New McCarthyism and The Curious Case of Marie Mason
<table><tr><td>What’s being called the “Green Scare” is the new version of McCarthyism where, instead of blacklisting and marginalizing Marxists, anarchists, and other leftists, eco-saboteurs are being given lofty, draconian prison sentences for property damage and being labeled terrorists.
McCarthyism was a period throughout the ‘40’s and ‘50’s, named after one of the most reactionary and anti-communist politicians in U.S. history named Joseph McCarthy. To illustrate how ridiculous and draconian McCarthyism became, take the blacklisted and banned American 1954 film Salt of the Earth: the film involves a Hispanic coal-mining community that is being exploited by the owner of the company, and decides to organize and strike, while their wives and girlfriends join them in picketing. Sounds extreme, no?</td><td><img title="Free Marie and end the system that allows her x-husband to have any power over her life!" src="files/pictures/2008/marie_mason.jpg"></td></tr></table><!--break-->
While certainly way ahead of its time (and a great film, I might add) for exploring the issue of exploited workers, with a feminist slant, the film would seem tame by today’s standards. Also, many actors, authors, producers, and directors were blacklisted if it was even insinuated that they were communist-sympathizers.
The post 9/11 world has given us a new brand of this knee-jerk reaction: enter the “Green Scare.”
Many activists have decided to become proactive in regards to protecting the environment. With a keen awareness for human life and not harming others, many of these activists have chosen to act illegally in a system that justifies the unjust; many have chosen sabotage, “tree-sitting” to protect forestry, and other property damage like destroying automobiles (one Jeff Luers, for example, is currently serving a ten-year sentence for destroying threeSUVs). We’re only left to ponder if canonized activists like Gandhi, or Martin Luther King, Jr. would have taken similar actions in 2009.
Because this is the case, environmental destruction is most certainly an issue of social justice. Just ask communities in the third world that have been devastated by the spread of disease via climate change and encroaching shore lines, or people of color in the U.S. A report published in the U.S. by groups Environmental Justice and Climate Change Initiative and Redefining progress shows that “[s]eventy-one percent of African Americans live in counties in violation of federal air pollution standards, as compared to fifty-eight percent of the white population. Seventy-eight percent of African Americans live within thirty miles of a coal-fired power plant, as compared to fifty-six percent of non-Hispanic whites.”
Further, the report states that “[g]lobal warming is expected to increase the frequency and intensity of heat waves or extreme heat events. African Americans suffer heat death at one hundred fifty to two hundred percent of the rate for non-Hispanic whites.” This is just one troublesome example of how the ecological is inherently social.
For many the question is not whether acting against those who perpetuate climate change via non-violent sabotage and occupying forests is ethical; the question is whether to have the courage to act.
Another ecologically and socially devastating practice carried out by the ruling class is the issue of genetically modified organisms (GMO’s). Certainly there should be joint concern raised about GMO’s: how they affect consumers, and the devastating affect they can have on finite ecosystems. UC, Davis professor Roberta L. Millstein wrote in an essay entitled “Natural Selection, Genetically Modified Food, and The Environment,” that “some authors argue that genetically modified food could lead to a loss of genetic diversity within a particular food crop, leaving that food crop vulnerable to extinction (see, e.g., Lappé and Baily 2002). Another type of argument focuses on potential side effects of genetically modified food. Perhaps there will be gene flow from genetically engineered herbicide resistant crops to a weedy relative, producing a “superweed” that could lead to a “bioinvasion” that takes over an entire ecosystem (see, e.g., Shiva 2002). And Monarch butterflies made headlines when it appeared that corn that was modified to kill corn borers also killed the butterflies, leading to concerns that other species could suffer harm at the hands of genetically modified food as well.”
If the preceding assertions are true, tampering with our food could lead to absolutely devastating results. This doesn’t take into question what health consequences humans will have from digesting such foodstuffs.
If coal plants, automobiles, and GMO’s are destroying the planet, making people sick, and in turn killing people, is there a justification in the direct action taken by individuals to sabotage such endeavors, like that of “illegal” actions taken by individuals in the U.S. in the ‘60’s against apartheid in the South ? If so, the case of Marie Mason is worth pondering.
According to a recent interview with Mason in the Summer/Fall 2009 issue of U.S. periodical Fifth Estate, she is “serving the longest sentence of any Green Scare arrestee.”
Now when most people hear the crime she committed, they’ll hopefully do some critical thinking over the justification of the 22 year sentence she was given. The property damage and arson for which she was convicted caused over one million dollars worth of damage to Michigan State University, where research was being conducted on GMO’s.
For those that do not consider the perpetuation of GMOs or other environmental degradation a crime against humanity, they may consider the 22 year sentence just. Others, perhaps, will view Marie Mason as an activist who took action against a ruling class that is criminal by its very nature.
Doing minimal research on similar prison sentences is astounding. For example, in Kansas City, a man was recently sentenced to 25 years for a 1992 robbery and gang rape of a woman, www. kansascity.com reports. Another comparable sentence is that of Lewisville, Texas’ Daniel Cassidy. Cassidy, a soccer coach, was recently sentenced 20 years for 6 counts of child molestation. The U.S. judicial system is clear: destroying property is on par with violating women and children.
Mason’s case is unique because of the fact that her sentence is exceptionally long. There are many others like her that have been convicted of property destruction in defiance of those that perpetuate polices that destroy the environment.
There is no dispute over what Mason and others did; they admit to their actions. However, the question remains: is the “Green Scare” representing a new wave of political prisoners in the U.S. ? There are approximately 100 people in the U.S. that are considered political prisoners by many citizens, including the prison abolition movement and the Anarchist Black Cross association, as well as the Midwest Pages for Prisoners Project based out of Bloomington, Indiana; this of course, does not count the fact that “[a]t midyear 2008, there were 4,777 black male inmates per 100,000 U.S. residents being held in state or federal prison,” according to Bureau of Justice Statistics available at www.ojp.usdoj.gov. That means over 8 percent of black men between the ages of 25-29 are in prison, as opposed to slightly over 1 percent of white men, according to Bureau of Justice Statistics. It begs the question: are many of these African American men political prisoners, being targeted by an inherently racist judicial system?
If Marie Mason wasn’t someone who had a point of view, who had a history of speaking truth to power and took, admittedly, dramatic action, would she be spending 22 years behind bars? Does Mason account for one of the many supposed political prisoners within the U.S., and are her actions justifiable when a maniacal minority of the human population show no signs of slowing down the process of global warming? Certainly difficult and important questions remain unanswered in these interesting times.