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Why I Hate The Corporate Press

by Judi Bari - Anderson Valley Advertiser, April 24, 1991

Last Sunday (April 21, 1991) the San Francisco Examiner printed an Op-Ed article by me in answer to the outrageous "ex-CIA agent" attack on Earth First! that they ran the week before. Basically the article came through as I wrote it. But the editors couldn't just let it be. They made subtle and not-so-subtle changes that brought the words printed under my byline more in compliance with their own biases. Here is the article, with the changes marked:

San Francisco Examiner Op-Ed Page, 4/21/1991

"Tabloid attack" on Earth First

By Judi Bari

When I looked at my Sunday paper last week, I thought I had accidentally picked up the National Enquirer. But no, it really was the Examiner, running a supermarket tabloid-style article called "Tale of a Plot to Rid Earth of Humankind."

"It's a strange story," the article begins. And indeed it is. Apparently an ex-CIA agent claims that Earth First has "small organized clandestine cells" of highly educated scientists working to develop a virus that will wipe out the human race while sparing other species.

Not only is this claim preposterous, it is also unsupported by any evidence. The ex-CIA agent who is the source of the story offers no details or proof. The best the author of the article can come up with is an anonymous letter-to-the-editor from a 1984 edition of the Earth First Journal, carefully excerpted for maximum shock value.

The Examiner does not take responsibility for the views of every screwball who writes a letter to the editor, and neither does Earth First. Did the article's author pore over 10 years of tiny print in the journal's letters column to find this "gem," or did the ex-CIA agent point it out as his own source?

Lacking evidence to support the "mad-scientist" theory, this article then goes on to try to discredit Earth First by associating us with violence. It says Earth First co-founder Dave Foreman is under federal charges of conspiracy to "blow up" power lines.

This is false. Earth First doesn't advocate use of explosives. It has never been involved in their use -- except as a target in the car bomb attempt on my life last year. [I wrote "except as a victim in a car-bomb assassination attempt on me last year." (Assassinations are political, attempts on peoples' lives don't have to be.)]

The charges against Foreman stem from a $2 million FBI program to infiltrate and disrupt Earth First. In May 1989, three people led by admitted FBI provocateur Michael Fain [I wrote "three people, not including Foreman, led by admitted FBI provocateur Michael Fain . . ."] were arrested for supposedly trying to cut down, not blow up, a power-line tower in Arizona. That was allegedly part of a plot to sabotage lines from nuclear plants. [I did not write this sentence!!! They inserted it without my knowledge. I would never say such a thing, because there was no "plot to sabotage power lines from nuclear plants." That's an FBI lie, and I don't repeat FBI lies, even with the word "alleged" in front of them. How dare the Examiner put their words in my Op-Ed.] Foreman was arrested for conspiracy, but there's no real case against him.

The view of Earth First as isolated and violent flies in the face of reality. We have actually been in the forefront of the environmental movement, seeking to protect the Earth from the ravages of this destructive society. This doesn't mean we want to eliminate humans, but we feel that we must drastically change the way we live or we will destroy the ecosystems that support all life.

Who needs a virus to kill humans when the real mad scientists have given us nuclear holocaust, toxic waste, deforestation, ozone holes and the greenhouse effect?

The real reason Earth First is being targeted by ex-CIA agents and FBI provocateurs is that we are effective.

Earth First is involved in a political struggle for logging reform. [I wrote "Earth First! is involved in a legitimate political struggle for logging reform."] It was Earth First that identified, mapped, named and made an issue of Headwaters, which Gov. Wilson now cites as a top priority for preservation. We brought thousands of nonviolent demonstrators to the north coast for Redwood Summer last year, and made a national and international issue of redwood destruction. The forestry reforms now being proposed by both the timber industry and the mainstream groups follow our activism.

Several spokespersons for Earth First are based in Northern California. The Examiner knows us and knows how to get in touch with us. Why is it buying crackpot articles about us from second-rate news services?

This would be no more than an annoyance if it weren't for the intensity of the struggle. Tales of secret plots to wipe out humans may sound like a joke but people in the rural timber-dependent areas are being led deliberately to believe they're in danger from Earth First. The more marginal we can be made to appear, the easier it is to incite hatred against us. And, as I certainly know, this hatred often translates into violence.

[End of letter as printed in the Examiner.]

And by the way, our name is Earth First! with an !, and the Examiner's refusal to print the ! is petty and prejudicial. The ! is there to convey the urgency of the situation, and the fact that we are a direct action group, not a lunch-with-the-bureaucrats group.

Last Thursday about 20 people picketed the Examiner offices to protest the printing of the ex-CIA article. As a result, some of them are now meeting with the Examiner's editors to discuss these problems, including the changing of my Op-Ed piece. I must admit that, looking back over last summer's clippings, the Examiner slandered me less than most "mainstream" press, and I hope they will make some amends now. But, as Bruce and Rob [Anderson, of the AVA] keep saying, there's no such thing as objectivity of the press, and we will never get our messages out by filtering it through the lens of the corporations.