If there’s one resounding message from the last decade, it is the effectiveness with which Americans can be bludgeoned and coerced into what amounts to self-applied lebotomization. All it takes is to utter the word “terrorism” and the average person’s brain ceases to function.
Democracy Now! reports:
A new documentary, “If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front,” tells the story of environmental activist Daniel McGowan. Four years ago this month, McGowan was sentenced to a seven-year term for his role in two acts of politically motivated arson in 2001 to protest extensive logging in the Pacific Northwest—starting fires at a lumber company and an experimental tree farm in Oregon. The judge ruled he had committed an act of terrorism, even though no one was hurt in any of the actions. McGowan participated in the arsons as a member of the Earth Liberation Front but left the group after the second fire led him to become disillusioned. He was arrested years later after a key member of the Earth Liberation Front—himself facing the threat of lengthy jail time—turned government informant. McGowan ultimately reached a plea deal but refused to cooperate with the government’s case. As a result, the government sought a “terrorism enhancement” to add extra time to his sentence. McGowan is currently jailed in a secretive prison unit known as Communication Management Units, or CMUs, in Marion, Illinois. We play an excerpt from the film and speak with the film’s director, Marshall Curry. We also speak with Andrew Stepanian, an animal rights activist who was imprisoned at the same CMU as McGowan, and with Will Potter, a freelance reporter who writes about how the so-called “war on terror” affects civil liberties.