Insurrection: New York Times Promotes Sabotage, ‘Guerrilla Warfare’ to End Fossil Fuels

News & Politics

In January of 2021, The New York Times promoted a book titled How To Blow Up a Pipeline by transparently radical author Andreas Malm. On Thursday, the Times directly promoted Malm by publishing his guest essay under the headline “History May Absolve the Soup Throwers.” That’s too tender a headline, for Malm thinks soup throwing at a Van Gogh painting isn’t optimal:

I tend to think sabotage is most effective when it is precise and gritty. When activists from the same group smashed gas stations in April this year, they hit the nail on the head. Gasoline, unlike a van Gogh painting, is a fuel of global warming. There is a whole planetary layer of stations, pipelines, platforms, derricks, terminals, mines and shafts that must be shut down to save humanity and other life-forms. When governments refuse to undertake this work, it is up to the rest of us to initiate it. That is the rationale for sabotage: to aim straight for the bags of coal.

While the Times routinely rails against the “insurrection” on January 6 and sees all “domestic terrorism” as a right-wing problem, it promotes a climate insurrection and left-wing domestic terrorism. Malm explicitly champions sabotage and violence — even guerrilla warfare! — as an efficient path to ending fossil fuels: 

In the past year, activists have been taking up the tactic of sabotage and property destruction along a spectrum from symbolic to serious. The Tyre Extinguishers have deflated the tires of nearly 10,000 S.U.V.s in some of the most affluent enclaves of the world. In February, activists stormed a construction site of the Coastal GasLink pipeline in British Columbia and utterly wrecked machinery and other equipment, causing, the company said, millions of dollars in damage.

Meanwhile, in the research community, leading energy scholars such as Benjamin K. Sovacool at Boston University are discussing the pros and cons of climate militancy and coming down, remarkably, in favor of considering a full range of options, including civil disobedience and guerrilla warfare.

Malm tyrannically insists “all oil and gas production in rich countries — including the United States, Britain, Canada, Australia and Qatar — must be terminated within 12 years. Not only can there be no new fossil fuel installations; 40 percent of reserves already developed must be left in the ground.”

As for the ethics of property destruction, it is not, in this case, very complicated. Fossil fuels kill people. If you disrupt the flow of such fuels and damage the machinery they impel, you prevent deaths. You stop the perpetration of harm. You may destroy an inanimate object — and no one in the climate movement is suggesting anything other than targeting dead things — so as to protect living beings. Or, put differently, if you are locked in a house on fire, you have a right to break some windows to get out.

If the logic and ethics here seem straightforward‌, the tactical terrain is not. How do we make sure that no one is physically harmed in the process? Just what windows will be most effective to break? What openings will attract larger numbers of people to make the leap? We don’t know what, if anything, will work, which is why, perhaps, the movement needs both: flippant attention grabbing as well as surgical shutdowns, in a diversity of disruptions. We cannot afford to forgo creative methods that might further the cause.

Jim Thompson at RedState reminds us that this is the same editorial page that knuckled under to a staff revolt and apologized for posting an op-ed by Sen. Tom Cotton about deploying troops against rioters. Cotton was supposedly putting minorities in harm’s way. They favor rioters when it’s on that “right side of history,” like those soup throwers.

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