Today, three animal rights activists were given prison sentences of four to six years each for maintaining a website that included the home addresses of animal experimenters and the executives that supervised them. A few months ago, wacky conservative conspiracy theorist David Horowitz endorsed and helped publicize a site that listed the home addresses of the New York Times employees and executives. He's still at large.
The animal rights activists were convicted under a rarely used 1992 federal law, the Animal Enterprise Protection Act. The law states that anybody who travels interstate "or uses or causes to be used the mail or any other facility ... for the purpose of causing physical disruption to the functioning of an animal enterprise" may be imprisoned and/or fined if they cause material or economic loss.
The Internet, presumably, comes under the "any other facility" provision. The activists were convicted in Trenton, where new visitors are often startled by the large sign over the town's bridge that reads "Trenton Makes, The World Takes."
These three are part of a larger group of defendants known as the SHAC 7 that publicized the names and addresses of people involved in animal experiments - and their families. I don't approve of what they did, especially the family part. I didn't like the right wing's ugly comments about Chelsea Clinton or Amy Carter when they were young, and I certainly don't like seeing anyone's kids brought into a dispute for no reason.
Nevertheless, I'm extremely uncomfortable with the easy way the government labelled these defendants as 'terrorists.' The activists were indicted on other counts, but use of the Animal Enterprise Protection Act added to their convictions and punishment.
That raises a lot of questions: Does a boycott count as 'terrorist' interference in a business? Why should penalties be greater for an act directed against animal researchers and the industries it supports than they would be if it had targeted teachers, or doctors - or journalists?
Here's where David Horowitz comes into the picture. Remember that phony imbroglio a while back about the New York Times publishing photos of Rumsfeld's house (one of them, anyway)? All the usual wingnuts started saying the Times article was a politically-motivated retaliation intended to aid Al Qaeda in murdering these men.
Yes, they really said that - notwithstanding the fact that the Rumsfeld/Cheney policies have been a recruitment bonanza for Al Qaeda. They made complete fools of themselves, especially when Rumsfeld's office confirmed that he had given the TImes permission to take the photos. Yet many of them refused to back down even then.
Horowitz, however, went one step further. He opened a post with typical fictionalized hysteria. "In an apparent retaliation for criticism of its disclosure of classified intelligence to America's enemies," he writes, "the New York Times June 30th edition has printed huge color photos of the vacation residences of Vice President Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, identifying the small Maryland town where they live, showing the front driveway and in Rumsfeld's case actually pointing out the hidden security camera in case any hostile intruders should get careless."
Then Horowitz ventured straight into SHAC 7 territory. "Here's a proposal for action," he wrote, linking to a blog called "The Autonomist." The "Autonomist," who voluntary identified himself but we won't name here, first called for a camera expedition to several Times employees' houses - he names them, of course - then provides detailed turn-by-turn directions to the home of Times publisher Pinch Sulzberger.
How ugly is The Autonomist? Read and judge for yourself:
I issue a call to the blogosphere to begin finding and publicly listing the addresses of all New York Times reporters and editors. Posting pictures of their residences, along with details of any security measures in place to protect the properties and their owners (such as location of security cameras and on-site security details) should also be published.
The "Autonomist" then publicizes the fact that Pinch Sulzberger carries a gun. He adds:
In the public interest, I've just published an article on Linda J. Spillers, who photographed Donald Rumsfeld's vacation home for the NY Times article. Should you have any questions for her, Linda's contact information is in the article. (Pulled)
update: 7/2/2006 10:30 AM It's a beautiful holiday weekend. Pack a lunch and your camera and take a relaxing drive to New Paltz, New York to enjoy the fresh, country air. [links to location of Sulzberger's New Paltz home] Anyone for a dip in Pinchie's pool?
Then there's Michelle Malkin. Her act was ugly, vicious, and petty - but trivial by the standards of Horowitz and his acolyte at The Autonomist. She, you may recall, published the names email addresses of some UC Santa Cruz students because she didn't like their politics. They were then subjected to a torrent of abuse. Their daily lives were made temporarily unlivable.
Had these kids been animal experimenters instead of college kids protesting military recruitment, Malkin could be looking at doing hard time.
So why are these animal rights activists going to jail while cHorowitz, Malkin, and friends are walking around free? It's a rhetorical question, of course. Ann Coulter has advocated Presidential assassination, poisoning a judge, and the killing of Times reporters, while Bill O'Reilly has encouraged terrorist attacks on San Francisco. You can't swing a dead cat, experimented on or not, without hitting those two on television.
Using the same standards that convicted these young defendants, America's right wing is infested with terrorists from stem to stern. No doubt laws would be passed and indictments handed down against these thugs if they offended the same powerful people these animal rights activists did. But they don't, of course.
The activists are trying to protect animals, while the right-wingers are defending the greedy, corrupt, and powerful - and being handsomely paid for it. That's why the media is an ever-flowing fountain of conservative hate speech from Horowitz, Malkin, and the like.
And that's why you'll still see them treated as respectable commentators on cable TV, probably this week, as the first of the SHAC 7 start doing their time.