The mainstream media—traditional print, radio and television—was once the only trusted source of news. That all changed with the rise of social media, led by Mark Zuckerberg and his college dorm room invention Facebook. Suddenly traditional news sources found themselves scrambling to maintain their viewers and readers, many of whom turned to social media to get information. So it’s not surprising that these outlets piled on when Facebook found itself in the glare of the spotlight courtesy of a blockbuster “60 Minutes” interview with a whistleblower who claimed the company concealed evidence that it was aware the platform is used to spread misinformation and violence.
However, the mainstream media is hardly in a position to pass judgment as they welcome a radical anti-pipeline activist who chooses violence over peace and chaos over order.
Pipelines have become a rallying point for fringe activists who want to “take action” on climate change. They cheer the demise of projects like Keystone and PennEast with little regard for the American jobs that were lost or the people across the country and around the globe who would have benefitted from the affordable and reliable energy resources delivered through those pipelines.
As demonstrations in recent years have shown, many activists are willing to break the law to stop new projects or advocate for canceling those already operational, like the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). Just this month, more than fifty protestors were arrested at the Department of Interior offices in Washington DC after forcibly gaining entry to the building, demanding to speak with Interior Secretary Deb Haaland - who wasn’t even in the District at the time. The unlawful protests left multiple officers injured, and at least one was transported to a nearby hospital.
But that isn’t enough. Indeed author Andreas Malm believes pipeline opponents need to step up their game — his book is titled ‘How to Blow Up a Pipeline.’ Bemoaning the commitment to non-violent tactics, he queries, “At what point do we escalate? When do we conclude that the time has come to also try something different? When do we start physically attacking the things that consume our planet and destroy them with our own hands?”
Mr. Malm advocates for “intelligent sabotage” — meaning targeted property destruction that includes blowing up pipelines: “Damage and destroy new CO2-emitting devices. Put them out of commission, pick them apart, demolish them, burn them, blow them up. Let the capitalists who keep on investing in the fire know that their properties will be trashed.” But instead of dismissing or even bemoaning ecoterrorism, media outlets celebrated it.
The New Yorker interviewed Mr. Malm on its podcast while The New York Times and the L.A. Times Review of Books heralded the book. The domestic terrorism that Mr. Malm is championing has serious consequences should protestors take up his cause. You need only look at the two women who purposefully and publicly attempted to damage the Dakota Access Pipeline with a blow torch and set fires near construction equipment. The U.S. Department of Justice called their actions a “federal crime of terrorism,” and a judge sentenced one of the women to eight years in federal prison; the other awaits her sentence.
The ability to develop and transport natural energy resources has enabled America to prosper and become a global energy leader, a goal we would have never achieved without the nation’s intricate network of pipelines delivering those resources and powering the economy. However, policies that limit American energy development and infrastructure investment stand only to minimize the shale boom and jeopardize U.S. economic and national security interests. Pipelines remain the safest, most efficient and environmentally conscious means of transporting oil and natural gas from coast-to-coast — far superior to rail cars and tanker trucks.
Mr. Malm is under the impression that only the CEO and a company’s bottom-line bear the brunt if a pipeline is destroyed. Still, those companies employ tens of thousands of Americans who proudly supply the energy we all depend upon every day. To encourage violence that could jeopardize the physical safety and financial security of these hard-working men and women – not to mention nearby residents and innocent bystanders - is unconscionable. Equally unconscionable are media organizations that provide instigators, like Mr. Malm, a megaphone to spew violent rhetoric and promote unlawful acts. If they continue to do so, they should find themselves sharing the spotlight with Facebook under the glare of the Department of Justice and the Federal Communications Commission.
• Craig Stevens, a former senior advisor to U.S. Energy Secretary Sam Bodman, is the spokesman for Grow America’s Infrastructure Now (GAIN).