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New Yorker magazine lambasted for giving platform to climate change activist calling for pipelines to be blown up

New Yorker magazine platformed a Swedish climate change activist who advocates blowing up pipelines in the name of climate justice on a recent episode of its “New Yorker Radio Hour” podcast.

Andreas Malm is an associate professor at Sweden’s Lund University, and the author of the book “How to Blow Up a Pipeline: Learning to Fight in a World on Fire.” Malm’s book does not only have an eye-catching title; he actually advocates destroying any and all fossil fuel infrastructure.

Malm wrote in his book, “Damage and destroy new CO2-emitting devices. Put them out of commission, pick them apart, demolish them, burn them, blow them up. Let the capitalists who keep on investing in the fire know that their properties will be trashed.”

Malm contends that obliterating private property associated with fossil fuels is “precisely what the climate movement needs.”

When climate activists shut valves and destroy pipelines, when they set fire to heavy machinery owned by oil companies, they assert their rights to this infrastructure and their rights to the land and air and water that it is destroying. It is what I have referred to elsewhere as “prefigurative expropriation”; a momentary, but informative and empowering challenge to the economic system of private property and the morality that it produces. Sabotage, as its earliest proponents understood, is a powerful threat to the owning class and this is precisely what the climate movement needs.

Malm appeared on the New Yorker podcast last week, where he literally championed destroying pipelines.

Malm said he felt “panic and desperation” in the summer of 2018 because of heatwaves, wildfires, and droughts in northern Europe, which pushed him into radical ideas in his climate change activism.

He called for an “escalation,” for the “movement to diversify its tactics, and move away from an exclusive focus on polite, gentle, and perfectly peaceful civil disobedience.”

“I am recommending that the movement continues with mass action, civil disobedience, but also opens up for property destruction,” Malm told host David Remnick. “I do think we need to step up, because so little has changed, and so many investments are being poured into new fossil fuel projects.”

“So I am in favor of destroying machines, property, not harming people,” he added. “I think property can be destroyed in all manner of ways or it can be neutralized in a more gentle fashion…or in a very spectacular fashion as in potentially blowing up a pipeline under construction,” Malm proclaimed.

The internet reacted with shock that New Yorker magazine would provide a platform to someone advocating for violence, and encouraging what many called “terrorism.”

Other media outlets presented Malm’s ideas of carrying out acts of violence against energy infrastructure. In May, the New Republic argued that Malm’s proposal to destroy private property should be heard in an article titled: “The Climate Case for Property Destruction.”

What, then, is to be done? The main argument of How to Blow Up a Pipeline is simple: The climate movement should itself enact, through direct action, that prohibition on new fossil fuel infrastructure, and that dismantling of existing pipelines and power plants, which governments have so far refused to take on. Only if such equipment is damaged often and badly enough as to make its continued operation unprofitable does the stabilization of the climate stand a chance. For climate activists to confine themselves to peaceful protest is meanwhile to watch the earth become less and less hospitable to human life. Plenty of readers will react (as I did) with a sort of instinctive skepticism to Malm’s case that only widespread property destruction can forestall civilizational suicide, but his case deserves a hearing.

In July, another influential outlet platformed Malm’s ideas of blowing up pipelines — the New York Times.

Former Vox co-founder Ezra Klein, who wrote the article, appeared to conflate possible eco-terrorist acts advocated by Malm to violence used during the American Revolution and during the Civil Rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s.

“Malm’s rebuttal to potted histories of past social movements, which is persuasive in parts,” Klein wrote. “He’s surely right that we sanitize past uprisings, lionizing the peaceful and blackening or forgetting the names of the violent. There is at least an argument that it’s the interplay of forces that transforms societies. There was no peaceful American Revolution. There were riots and rifles woven into the civil rights movement. ‘Does this movement possess a radical flank?’ asks Malm.”

“Still, violence is often deployed, even if counterproductively, on behalf of causes far less consequential than the climate crisis,” Klein reasoned.

Klein did acknowledge that blowing up pipelines would increase energy prices, which would hurt the poor the most.

Fox News noted, “Ezra Klein previously denounced the violent actions of the January 6 Capitol riots as ‘lunacy’ and ‘lawless’ in a New York Times article published on January 7.”

Despite endorsing blowing up a pipeline, writing a book about blowing up a pipeline, and encouraging others to blow up a pipeline, Malm has yet to put his own words into action. Possibly because those who are caught sabotaging energy infrastructure go to prison for years.

In June, the Des Moines Register reported on two eco-terrorists who were sentenced to eight years in prison for causing millions of dollars in damage to the Dakota Access pipeline.

Climate activists Jessica Reznicek, 39, and Ruby Montoya, 31, were indicted on nine federal charges each in September 2019, including charges for damaging an energy facility, use of fire in the commission of a felony, and malicious use of fire. Reznicek and Montoya both pleaded guilty to a single count of damaging an energy facility. In July 2017 the women claimed credit for a series of acts of sabotage, including burning pipeline construction equipment at a Buena Vista County worksite in November 2016 and using oxyacetylene cutting torches or gasoline-soaked rags to damage other pipeline sites around the state between March and May 2017. At the time of their admission, they were affiliated with the Des Moines Catholic Workers’ social justice movement.

In the name of climate activism, Malm has admitted that he deflated tires of SUVs in 2007, according to the Los Angeles Review of Books.

In the summer of 2007, five dozen SUV owners in an affluent part of Stockholm awoke to find their cars “reclining on the asphalt.” On their windshields, they found a leaflet. “We have deflated one or more of the tyres on your SUV,” it read. “Don’t take it personally. It’s your SUV we dislike.” The leaflets continued by pointing out how much gasoline the SUVs burned, this burning was directly connected to the rapid warming of the planet, and the drivers would be fine — they might be mildly inconvenienced, but clearly they had money and lived in a city with good public transit. At roughly the same time, the small band of SUV saboteurs published a statement taking credit for the action, exhorting others to copy their work, and making available a “simple manual” for how to release the air from a tire.

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