From the LA Times:
Santa Cruz — Firebombs that struck the home and car of two UC Santa Cruz scientists this weekend were part of an increasingly aggressive campaign by animal rights activists against animal researchers at University of California campuses, officials said Monday.
This attack could very well have easily killed two children (ages 2 and 4), in addition to one of the targeted researchers, David Feldheim. Not that this appears to bother some of the kookier members of the Animal Rights community:
Jerry Vlasak, a Los Angeles physician who runs a website that highlights animal rights activism, blamed the scientists for the violence.
Vlasak, of the North American Animal Liberation Press Office website, said his organization had received no communique from any group claiming responsibility for the Santa Cruz fire bombings. Although he said he had no direct knowledge of the attacks, he also said that “the use of force” is “not unpredictable or untenable.”
“The inconvenience and the suffering of any children or any family members pales in comparison to the suffering and oppression that goes on in these animal laboratories,” Vlasak said in an interview Monday. Feldheim is “putting himself and his family in harm’s way by continuing to abuse animals.”
The problem with people like this is that they fail to recognize that their position is untenable -> if you support this sort of violence, you’re standing in the moral company of anyone who agrees that indiscriminate violence is an acceptable tool against those who believe differently than they do. Even if you assign some sort of moral culpability on the children of animal researchers (a dodgy moral platform if there ever was one), you’re also possibly killing… oh, security guards, cleaning personnel, homeless passerby, or firefighters who have a duty to extinguish the blaze. While a tortured mind may be capable of including the first two in the “morally culpable” category using the same crazy criteria by which they include children, you can’t possibly include the latter two. Well, unless you really are a terrorist, but more on that later.
By extension, then, it’s perfectly reasonable within Mr. Vlasak’s moral code for someone who disagrees with *him* to go blow up his office. Of course, the same legal system that is trying to catch the animal rights nuts will protect Mr. Vlasak to the best of its ability.
While I respect that it makes sense (from a societal standpoint) to defend free speech, I’ve got to wonder if we’ll ever manage to eliminate the kooks in our society when we encourage them to exercise free speech while defending them from the logical conclusions of their own speech. I suppose not, the nuts are here to stay.
One additional comment on this story: I’m afraid I have to disagree with UC Santa Cruz Chancellor George Blumenthal… this doesn’t qualify as terrorism. I’m certain that the general research community may regard it as such, but that doesn’t make it so. It’s arson, attempted murder, willfull destruction of private property… but it’s not terrorism. As kooky and morally bankrupt as the bombers may be, they’re not bombing random targets in the general populace for political reasons. The Unabomber wasn’t a terrorist, he was a serial killer. While the line dividing the two is very blurry, terrorism deliberately targets general civilians in an attempt to cower an entire populace, which is not what these people are doing.
I say this not to understate the crime, but because the term “terrorism” ought to be restricted to people that deserve the label.