The New York Times Profiles Craig Marshall and Jeff Luers' Lunacy

The New York Times Magazine recently ran a long story about Craig Marshall and Jeff Luers. The two were convicted for an incident in which they set fire to SUV’s at a car dealership. Marshall plead to a lesser charge and received a 5 and a half year sentence, while Luers went to trial and was also convicted of a related arson. Luers received the longest sentence for an animal rights or ecoterrorist to date, 22 years and 8 months.

Bruce Barcott interviewed Marshall in jail and provides a lot of unintentionally amusing background information on Marshall and the act of terrorism that landed him in jail. Barcott writes,

Craig Marshall joined the sit [anti-logging protest] that fall. An Eastern reared in a small Massachusetts town, Marshall held political beliefs that weren’t so much pro-environment as anti-authority. “I never had much use for people telling me what to do,” he recalls. “Back in the fifth grade, I was already questioning the Pledge of Allegiance.”

Yes, Marshall was such an anti-authority figure that he thought nothing of resorting to acts of terrorism against those who dared disagree with him.

Barcott explores why Marshall and Luers selected the car dealership,

They chose a target: Joe Romania Chevrolet, a car dealership at the edge of the University of Oregon campus. To the tree dwellers, Romania’s blocklong lineup of $25,000 trucks and SUV’s symbolized consumer decadence at its worst. “They’re gas-guzzling monsters, destroying everything they encounter,” Marshall later explained. “They’re a status symbol for rich American consumers, who are killing more people on this planet than anyone else.”

Which is a fascinating comment given a description of the duo setting the cars on fire,

They nervously passed a cigarette back and forth. Carrying their sloshing milk jugs… [emphasis added]

“Down under the truck, my heart is pounding,” Luers later recalled in an account written for Earth First! Journal. “Wow! I’m really doing this. Why? Then I remember being a kid growing up in Los Angeles, having to stay inside some days because the smog was too bad to go outside. I was 6 [expletive] years old, and I couldn’t play outside because the air was hazardous to my health. It has gotten worse since!”

Got that? He’s doing this because of horrible air quality in Los Angeles and to strike back at those American pig consumers, and while he’s torching the SUV’s, he and Luers are passing back and forth a cigarette likely manufactured by an enormous corporation.

But all is not unintentionally amusing with Marshall. Barcott quotes an ELF expert noting that at some point one of these activists is going to conclude that these actions need to go even further,

“Up until now, they haven’t harmed the people they’re trying to harm,” says Gary Perlstein, the domestic-terrorism expert. “When they destroy a tree farm in Clatskanie, Ore., they’re not hurting the Weyerhaeusers of the world. I worry that they’re going to eventually see that. And then the true believers among the may say, ‘Well, maybe we have to assassinate the president of Weyerhaeuser.'”

Marshall obliges this vision by providing what is a frankly rather millenarian vision of the future of the environmental movement,

I put to Craig Marshall: In a perfect world, what would we do to save the earth? “First, knock down all the concrete,” he says. Thinking further, he adds: “The problem is, we’ve gone too far already. There’s no easy solution. For life to survive as we know it, millions of people are going to have to die. It’s sad to say that, but it’s true. Millions of people are already dying — it’s just gonna have to start happening here.”

Of course this is merely the most extreme version of an apocalyptic form of environmentalism that is not all that uncommon (and appeals to people for the same reason that apocalyptic religions do — it is psychologically empowering to think that the end of the world is at hand and only you have and a select few have the knowledge to prevent or explain it).

In fact, it is interesting just how similar this is to the radical Islamist critique of Western culture — Marshall might use different terminology, but he is simply arguing that we are all doomed precisely because we are decadent Westerners who do not follow the one truth path (and, of course, we must be made to suffer for that).


From tree-hugger to terrorist. Bruce Barcott, The New York Times Magazine, April 7, 2002.

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