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On some future day in the not too distant future, the label of “Infoterrorist” will be affixed to all people who simply seek to expose what is true.

The word “terrorist” has been abused for as long as it has been in existence. For instance, civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. (a committed pacifist!) was monitored as part of the MINARET project that was supposed to be watching for terrorists.

As was recently reported in the Guardian

Minaret was initially intended for drug traffickers and terrorist suspects, but was twisted, at the request of the White House, to become a tool for tracking legitimate political activities of war protesters.
But these efforts, while deeply concerning, were finite. Perhaps the designers of such programs maintained some basic sense of limits – that not every single person with inconvenient beliefs could be so labeled.

The attacks of September 11, 2001, removed those limits. A strong cultural consensus on the inherent evilness of that act eliminated any ambiguity – if you could successfully be labeled as a terrorist, you lost all legitimacy and any action taken against you would be accepted.

The ensuing labelpalooza has manifested itself in numerous ways. First, we saw the fear of terrorist attacks used to justify vast increases in government powers to monitor everyone. Then in the lead up to the invasion of Iraq, anyone who raised doubts about it was labeled as a supporter of terror. Those were headline-level moves that attracted a lot of attention in the progressive press and blogosphere.

In recent years, we have been experiencing a second wave of terrorist labeling, much of it below the view of the national headlines. Increasingly, anyone who exposes information about abuses of our environment or animals is not only called a terrorist, but prosecuted under laws or processes that identify the alleged crime - of providing information to the public - as an act of terrorism.

This wave is notable because it departs from any possible connection with actual physical terrorist activity. In some of the prior cases such as the massive data dumps from Wikileaks, you could argue (rightly or wrongly) that publishing the information endangered military operations and personnel. Now, even that shred of pretense has been abandoned.

The FBI definition of terrorism is pretty reasonable, citing things like "Involve acts dangerous to human life".

From that starting point, things have gone really, really afield. Here are some crazy examples:

This 2011 Report in Mother Jones describes the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act, which classifies as terrorism many actions that expose the truth about anumal cruelty during food production.

"Basically, the law is saying if you cause an animal enterprise to lose profits, then you've committed a terrorist act," Meeropol says. "The whole point of many protests is to cause a business to lose profits, to convince the public that a certain company doesn't deserve to be patronized."
Australian government might emulate the shining example of US laws declaring animal rights activists to be terrorists. Consider the actions of Amy Meyer, terrorist.
When Amy Meyer saw a sick cow being pushed by a bulldozer outside a slaughterhouse, she did what any of us would in this age of iPhones and Instagram – she filmed it.

Instead of being praised for exposing this, Meyer was prosecuted.

Even though she stood on public property, she was charged with violating a new law in Utah that makes it illegal to photograph or videotape factory farms and slaughterhouses.

FBI files have revealed that the government has even considered prosecuting those who film animal cruelty as “terrorists”.

Beyond animal right issues, general environmental activism is now being targeted in the same manner.  Consider the NC State bill to make it a felony to disclose composition of fracking fluids. You read that right - tell the truth about the chemicals being injected into the ground under us, and become forever a felon.

Not all all of these examples expressly invoke "Terrorism", but the distinction is fading, given the militarlization of police force through the country. Any action that is greeted in the manner shown below is being treated as de-facto terrorism.

Police in riot gear met protesters at McDonald's headquarters
There comes a point when a word is so diluted that it loses its original meaning. With the word “terrorist” generally, we may be approaching that point.

That’s bad news, not only for people wrongfully hounded under the endlessly expanded definition of “terrorist”, but also for the rest of us, because there will come a day when actual terrorists succeed in a horrifying act of destruction and death, because our attention and our counterterrorism personnel were too busy making covert films of octogenarian animal rights activists at a community forum.

One way to respond to a perjorative is to wear it with pride. Some day, those who focus their efforts on exposing ethically wrong and cruel practices may decide, like Spartacus, that it is okay to stand up and say:

I am an Infoterrorist. If the truth brings you terror, then you must journey through that to find understanding on the other side.
In a future diary: The collision to come - when nonviolent direct action starts to seriously inconvenience big money interests especially the fossil fuel industry, the "Terrorism" word is going to really start to fly.

To date, ceremonial disobedience, such as people locking themselves to the gates of the White House  has been tolerated. But what will happen when substantial numbers of people move further, to directly protecting the natural environment by getting in the way of destructive operations? Tim DeChristopher experienced one of the opening salvos of the kind of retribution that is to come.  

Without fear, speak what is true
Without fear, live what is true

Originally posted to James Wells on Sun Jun 08, 2014 at 07:50 PM PDT.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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