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"Antiscience" Violence at UC Santa Cruz:

The NYT reports on the firebombing of two researchers' homes in Santa Cruz, California. Authorities believe animal rights activists opposed to biomedical research are responsible for the attacks.

About 5:30 a.m. Saturday, two small bombs ignited outside the researchers' homes. In one of the attacks, a vehicle was destroyed in a faculty member's driveway. At the second residence, a two-story home near the university's front gates, the fire forced the researcher, his wife and two children to flee the home from an upstairs window. The fires were quickly extinguished.

One minor injury was reported, according to The Santa Cruz Sentinel, which also said the police were viewing the attacks as acts of attempted homicide and domestic terrorism. . . .

The university described the attacks as the latest in a series of threats and provocations from those opposed to "biomedical research using animals," including a February incident in which several masked intruders entered a researcher's home. After a confrontation, the intruders fled. That incident followed harassing phone calls and vandalism of researchers' homes, the university said.

PhanTom:
Time for the university to add a budget item for shotguns.

--PtM
8.4.2008 10:34am
mariner (mail):
Sounds like those right-wing nutjobs are at it again.
8.4.2008 10:50am
John Armstrong (mail) (www):
mariner, your sarcastic wit has skewered the issue most adroitly. Not only have you correctly assessed that the existence of left-wing nutjobs logically precludes that of right-wing ones, but you also manage to point out that this is the time to advance our own political points rather than to express concern for the safety of other human beings. I applaud you!
8.4.2008 11:02am
Helen:
There have been several recent incidents at UC Berkeley where researchers' office locations and phone numbers have been written in chalk on sidewalks with the notation "Prof. ________ tortures animals." The effect has been to frighten faculty members, students, and staff from going into their labs and offices after dark or at any time that they think they'll be alone there. At least some are carrying powerful pepper spray; it's the best you can do (legally) in California.
8.4.2008 11:22am
Jim at FSU (mail):
John Armstrong, I suspect mariner was skewering the ever persistent notion among the left that "right wing extremism" is the greatest threat this country faces. Remember, this the crowd that was shocked (and likely saddened) that Lee Harvey Oswald was a communist and not a member of the John Birch Society.

The left still hasn't given up harping about the deadly threat posed by libertarians, white supremacists and anti-abortion protesters, despite the fact that the few attacks perpetrated by such individuals were solved long ago and haven't been followed by more attacks.
8.4.2008 11:38am
Hah. (mail):
Hey mariner, judging by the way Armistrong got his panties in a twist, your comment was right on.
8.4.2008 11:39am
Chris Bell (mail) (www):
I'm glad to see the cops are treating this as attempted homicide and domestic terrorism. These people should be in jail.

If these terrorists oppose animal research, let them try to pass a law banning it. (It is Berkley, after all.) Otherwise they should STFU.
8.4.2008 11:51am
Snarky:
I think that the labels "ecoterrorist" or "anti-animal experimentation" or "extreme animal right activist" rather than "antiscience" are more accurate labels to describe these individuals.

After all, they are not attacking all scientists. Only those who engage in research that harms animals.
8.4.2008 12:12pm
Snarky:

If these terrorists oppose animal research, let them try to pass a law banning it. (It is Berkley, after all.) Otherwise they should STFU.


First, it should be noted that if they STFU, they wouldn't be able to lobby for laws banning whatever they want to ban. They obviously should not engage in criminal activities, however. Second, the relevant city is Santa Cruz, not Berkeley. Third, the City of Santa Cruz does not have authority over the University of California, Santa Cruz, which is a sovereign entity.
8.4.2008 12:16pm
calmom:
Similar incidents have happened at UCLA. I wonder if these animal rights terrorists would refuse medical treatment, vaccines or drugs that were developed using animal testing first. Somehow I doubt it. Perhaps in prison they would volunteer to be human guinea pigs before a medication has been tested on animals. Somehow I doubt that too.
8.4.2008 12:48pm
seamus mcdooby:
Tis is a pure Terrorist attack ,,using fear to further an political agenda ,Stupid people give money to groups like PETA and the Humane society ,they support these criminals and applaud them in their crimes ,,someone trying to burn down my house with my wife and children inside will be shot on sight ,,i have no mercy for anyone harming women and children
8.4.2008 1:12pm
hattio1:
I have to agree with Snarky, I don't think it's quite accurate to call it "anti-science" bias (which is why I assume it was in quotes). However, I also agree with Chris Bell, both that they should be in jail and that they should try to pass a law and otherwise STFU. Snarky, note the use of otherwise. Chris didn't say they should STFU and and try to pass the law. It's an either/or option.
8.4.2008 1:12pm
Cole M. (mail):
Why is it that some animal rights extremists start caring more about the lives of animals than the lives of humans? It baffles me that human beings can, at some point, think that animal lives are somehow more valuable than human lives. Anyone have any theories?
8.4.2008 1:21pm
Hoosier:
Cole M.: They like animals?

I mean, they REALLY like animals.
8.4.2008 1:27pm
Displaced Midwesterner:

The left still hasn't given up harping about the deadly threat posed by libertarians, white supremacists and anti-abortion protesters, despite the fact that the few attacks perpetrated by such individuals were solved long ago and haven't been followed by more attacks.


I can't help but think this statement is, um, wrong. According to http://www.msnbc.com/modules/clinics/default.asp, a report based on AP and FBI data, there were 1,700 "acts of violence" against abortion providers from 1977 to 1994 alone. As far as recent significant acts, there was what was likely an arson at a clinic in New Mexico last December. Unsolved still, I believe. Not sure what the data for white supremacist attacks is like. But at least for one of those categories the violence was definitely not a "few attacks" or "solved long ago."

Really, all of these groups/ideologies and all such actions are worthy of condemnation. Especially those dastardly members of the Strikethrough Libertarian Brigade :)
8.4.2008 1:31pm
Anderson (mail):
I have to agree with Snarky, I don't think it's quite accurate to call it "anti-science" bias (which is why I assume it was in quotes). However, I also agree with Chris Bell, both that they should be in jail and that they should try to pass a law and otherwise STFU.\

Ditto.
8.4.2008 1:32pm
Mhoram:
I seem to remember a bigwig from PETA one day on one of those morning talk shows one time (don't you just love my pinpoint citations). She said, with a straight face, that she would rather her daughter die of some disease than have any experimentation done on animals that might lead to a cure for that disease.


These people have managed to take one of the most morally pure positions possible (be kind to dumb animals) and turn it into the lunatic fringe.
8.4.2008 1:34pm
Matthew K:
I'm sure one could construct a relatively sound philosophical framework for being willing to kill humans to save animals if one includes as a prior that animal lives are worth some meaningful fraction of human lives (ie if twenty monkeys are worth one human). It's the old strategic bombing, killing collaborators, collective punishment debate. The problem is the prior, once you get past that it's straight into well-known arguments.

I always wonder why people troll threads like these. Grow up folks. The existence of animal rights terrorists is not a good argument for any of the following: attacking your local humane society, suppressing animal rights related speech, or pretending that other domestic extremists groups are also dangerous. Maniacs exist on all sides. I still think that right-wing extremists are a greater danger (paramilitary white supremacists seem a lot more competent than pot smoking hippies who are lucky to build a pipebomb correctly), but that doesn't mean we can't take both seriously.
8.4.2008 1:41pm
gwinje:
I bartended a PETA event recently (don't ask, I had already agreed to do it before I knew the nature of the event) and unless they're all are keeping oil prices high by buying a ton of pleather, they're all hypocrites, too. Leather bealts, shoes and jackets were everywhere.
8.4.2008 1:43pm
gwinje:
And Cole M.:

I agree. I'd take PETA much more seriously if the were a division of PE (People for Ethics).
8.4.2008 1:45pm
Tony Tutins (mail):
If they really wanted to save animals' lives, animal rights activists should volunteer themselves as research subjects instead. This is consistent with ARAs' talking points that animals' organs and metabolisms are too different from people's for animal research to be relevant.

Animal rights terrorism is nothing new; I remember when ARAs were second only to the IRA in number and extent of acts of terrorism carried out in the UK.
8.4.2008 1:58pm
Bill Poser (mail) (www):
The thing that bothers me about the animal experimentation issue is that the polarization, on both sides, makes it so hard to address the very real and to a large extent solvable problems in this area. On the one hand, some amount of animal experimentation is desirable because it leads to real advances in knowledge that in the long run relieve suffering. On the other hand, animals do have rights. Except in the case of animals fairly far up the scale of consciousness, the right to life is not so important, but animals that can feel pain are entitled not to be made to endure profound or lengthy suffering.

One negative effect of the activities of groups like PETA is that they discourage scientists from cooperating and make them resist outside observers and regulation. Having worked in laboratories that used animals and personally been involved in caring for laboratory animals, experimenting on them, and putting them to death, I know that even conscientious, decent scientists become hardened and engrossed in their work and may fail to take the necessary measures to minimize suffering by the animals. If, for example, you are trying to get a microelectrode into a small, rare type of neuron in a cat's brain, it is easy not to take the time to spray the access point with anaesthetic. Independent observers responsible for the welfare of the animals need to be present in laboratories, but they must be trained to know what is actually painful and what just looks gross, and scientists need to be confident that they aren't undercover terrorists or saboteurs.

Another problematic aspect of the debate is that scientists defend animal experimentation on the grounds that it is necessary to save lives and cure horrible diseases, which is true in some cases, but is disingenuous in that a considerable amount of animal experimentation is for much more questionable purposes, e.g. testing the safety of cosmetics. Putting a substance that will cause great pain into an unanaesthetized rabbit's eyes to test cosmetics is beyond the pale. We don't need new cosmetics that much.
8.4.2008 2:12pm
Jim at FSU (mail):

I can't help but think this statement is, um, wrong. According to http://www.msnbc.com/modules/clinics/default.asp, a report based on AP and FBI data, there were 1,700 "acts of violence" against abortion providers from 1977 to 1994 alone.


Anti-abortion violence peaked in the 90s and then quickly died off because
a) high profile attacks forced people in the anti-abortion movement to denounce it as abhorrent instead of turning a blind eye. Again, the difference is that when the ALF ninjas engage in high profile criminality, they receive encouragement rather than condemnation.
b) it received intense law enforcement focus and hostile media reactions. I would argue that law enforcement attention to the environmental terrorists has been relatively sparse while media coverage has either been favorable or ambivalent.

All you've done is quote 15-30 year old statistics that have no bearing whatsoever on how today's law enforcement dollars should be spent or how today's media attention should be focused. The "right wing militias and terrorists" meme is old and tired.
8.4.2008 2:17pm
Jim at FSU (mail):
Bill Poser:

I had no idea we were harming animals to save lives- I thought it was for the entertainment value, sort of like a fringe benefit. I mean, the biological sciences certainly aren't being pursued because of the high salaries or the fame. But getting to vivisection the leftover lab cats on a slow saturday afternoon partly balances out not being able to drive around in a ferrari.
8.4.2008 2:23pm
Jeff Boghosian (mail):
Cole M.:

I can try to answer your question. (I am pro-animal rights but oppose violence, intimidation, destruction of property, etc.)

I don't think these eco-terrorists are measuring the "value" of humans vs non-human animals. The only example I can think of is a human with full capabilities intentionally causing unnecessary suffering to someone with physical or mental disabilities. While the person with full abilities may be more valuable in terms of economy or utility or social interaction, in most ethical frameworks it would be viewed as immoral, and in some ethical frameworks it would be viewed as okay to take action to stop the individual. Similarily, I don't think they are measuring the 'value' of the researchers vs. the mice.

Your first question, whether animal rights activists care more about animals than humans, that definitely differs per individual. I think most care more about humans, but not all. For those that care more about animals, I'd guess that stems from their frustration over their perception that humans are causing harm to animals for non-necessities.

gwinje:

As for your charge of hypocrisy, animal-use is so woven into our society that anyone who advocates we should use no animals in any circumstances is probably a hypocrite. It's better we strive to 'minimize' animal suffering and death.
8.4.2008 2:33pm
Bill Poser (mail) (www):
Jim at FSU,

Perhaps I am dense but I can't tell what you are getting at. Some animal research is aimed at saving lives. Some isn't.
8.4.2008 2:33pm
Al Maviva (mail):
The term "animal rights" makes a mockery of the notion of human rights. Humans are rational actors, or at least the vast mass of humans are capable of rationality, and along with a sense of rights humans are capable of understanding and performing the set of duties and obligations attendant to those rights. They can abide by both sides of the social contract, enjoying its protections and paying dues in return.

Animals, on the other hand, can only enjoy protections. Most of them are pretty poor at observing the rights of others, or following laws or engaging in the other dues-paying that comes along with being part of the compact. My dog likes being treated well but until the little bastard starts paying taxes or cleaning up after himself when he poops in the livingroom (or heaven forfend in the sacred community greenspace), I don't think we should extend Fourth Amendment protections to him, and we should be leery about giving him bankruptcy protection in spite of his demonstrated pennilessness and begging.

Giving animals some legal protection from undue cruelty? A good thing.

Giving animals legal rights? An incredibly misguided notion at very best, at worst a moral inversion that devalues the worth of human life, to the great benefit (and ingratitude) of houseflies, cockroaches, leeches, and other more charismatic types of fauna.
8.4.2008 2:38pm
Thomas_Holsinger:
This is about power, not suffering, animal "rights" or animals at all. It is only about power - the nutjobs are trying to make themselves feel powerful. Animals are just a justification. The same personality types used to bomb abortion clinics.
8.4.2008 2:44pm
astrangerwithcandy (mail):
"(paramilitary white supremacists seem a lot more competent than pot smoking hippies who are lucky to build a pipebomb correctly"

says the guy in a comment thread below an article about the hippies successfully attacking people. you may be right, but it looks absurd to make that argument where you did.
8.4.2008 2:45pm
Melancton Smith:
My issue with the ARA crowd is that they pretty much want my pets, which are beloved members of my household, dead. Given that, I value their lives very much less than my pet's lives and would have no problem defending my pet's lives with deadly force.
8.4.2008 2:54pm
Displaced Midwesterner:
Jim at FSU,

All I did was provide some statistics that are directly contrary to your assertions. You said they were few and solved long-ago. I agree that the anti-abortion violence peaked in the 90s and has since fallen off significantly. But at least in my opinion, 1,700 attacks is not a "few." When the violence was at its height, it was fairly significant. And while the violence has petered off a lot, it still continues and not all instances have been solved (such as the 2007 arson I mentioned).

My apologies for quoting "15-30 year old statistics that have no bearing whatsoever on how today's law enforcement dollars should be spent" in an effort to inject some statistics into a comment about your erroneous statements regarding what happened 15-30 years ago. As for today, as noted, anti-abortion attacks are much rarer, but continue. It would be good to know where our law enforcement dollars should be spent. What are the statistics on animal rights extermist violence? I haven't been able to find any numbers yet.
8.4.2008 2:55pm
TLB (mail) (www):
A bomb of some kind was apparently thrown at a person at a recent protest concerning a different topic, but oddly enough that hasn't made the news. There was apparently an arrest too.
8.4.2008 3:13pm
Dr. Scott (mail):
It would be interesting to know which sort of terrorism is presently more common: anti-abortion terror or ecoterror. But no matter what we find, they are the same sort of crime, so it is reasonable to apply the same sort of prevention and law enforcement. As I recall, the civil and criminal penalties applied to the anti-abortion movement were harsh indeed. No reason why they wouldn't also work against ecoterrorists.
8.4.2008 3:28pm
dearieme:
We have had a lot of this sort of thing in Britain. Mr Blair's government was very slow to do anything about it, but then they had been accepting party funding from the sort of "animal rights" organisations that, how to phrase this, might conceivably be not entirely unsympathetic to the attacks.
8.4.2008 3:43pm
the other anonymous:
These people are terrorists, that seems to be agreed-upon. Therefore, we need to be using, not law enforcement methods, but military might to prosecute the war on terror - whereever terror may rear its ugly head.

These people should be held as "enemy combatants" in Guantanamo Bay and subjected to advanced interrogation techniques (I suggest, for appropriateness, that the interrogators put shampoo, makeup and other chemicals in their eyes. Waterboarding can be used to flush out their eyes after they confess.
8.4.2008 3:52pm
Matthew K:
astrangerwithcandy:
I'm well aware of the context in which i made the argument that right-wing extremists groups are generally composed of more dangerous (in the sense of relevant skills and knowledge) than left-wing extremists. I should probably add the qualifiers "in the US" and "in the present day" (the militia movement is passingly relevant to my research and I'm decently familiar with its major trends up through the late 90s).

I don't completely change my view of the world based on the news story of the day. It's called seeing things in context. If there is a statistics based argument that shows that I've been drastically underestimating the prevalence and severity of eco-terrorism, that would be different (or if we had a news story like this every week).
8.4.2008 4:03pm
Esquire:
My views, as a biomedical engineer, a lawyer, and a Christian:

1) Animals have no "rights;" they exist for human benefit.

2) BUT humans, as the superior species, have a responsibility to be "humane" in the usage of animals for this ordained purpose.

3) This means any amount of animal suffering can POTENTIALLY be justified, but there remains an ever-present burden to demonstrate the proportionate human benefit at stake. (Human suffering outweighs animal suffering, but minor human "convenience" does not.)

4) We should always struggle not to become calloused to the pain we sometimes must inflict, no matter how routine it becomes. Just because it is RIGHT does not mean it isn't still sad and disconcerting. (This should not just apply to the "cute" animals...I've known many to actually feel less sympathy for a given species just because they're less appealing!)

5) Protesters who violate HUMAN rights (and the LAW) to vent their frustration must be punished severely -- I'm not generally one for "zero tolerance" in most cases, but throw the book...
8.4.2008 4:12pm
gwinje:
Jeff Boghosian:

You make a fair point. I also think humans should minimize the amount of suffering we cause other animals, but I find PETA specifically to border on the absurd. Of the 40ish people there, two (hippsters) had on Keds. The rest had leather shoes. I would also estimate that 60% had leather outerwear. At this function, they debuted their new "I'd Rather Go Naked Than Wear Fur" commercials. If not hypocritical, it was at least amusing.
8.4.2008 4:44pm
Redlands (mail):
Do these people ever think of the potential consequences? If someone had died as a result of the arson it's capital murder. At least in California. Small price to pay to get the message out, right?
8.4.2008 4:54pm
Horatio (mail):
PETA - People Eating Tasty Animals
Don't forget that Sacred Cows make the best hamburgers
"Mmmmmm.....steak..."
8.4.2008 5:06pm
arbitraryaardvark (mail) (www):
If they really wanted to save animals' lives, animal rights activists should volunteer themselves as research subjects instead. This is consistent with ARAs' talking points that animals' organs and metabolisms are too different from people's for animal research to be relevant

I would have responded sooner, but I had an appointment at Eli Lilly to be evaluated as a test subject for a drug study.
Didn't get into this one, but there'll be others. It's one of the main things I do for a living - the law practice is more an expensive hobby.
Some commentators are misusing the term ecoterrorism. (yes I'm being prescriptivist here.) Saddam setting the oil wells on fire in Kuwait is ecoterrorism - using ecology to indiscriminately attack a civilian population to create general fear.
Ecotage is a term for when when ecological activists engage in property crimes against polluters, or here, alleged animal torturers. See also monkeywrenching.
I don't know anyone in the rights community who is opposed to biomedical research. I know lots of people who oppose biomedical research which involves ethical violations against human or animal subjects, such as the Tuskeegee experiments or Dr. Mengele. Such research is often bad science as well as bad behavior.
There is currently a lack of consensus about what ethical standards are appropriate for animals.
Partisan direct action against regimes like Dr. Mengele's is usually considered ethical. Reasonable people (and unreasonable ones) can disagree about whether there are parallels between science as practiced by the Nazis and science as practiced by UCSC.
8.4.2008 5:56pm
gasman (mail):

I seem to remember a bigwig from PETA one day on one of those morning talk shows one time (don't you just love my pinpoint citations). She said, with a straight face, that she would rather her daughter die of some disease than have any experimentation done on animals that might lead to a cure for that disease.

These people seem to be able to talk the party line when the cameras are rolling and their child is not in any danger. But as a pediatric physician for 14 years I've yet to meet a parent who wanted to parse which procedures, medications, and interventions were 'animal safe'.
8.4.2008 5:59pm
Kirk:
Gasman,

You may both be correct: I take it as a given that people like that PETA bigwig are (thankfully!) quite rare. The chances of you having encountered such a person in a single pediatric practice are quite rare. Heck, how many Christian Scientists (or Jehovah's Witnesses refusing transfusions) have you dealt with?
8.4.2008 7:09pm
Thomas_Holsinger:
arbitraryaardvark,

Is cutting the brake lines on a person's car a mere "property crime", aka "monkeywrenching"?

You come across as an apologist for evil.
8.4.2008 8:30pm
Visitor Again:
Thomas Holsinger:

This is about power, not suffering, animal "rights" or animals at all. It is only about power - the nutjobs are trying to make themselves feel powerful. Animals are just a justification. The same personality types used to bomb abortion clinics.

and

You come across as an apologist for evil.

So do you.
8.4.2008 9:16pm
Smokey:
astrangerwithcandy:
I'm well aware of the context in which i made the argument that right-wing extremists groups are generally... blah, blah, blah, etc., etc.
Tell it to Ayers. And Bernadette Dohrn. And Ted Kazinski. And Sirhan Sirhan. And Lee Harvey Oswald. And Angela Davis. And Squeaky Fromme. And just about every Islamist murderer on the planet. And the countless other wackos who naturally gravitate to the Left side of the political spectrum.

Both sides have their problems. But the Left is the side that almost always attracts the cowardly nail bombers, head sawers, hijackers, PETA firebombers, UN babyraper soldiers, chemical bombers, anthrax mailers, and assassins. And the average U.S. leftist turns a blind eye.

'K? Thx bye.
8.4.2008 10:10pm
The Ace (mail):
Wow, for such "tolerant" people, the left sure seems, well, intolerant.

And not a single one of these anti-science, eco-terrorist clowns would refuse life saving medical treatment that was brought about by animal testing if they were laying on the operating table dying.
8.4.2008 10:37pm
The Ace (mail):
Reasonable people (and unreasonable ones) can disagree about whether there are parallels between science as practiced by the Nazis and science as practiced by UCSC.

Um, what?

This is probably one of the more deranged sentences I've ever read here.
8.4.2008 10:39pm
arbitraryaardvark (mail) (www):
Is cutting the brake lines on a person's car a mere "property crime", aka "monkeywrenching"?
You come across as an apologist for evil.

No, that would be attempted personal violence, and prohibited by the principles of ecotage. Whether cutting someone's brake lines is evil depends a lot on the circumstances. Many of us are apologists for evil, in one form or another. I try to avoid violence against animals mammals, but I am too cowardly to join the monkeywrenchers. I trained in their techniques back in the day.
8.4.2008 10:45pm
Eric H (mail) (www):
"And Ted Kazinski. ... And the countless other wackos who naturally gravitate to the Left side of the political spectrum."

I think I'm missing your point, but I thought ol' Ted was fairly anti-left in Industrial Society and Its Future, wasn't he?
8.4.2008 11:27pm
Thomas_Holsinger:
arbitraryaardvark,

So how is fire-bombing a residence NOT "personal violence"?. And, since people were in the house and one was injured, how was that not REAL violence as opposed to an "attempt"?

This is a California legal board and we are familiar with the criminal definition of "bodily injury". Ask the Chowchilla school bus kidnappers about that the next time you see them.

Which might be soon if you aren't careful. Look up the definition of criminal conspiracy in case you did not understand Ace's implication.
8.5.2008 12:04am
amativus (mail):
Santa Cruz hippies aren't happy about it either; today they held a rally at the base of campus in support of the researchers and their families. For all our anarchist treesitters, the biological sciences are still far and away the largest department at UC Santa Cruz and nobody wants to see the researchers go. I'm only afraid that this will further strain town-gown relations if Santa Cruz locals begin looking at the campus as a terrorist target.
8.5.2008 1:43am
arbitraryaardvark (mail) (www):
So how is fire-bombing a residence NOT "personal violence"?

I think it probably was, which suggests that the culprits may not be part of the animal rights activist community which generally avoids such tactics. Depends partly on the size and power of the explosive. I don't always assume that the New York Times has all its facts right.
sentinal article. OK, it looks like it was a molotov cocktail, which is a lot more serious than say just a firecracker. I still have concerns about whether attempted murder is the appropriate charge. I still think the term terrorism is being misused here. Vigilanteeism yes, terrorism probably not. I would also dispute whether it is impossible to discuss the incident without engaging in criminal conspiracy.
At this point, we don't know who set the bombs or why.
Remember the Maine, the Haymarket, Tonkin Gulf.
8.5.2008 4:41am
Oren:
And just about every Islamist murderer on the planet. And the countless other wackos who naturally gravitate to the Left side of the political spectrum.
When the jihadist start agitating for contraception and gay-rights, I will eat my hat. Placing them in the category of violent leftist nutbags (which is plenty full as it is!) makes about as much sense as firebombing a house to prove a point about violence to animals.
8.5.2008 11:26am
Duncan Frissell (mail):
At least some are carrying powerful pepper spray; it's the best you can do (legally) in California.

If you are under specific threat of attack, a necessity defense might protect you against charges of unlawful carry.
8.5.2008 12:53pm
Jmaie (mail):
OK, it looks like it was a molotov cocktail... I still think the term terrorism is being misused here. Vigilanteeism yes, terrorism probably not.

To argue vigilanteeism, you would need to assume that the perpetrators had no larger goal in mind and were only retaliating against an individual for his previous activities. It is much more plausible to think they are sending a message to other researchers, i.e. "you're next".

The first option is technically possible, but I'd have a hard time believeing it.
8.5.2008 2:16pm
arbitraryaardvark (mail) (www):
Jmaie, I'm not following you. Typical vigilanteeism: posse goes out and strings up an alleged cattle rustler. Purpose is both specific deterrence of that individual and general deterrence of cattle rustling.
8.5.2008 2:40pm
Michelle Dulak Thomson (mail):
arbitraryaardvark,

How can attempted murder not be the appropriate charge? What else do you call doing one's (considerable) best to torch a building inside which people are known to be sleeping?

I think I get your distinction between vigilanteeism (attacking someone whose actions you want to deter) and terrorism (attacking innocent third parties in order to make another stop what he's doing), but I am not sure why one who attacks his target's family (rather than unrelated innocents) counts for you as a vigilante rather than a terrorist.
8.5.2008 3:15pm
Jmaie (mail):
arbitraryaardvark,

Realised I was not clear drawing the distinction. Comes from posting at work in a hurry.

Vigilanteeism is generally punishment for a crime and targets the criminal. While done extra legally, the general public would at least understand if not sympathise with the act.

In this case the targeted people were engaged in legal activities which enjoy at least some public support.

The targeting of family members and their choice of weapon (Molotov Cocktail) takes it firmly into the realm of terrorism.

Although, burning a rustler's home with family inside would make a good '70's Charles Bronson script.
8.5.2008 8:40pm