree sits at an all time high, and more actions happening all the time, far-Right media still seems very much invested in a continued trope against “Green Antifa,” and now, even going as far as to claim that pipeline resistance is simply a front for Russian interests.
Leading this charge is #NeverTrumper Shaun Kenney, a “controversial” “operative” and former executive director of a pro-Life organization who came under investigation several years ago according to The Washington Post over land purchases and post-Tea Party became the Executive Director the GOP in Virginia only to step down after only a month to write for a succession of blogs. At the time of this writing, Kenney has landed at The Republican Standard, and recently penned an article asking, Is Eco-Terrorism Coming to Southwest Virginia? While Shaun offers no clear evidence to answer this question other than links to more of his own articles and an occasional Wikipedia entry, he seems dead set on his position that a few comments on Facebook from anti-pipeline supporters are evidence of a vast conspiracy.
— The Bull Elephant (@BullElephant) February 16, 2015
First and foremost, the most glaring contradiction at the heart of Kenney’s argument, and the entire boogeyman of ‘Green Antifa,’ is the idea that social movements that use direct action which cut into the bottom line (profit) of corporate entities pose a tangible physical threat to the public, where as the actions of corporations themselves, do not.
But of course this flies in the face of exactly why so many people are getting involved in the pipeline fights in the Virginias – because they are angry at being evicted from their homes, having their land and water potentially poisoned, and also threatened with pipelines which leak and explode on a reoccurring basis. To career politicians and bureaucrats like Kenney, they would rather spin a conspiracy that those fighting pipelines want to harm members of the public (who by and large are supporting the anti-pipeline battles), than admit the harm that industrial corporate fossil fuel projects are doing to the Appalachian region and people.
According to Kenney however, posts by random people on the comment section of the Virginians Against Pipelines Facebook page proves however that “these so-called “peaceful” protesters are showing just how much they really are Green Antifa in all their malevolent glory — threatening to switch over their resistance to the clean-energy pipeline from direct action to violent terrorism.”
Kenney’s evidence? Two screenshots. In one comment from a person not officially associated with the group Virginians Against Pipelines, they share a link on “how to spike trees” and another person posts a photo of anti-tire spikes used by police to explode tires during high speed chases, although it is never stated how these spikes should be used, if at all.
Kenney is clear that he believes that these random social media posts are evidence of a violent turn and calls on the FBI and law enforcement to repress activists involved in anti-pipeline organizing. We wonder if Kenney feels the same standard should be applied to the social media commentators on right-wing websites?
Kenney, who presents himself as an extensive expert on the environmental movement, goes on to state:
For those of you not familiar with these tactics, one need only refer back to the strategies of direct action employed by groups such as Greenpeace and the Earth Liberation Front.
The eco-terrorist organization Earth First! began adopting the strategy of “tree spiking” in the mid-1980s with the intention of harming loggers who were either going about their daily jobs cutting down a renewable resource, or clearing arable land for farmers to feed the hungry (or in this instance, building a clean energy pipeline).
While this presentation and historical overview is both wrong and laughable, in regards to tree spiking, or the process of putting spikes into trees that would cause a chainsaw to malfunction, while this tactic was used by groups including Earth First! in the 1980s, generally warnings were issued to local logging companies in order to stop workers from potentially injuring themselves.
Furthermore, in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Earth First! organizers like Judi Bari recognized that tree spiking represented a potential danger to loggers, and moreover Timber companies often forced workers to cut them regardless, and called for an end to the practice. As Bari wrote in the Earth First! Journal in 1994:
In May, 1987, sawmill worker George Alexander was nearly decapitated when a tree-spike shattered his sawblade at the Cloverdale Louisiana-Pacific mill in northern California.
This grisly accident sent shock waves through our community, and eventually led Northern California Earth First! to renounce tree spiking. Southern Oregon and Southern Willamette Earth First! joined us, as well as a few Earth First!ers from Stumptown.
In fact, George Alexander, the same timber worker who Kenney references in his article, also refused to go on a speaking tour attacking Earth First! and other environmental groups. Ironically, he was later laid off and had to fight for basic compensation for his injuries, which were caused in part by degraded working conditions and equipment:
[Timber industry] asked him to go on tour with her denouncing Earth First! for tree spiking. And George refused.
After George refused to go on tour denouncing [Earth First!], he was forced to return to work before his injuries even healed. His and Laurie’s baby was about to be born, he needed money, and there were not many jobs where he and his family live. George got worker’s compensation for the time he was off work, but LP didn’t offer him a cent for the trauma and hardship he suffered. They made a big public show of putting up a $20,000-dollar reward for the information leading to the conviction of the spiker, but George Alexander had to file a lawsuit against Louisiana Pacific to get anything at all. And while the company was crying crocodile tears over his injuries in public, in private they were fighting him tooth and nail over his damage claim. He ended up with just $9,000 and an involuntary transfer to night shift. “They used my name all over the country,” George told me. “Then they laid me off when the mill closed down.”
“LP is just sorry I didn’t die,” said George Alexander. “Yeah, I know,” I replied. “They’re sorry I didn’t die, too.”
Instead of attacking loggers, Bari pushed for a coming together of worker and environmental interests, and pushed to unionize some loggers into the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). Bari’s argument was that the mass clear cutting of trees by the big timber companies were a threat to the livelihoods of loggers more than environmentalists. In response, the FBI worked with local police and people within the timber industry to derail Bari’s organizing. This culminated in an attempted bombing assassination against Bari and fellow Earth First! activist Darryl Cherney in Oakland, CA in May of 1990.
But of course, none of this registers with Kenney, who only goes on to argue that ‘Green Antifa’ groups are in fact backed by Russia:
The links between eco-terrorists, Green Antifa, and the canopy of environmentalist groups with Russian-backed loans and cash has been well documented by members of the U.S. House of Representatives. The Sierra Club and the League of Conservation Voters — both heavy players in Virginia’s gubernatorial election in 2017 — threw millions of dollars in the direction of Democratic governor Ralph Northam. It was an investment, after all… when should they expect their return?
Goes to show that Russian influence in America is just fine… so long as Antifa benefits from it — even if it extends to terrorism.
Meanwhile, Virginians have to ask themselves — if the Russian government really is funding these eco-terrorists, and if these same eco-terrorists are so bold and brazen as to post their threats online?
How soon will it be before one of them chooses (or is forced) to act at the behest of their financiers?
Thus, Kenney has presented a major claim, that “Green Antifa” is really a front for Russian money interests. As for evidence, he links to another article he has written, which bases its merit largely on a July 2017 letter from:
“U.S. House Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) and Energy Subcommittee Chairman Randy Weber (R-Texas)”
“sent a letter to U.S. Department of Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to request that the Department investigate allegations that Russian state sponsored entities interfered in the U.S. energy market by funneling Russian funds to radical environmental groups opposed to all fossil fuels.”
The letter goes on to state:
“If you connect the dots, it is clear that Russia is funding U.S. environmental groups in an effort to suppress our domestic oil and gas industry, specifically hydraulic fracking. They have established an elaborate scheme that funnels money through shell companies in Bermuda. This scheme may violate federal law and certainly distorts the U.S. energy market. The American people deserve to know the truth and I am confident Secretary Mnuchin will investigate the allegations.”
The results or findings of this letter are never discussed by Kenney, nearly a year after its publication, however in the mind of Kenney, a fantastical web of Russian oligarchs, mainstream non-profits which back the Democratic party, and revolutionary “eco-terrorist” and “green antifa” cells all work hand in hand. He then goes on to write, “The links between George Soros and these agitation groups is patently clear,” but seems unable then to list information that would prove how all of these groups are then thus connected.
But Kenney isn’t finished yet. As he claims that a patch being sold on the Earth First! Journal website that says “Green Antifa” is proof that such a label is in fact not just the fancy of far-Right conspiracy nuts. He then writes:
This last line is especially hilarious, as the article the Kenney is referencing only includes Kevin Mooeny’s photo which is reliably available on the internet and information about his former places of employment, such as the far-Right and Alt-Lite publication, BreitBart.
But for hacks like Kenney, has the truth ever really mattered?
While all of these claims can easily be debunked with a quick internet search, what people like Kenney are trying to do is clear: isolate social movements from their base of support while also calling on the State to repress them. It’s up to all of us to make sure that this doesn’t happen, just as it is up to all of us to make sure that the real monsters and threats to our communities are exposed and confronted.