Who's Torching California?
© Jack Cashill
Less than two weeks ago, I took a break from my What’s The Matter With California book tour and visited friend and fellow TWA Flight 800 dissident, Ray Lahr, at his home in the Malibu Hills.
As we stood on his deck overlooking Santa Monica Bay, we talked about fire, always a concern in October when the dread Santa Ana winds start blowing hot and dry.
“How do the fires start?” I asked naively.
“People start them,” said Ray. Although some are surely started accidentally, many are not. Ray spoke of committed arsonists, who use flares and other incendiary devices to assure that their handiwork pays dividends.
On that glorious Saturday afternoon, there were no reported fires burning in Southern California. Today, less than two weeks later, there are least fourteen.
The question remains: who is starting them and why. There are two likely answers, not necessarily exclusive: an unwitting conspiracy of random whack jobs or an active conspiracy of real saboteurs.
If real, the conspirators in question are much more likely to be eco-terrorists than Islamic ones.
On the web site of the Earth Liberation Front (ELF), for instance, the reader is cautioned that those who have “committed arson” under the banner of ELF are driven only “by their personal conscience” and are not acting under orders from a hierarchy.
Whether hierarchical or not, ELF has earned the dubious honor as the FBI-designated top domestic terror threat. And these mischievous boys and girls do like to play with fire.
If there is a pattern to the California fires, however, don’t expect to see any media effort to root it out.
In researching the California book, I discovered an unholy alliance among independent eco-warriors, the mainstream environmental groups, the courts, the media, and the regulatory agencies now thoroughly infiltrated by eco-activists.
These groups share a passionate intolerance for the one thing these fires discourage, namely growth.
If the eco-terrorists burn down apartment complexes, as they have done in San Diego, or plant “endangered” weeds on developable lots, as one did in Sebastapol, mainstream environmental groups mostly just file lawsuits. As to the media, they turn a blind eye to the naughty and cheer on the nice.
These groups have been resisting housing development all over the state through a variety of means, legal and otherwise, and this resistance has helped push housing prices through the roof.
If, in metro Kansas City, a family of medium income can afford to buy 87 percent of the homes on the market, a comparable family in greater Los Angeles can afford to buy only 2 percent of the homes, down from 40 percent just a decade ago.
For the deeper ecologists, however, this is just the point. Man is in the meadow, and they don’t like it a bit. Whether the deepest among them have moved from pricing people out of their homes to burning them out, I can only speculate.
There is, however, precedent to be considered. Last year, in a coordinated west coast effort called Operation Backfire, the FBI indicted at least 18 eco-terrorists operating under the flags of the Earth Liberation Front and Animal Liberation Front for arson and other crimes.
One of the female ELFs (ELVES?), Chelsea Gerlach, justified her five-state arson spree by claiming “a deep sense of despair and anger at the deteriorating state of the global environment."
Of course, what ratchets up the despair not only among the activists but also among their many media sympathizers is their shared hysteria about global warming. In fact, expect the media to blame the fires on global warming.
In any event, the media are not likely to blame the arsonists as they did in the fully concocted black church burning mania in the election summer of 1996. In a typical bit of race-baiting, Time magazine described the imagined phenomenon that summer as a “national epidemic of violence against black churches.”
Responding to the presumed “epidemic,” President Clinton told a national radio audience that “racial hostility is the driving force” behind the church burnings. All of this, of course, proved to be nonsense. There was no spike in church burnings and no racist pattern among the fires that were set.
The major media have no such zeal for sniffing out eco-terrorists, even real ones. “By the time Chelsea D. Gerlach was 16,” reads The New York Times weepy lead on her May 2007 conviction, “she was putting her passion for the environment into action.”
That passion, writ large, may be burning down California. If so, no amount of firefighters will be able to put it out.
Jack Cashill will talk about What’s The Matter With California on C-SPAN 2’s Book TV on Sunday, October 28, 2007 at 1 PM EDT and 10 PM EDT.
Cashill’s newest book, What’s the Matter with California, is available in bookstores - or you can order your autographed copy online .
Special Note: The above article was quoted verbatim in Stephen Frank's California Political News and Views.
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