Media Representation of ELF
The media has been instrumental in the issue of ecoterrorism and the characteristics of ELF as an environmental group. The mass media is a powerful tool to both gage popular opinion on ecoterrorism and the frame the issue as it is portrayed to the public.
To help discredit the political content of ELF’s crimes, prosecutors, politicians, law enforcement officers and the media have demonized ELF activists as terrorists, sociopaths, criminals or, simply, naïve kids with an overly romantic view of what it means to fight for a cause.
According to media news site Sourcewatch, “since 1990 there have been numerous attempts by industry front groups, PR firms and conservative think-tanks to associate environmental activism with terrorism.”
Eco-terrorism may not get as much attention from the news media as al-Qaeda or other foreign terrorist groups, but they do make headlines. News reports make a clear distinction between eco-terrorists and terrorists. The use of the word “eco-terrorist” rather than just “terrorist” demonstrates the dichotomy between the movements.
The government and news outlets have been central to framing the eco-terrorism debate. In a statement before the Senate Judiciary Committee in May 2004, John E. Lewis of the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division noted the “upswing in violent rhetoric and tactics” among ecoterrorists and said that in recent years ALF and ELF “have become the most active criminal extremist elements in the United States. With environmental activist groups increasing the frequency and severity of terrorist activities, they have surpassed “right-wing extremists, KKK, anti-abortion groups, and the like.”
According to an FBI spokesman this statement was recently made by one extremist: ‘If someone is killing, on a regular basis, thousands of animals, and if that person can only be stopped in one way by the use of violence, then it is certainly a morally justifiable solution.’ The portrayal of radical environmentalists in the media has prompted backlash by several individuals in the environmental movement. They have expressed concerns that the media attention focused on eco-terrorists will not only detract from the general environmental movement, but that eco-terrorists may become associated as the face of the movement.
ELF claims responsibility for their activities by e-mail, fax, and other communications usually sent directly to the media. Media information is provided by the North American Earth Liberation Front Press Office.
ELF’s violence finally received mainstream media attention when it burned a ski resort under construction in Vail, Colorado in 1998, causing $12 million in damage. Spokesman Leslie James Pickering wrote that he received anonymous communiqués from ELF and further distributed them.
Several books, newspaper articles, and photos have also been published by those on both sides of the issue.
In 2011, a documentary on the ELF by Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Marshall Curry entitled “If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front” premiered and attempted to show the true actions and ideas of ELF.
Most recently, an associated member of ELF created a new documentary that is actually in theaters right now (Spring 2013). The documentary says it “investigates the reason behind stalled efforts to tackle climate change despite consensus in the scientific community that it is not only a reality but also a growing problem that is placing us on the bring of disaster.”
Media Created by ELF
Sample Headlines of ELF in the News
Welcome to the struggle of all species to be free.
We are the burning rage of this dying planet. The war of greed ravages the earth and species die out every day. ELF works to speed up the collapse of industry, to scare the rich, and to undermine the foundations of the state. We embrace social and deep ecology as a practical resistance movement. We have to show the enemy that we are serious about defending what is sacred. Together we have teeth and claws to match our dreams. Our greatest weapons are imagination and the ability to strike when least expected.
Since 1992, a series of earth nights and halloween smashes has mushroomed around the world. 1000’s of bulldozers, powerlines, computer systems, buildings and valuable equipment have been composted. Many ELF actions have been censored to prevent our bravery from inciting others to take action.
We take inspiration from the Luddites, Levellers, Diggers, the Autonome squatter movement, ALF, the Zapatistas, and the little people — those mischievous elves of lore. Authorities can’t see us because they don’t believe in elves. We are practically invisible. We have no command structure, no spokespersons, no office, just many small groups working separately, seeking vulnerable targets and parcticing our craft.
Many elves are moving to the Pacific Northwest and other sacred areas. Some elves will leave surprises as they go. Find your family! And let’s dance as we make ruins of the corporate money system.
Form ‘stormy night’ action groups, encourage friends you trust. A tight community of love is a poweful force.
Recon — check out targets that fit your plan and go over what you will do
Attack — powerlines: cut supporting cables, unbolt towers, and base supports, saw wooden poles.
transformers: shoot out, bonfires, throw metal chains on top, or blow them up.
computers: smash, burn or flood buildings.
Excerpt of PBS film “If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front”:
News clip about the destroyed radio tower in Snohomish, WA: