Media As Judge

(In 2004 American-born environmentalist Tre Arrow fled the United States for Canada to escape trumped up charges that he had participated in an arson attack on some logging equipment. At the time it was clear that he was being targeted because he was a very effective activist. Tre Arrow is currently being held in Canada pending possible extradition to the US to face charges of arson and conspiracy. He has not been convicted, and has stated, “I am innocent of the charges the US government is trying to pin on me. Just as many activists have experienced, I am being targeted by the US government and the FBI, not because I am guilty, but because I have chosen to challenge the status quo.”

Mynah Meagher and Ben Shannon of the Tre Arrow Defense Committee have recently completed a speaking tour to raise awareness about the media’s role in the criminalization of Tre Arrow. Alternative Press Review caught up with them in Victoria, BC.)

Alternative Press Review: Tre Arrow has only being charged with arson in the United States. This is not a big deal, so can you explain why he has not been released on bail in Canada while awaiting an extradition hearing?

Tre Arrow Defense Committee: Tre has been incarcerated for the last 11 months essentially because of the political nature of the charges in the United States. Tre has been branded an “ecoterrorist” by both the corporate media and the FBI. In light of his “terrorist” status Canadian Judge Dohm, who is overseeing Tre’s extradition to the US, has set an unheard of $300,000 dollars bail.

APR: Calling someone a terrorist is a serious charge-why would they do it?

TADC: The corporate media’s purpose is to make a profit, and news about terrorism sells. The media have called Tre Arrow an “eco-terrorist” in hundreds of articles-some published before he was actually charged with any crime, by the way.

APR: Ok, so they are selling papers. But the label itself is interesting. It reminds me of Nazi Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbel’s concept of the “big lie.” If you repeat a lie enough times it sticks. Who, exactly, came up with this term-”eco-terrorist”?

TADC: “Ecoterrorist” was not a creation of the FBI or any other government organization. It was actually coined by Ron Arnold, a propaganda specialist and vice president of a “public interest” outfit called The Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise. His role is to discredit and dismantle the environmental movement, and the media is his weapon of choice. From the start, his organization has been feeding the media with the “information” that they use to justify labeling Tre. The FBI are also in on it. Even after Oregon Judge Redden, in his ruling in the 2001 arson case against Jacob Sherman (Tre Arrow’s coaccused), stated that “The term ‘terrorist’ is not to be used in reference to this case or the defendants,” the FBI continued to paint Tre with that brush. The media did too. It’s outrageous, particularly when you consider the implications for Tre, who faces some serious jail time as a result. We’re talking about someone’s life here. A responsible media would have condemned the FBI for using that term, and it would have nailed Ron Arnold on it too.

APR: Are you suggesting that Tre Arrow’s life is in the hands of the corporate media?

TADC: Sadly, Yes. The media have literally become the judge and jury. They are not only using the term “ecoterrorist” to describe Tre: they are refusing to use words like “accused,” “alleged” or even “suggested” when discussing his case. They are implying that he has had his trial and already been convicted for some awful action that killed innocent people . . .

APR: When in fact he is not a terrorist by any stretch of the imagination, and “innocent until proven guilty” as well.

TADC: Damn right! Tre has never stepped one foot into a court room to face these charges, let alone been convicted of them. And the accusation involves burning logging equipment, not blowing up the Empire State Building! Stating that an individual is guilty before they’ve even been tried is undemocratic and unjust. By playing this game, the corporate media has prejudiced the public right across the continent. Anyway, there are reasons why he is still being called an “ecoterrorist”-note that prefix-”eco”.

APR: “Eco” stands for ecological. So?

TADC: The goal of logging companies like MacMillan-Bloedel and Weyerhaeuser is to make a profit at any cost. These big corporations are extremely important for West Coast capitalism-and protecting business-as-usual is important to the government and the FBI. In this regard, the environmental movement is a thorn in the side of the multinational corporations and the US state. So the FBI has deployed a tried-and-true tactic, the tactic of divide and conquer. The FBI calls one half of the environmentalist movement “ecoterrorist” and other half “pacifist” and then steps back and watches us fight amongst ourselves, effectively diverting our attention from the main cause, namely saving the environment. It is true that some anarchist-oriented environmental groups like the Earth Liberation Front (ELF) have defended the environment through property destruction, but no ELFer who has been caught has ever been charged with “terrorism,” even though the FBI has labeled the ELF America’s “Number One Domestic Terrorist Threat.”

APR: Why are ELF activists caught destroying stuff never charged with terrorism?

TADC: Because legally their actions do not fall under that designation. So why does the term “eco-terrorist” continue to circulate? It’s because the FBI and capitalist propaganda groups like The Centre for the Defense of Free Enterprise are pushing the term in the mass media. This is crucial for their “divide and conquer” tactic. It is part of a covert war against the environmental movement.

APR: That is an interesting analysis. Getting back to the specifics of Tre Arrow’s case, what has been the impact of the “eco-terrorist” media blitzkrieg on his chances for a fair trial?

TADC: Imagine you are a potential juror in Portland, Oregon, where he is to be tried. For the last three years you’ve been bombarded with the term “ecoterrorist” every time you read a story about Tre Arrow. “EcoTerrorist Tre Arrow” did this and “EcoTerrorist Tre Arrow” did that. The label has become a subliminal message. How, then, can you sit in a jury box and honestly judge his case? Tre’s name and reputation have been destroyed and it will be extremely difficult to find an unbiased jury that can rule fairly.

APR: The evidence against Tre Arrow must be significant. What is the evidence?

TADC: This is the most interesting part of the whole case. There is no hard evidence against Tre. The only evidence is the testimony of a convicted felon and arsonist, Jacob Sherman. It was Sherman who told the FBI after four days of interrogation that Tre Arrow was the master mind behind Sherman’s decision to burn logging equipment in 2001. He confessed to doing the arson and then blamed the action on Tre. For this he has received an extremely light sentence-41 months in jail. Compare that sentence with the case of radical environmentalist Jeff Luers, who a year earlier received 270 months-that’s 22 and ½ years in jail-for essentially the same crime.

It seems obvious that the FBI wanted to target Tre Arrow and that they pressured Sherman to implicate him in the arson in return for a lighter sentence. So now Tre faces up to 80 years in prison on a string of related charges-conspiracy and so on. 80 years in jail for a peaceful environmental organizer. Since day one Tre has stated his innocence. And he has an alibi who can account for his whereabouts on both evenings when Sherman burnt the logging equipment. Add in his record of nonviolent activism and you have an innocent man.

APR: Thanks for this interview, and rest assured Alternative Press Review will continue to follow this case.

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