Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Agent Provocateur

No, not the lingerie company. Rather the infiltration of civic groups (typically radical or interested in progressive causes) by police or other security organizations in order to incite violent or illegal actions. Like Mark Kennedy, recently outed in Britain as having spent years undercover in the UK environmental movement. And now the Guardian is reporting on three major energy firms that have employed private security firms to carry out covert intelligence-gathering operations on environmental activists and groups.
Governments in the UK have viewed environmental protest as potentially violent terrorism since at least the rule of Margret Thatcher. Infiltration with agent provocateurs in the US environmental movement go back to the monkeywrenchers of the 80s and even earlier (Nixon's enemy list shows that paranoia has long been a feature of the ruling class south of the border). In Canada, RCMP agent provocateurs were responsible for much of the paranoia around the French-Canadian separatist movement in the 1970s.
George Monbiot reports that he could not find "a single proven instance of a planned attempt in the UK to harm people in the cause of defending the environment". This jibes with reports from the mid-1980s here in the Pacific Northwest when a tremendous panic was being whipped up against "tree spiking," where large nails, it was claimed, were being pounded into trees in order to damage mill machinery. Despite the hysteria whipped up by the local media and public pronouncements from various logging companies, only one incident of possible tree spiking was reported when, in 1987, California mill worker George Alexander was seriously injured when the bandsaw he was operating was shattered by either an old nail or a tree spike. One unproven case of possible spiking became the basis for tree spiking being declared a federal felony in the United States in 1988.
The agent provocateur is an excellent tactic for keeping track of a group while simultaneously discrediting it. Which, of course is why it's used. But there are some actions that such agents really cannot guard against. Like the new Greenpeace ad.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Caustic and Cutting

With Carlin dead, I can only be talking about Bill Maher. His take on why the American founding fathers would have thought the teabaggers are idiots is more than worth the price of watching.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Just Watching a Video

So I've got, at last count, a baker's dozen videos up on YouTube. Mostly, they are there so that I can link to them from one of the blogs, and I count myself lucky when one of them gets to two hundred views (as both Paula kayaking rapids in Sooke River and my interview with John Rogers have done). In order to be able to embed a video of the world's largest beaver dam, I copied a Canadian Government vid over to YouTube and was astonished when it suddenly ended up with over a thousand views. Turns out, the topic was covered on Ellen and I was a collateral beneficiary.

Last April, I posted a vid of the salmon spawning in Goldstream River--mostly so my sister could show her kids what it looks like. Or friends could show their kids. Whatever. But over the last week, I've received over 8,400 views of this little two-and-a-half minute video.

It turns out that a little over a week ago, some idiot threw a leak tracing chemical into Goldstream River, turning it bright green for a period. Thankfully, it should be non-toxic and have no lasting damage on the river. But what it means is that all of a sudden a lot of people were looking for video of Goldstream River. And, once again, I was a collateral beneficiary.

And, of course, once you start getting views, you move up the rankings, which makes it easier to find you and get more views--so the world's largest beaver dam is now sitting at over two thousand views. But the weird feeling I have is from the fact that I really didn't do anything to get these views. Ellen DeGeneres covered the beaver dam story, people stumbled over my video. Same with the green Goldstream story. I didn't auto-tune the news, or set up a stunt that caused me to be horribly injured in a really funny way, or anything like that.

Neither of these videos has gone viral. But it has made me a little more sensitive to the vagaries of internet memes and internet "fame". Sh*t happens, and often, it has nothing to do with you. Sometimes it's just a Lolcat.