Simul-posted with Negotiation is Over!
Imagine, if you will, a woman walks into a library or university computer lab far from her place of residence. She wears loose-fitting clothes of a style she doesn’t normally wear, purchased from a thrift store in a city she doesn’t frequent. Maybe she wears sunglasses, a bandana over her scalp; she’s removed her piercings if she has any—in short, this woman disguises her appearance from security cameras. Ones that are becoming more and more common as this culture moves ever closer to a techno-fascist police state. When she walks into the computer lab, she tilts down her head and uses care to avoid raising suspicion or interest. Her goal, in the end, is to be completely unmemorable in every possible way. She’s also parked her vehicle well away from the computer lab’s location—making sure it’s a place where getting a ticket is NOT a possibility (since any paper trail that ties you to a certain place and time is potentially catastrophic—this goes for buying gas or anything else on her way to this distant-from-home location; cash, cash, everything in cash, always!). Blending in with her surroundings, she sets up a new one-time-only email account with nonsense information and password that has no connection to her life or personality whatsoever.
From there, her possibilities are limitless. Maybe she learned about a timber sale on a piece of beautiful, life-filled forest (one located distant from her area of residence); in an effort to protect that ecosystem and those trees, she sends emails to the Forest Service and logging company, claiming to’ve spiked several dozen trees with metal and non-metal spikes, encouraging them—for the safety of their workers and equipment—to cancel the sale. Or perhaps she sends out a communiqué from the “Animal Rights Militia” or “Justice Department”, saying her group contaminated an entire shipment of meat from a particular slaughterhouse. Something like this could potentially cause tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage; if the target is chosen strategically, she could theoretically force an entire slaughterhouse out of business with just one email! Or a final example: perhaps this clandestine activist—tired of the woeful snail-pace of progress toward a sane/sustainable/just society, knowing the imminent calamitous threat of climate change—sends emails to an oil refinery, the Department of Transportation, and a specific railroad company (the emails for which she memorized before her little adventure, and never wrote anything down until the moment of action); she claims that her group sabotaged a stretch of railroad tracks leading up to that oil refinery, and that the many hundreds of tankers filled with crude oil that’d normally deliver to that refinery that day could be derailed and cause a catastrophic spill if the shipment is not cancelled or delayed. Keep in mind: a medium-sized refinery processes somewhere in the neighborhood of 700,000 gallons of crude oil every single day. If production is halted, even for just one day, this would likely cost the refinery hundreds of thousands of dollars. This may seem hyperbolic, but it’s anything but: the group with probably more environmental success than any other group, EVER, is the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND). A few years ago, by destroying a single bottlenecked/choke point oil pipeline, they were able to keep approximately 30 PERCENT of the region’s oil in the ground for a week—this one action raised the price of oil globally.
The genius of this young woman’s email actions is that she never has to actually commit any of these actions. She merely has to make her targets believe she has done so. The risk she’s taking is monumentally low, especially when compared with the risk of actually physically committing these acts for real. She knows that hoaxes couldn’t and shouldn’t ever completely replace real-world actions, but a mixture of BOTH could make substantial gains with a startling amount of ease and expediency.
If you’re still skeptical about the potential efficacy of hoax-activism, how about a real-world example—one that helped win a major campaign, one that I was involved in as a grassroots protestor (and ONLY in that capacity)—would that lend credence to this tactical concept?
As it turns out, the campaign on which I cut my activist teeth benefitted immeasurably from a high-profile hoax. In 2006 through early 2007, Southern California activists were struggling hard to get the POM Wonderful juice company to stop funding experiments on mice and rabbits. We did many home demos. The vice-president of the company resigned as a result of our campaign. PETA eventually got its high-profile stature involved. And then it happened: the Animal Rights Militia (ARM) claimed to’ve contaminated nearly 500 bottles of POM Wonderful’s famous pomegranate juice at Whole Foods stores across the eastern seaboard. The supermarket chain pulled all POM products from its shelves, and announced that if POM didn’t cease its animal testing by a certain impending date, they would no longer sell their products. The next day, POM Wonderful announced that they would cease all current and future animal testing. This perfectly displayed how effective a multi-pronged approach could be; It was a triple-threat of local grassroots activism, a monolithic national group, and underground illegal action. Turns out the ARM’s announcement of juice-tampering was a hoax—but it worked. In the words of Denzel Washington from Training Day, “It’s not what you know, it’s what you can prove!” Well, I know the POM campaign proved how effective a hoax could be. Without a doubt, it would’ve taken us a lot longer to win that battle were it not for the Animal Rights Militia’s communiqué. Instead we were able to immediately move on to a new targeted campaign against ever-specious animal testing.
Imagine the possibilities. Just imagine—and then act accordingly!
*Note: as a writer, I offer these suggestions solely for literary purposes. I do not condone or encourage illegal activity, even though our planet and all her inhabitants are direly imperiled, even though industrial civilization is causing a mass extinction of plants and animals, with up to 200 species a day going extinct. Some things—like laws—are just simply more important than life, and its continuance!
 The adage, “Never shit in your own backyard” comes to mind.
 The second animal rights demonstration—and third overall demo—I ever went to was a raucous affair at a POM executive’s house, replete w/ a line of cops in riot gear on her front lawn. How’s THAT for a welcome to the world of AR activism?!
 In a hilarious bit of irony, this proclamation came just days after POM’s owner told demonstrators at his Beverly Hills home that he wouldn’t cease his company’s vivisection even if we were to “protest him for a thousand years!”