May 2004 -- Do you ever wonder why terrorism has become so widespread? Consider the crucial role played by terrorism's enablers: those intellectual and cultural leaders who act as apologists and excuse-makers for violence.

The late Democratic senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan coined a useful phrase for this phenomenon: "defining deviancy down." By this he meant that when a society and its leaders begin to view evil actions sympathetically, as somehow excusable, then it isn't long before those actions are seen as "normal"—and finally, even as causes for admiration and celebration.

Consider, for example, the liberal culturati's view of Paul Watson, one of the founding fathers of modern eco-terrorism.

I have previously reported on my website about Watson's anti-human misanthropy and his ongoing campaign to take over the Sierra Club. Prompted by the takeover controversy, the Portland Oregonian published a March 21, 2004 profile of Watson. The most interesting aspect of the article, however, is its revelation of how prominent intellectuals and the Hollywood Left are elevating this thug to the status of a cultural hero and icon.

Watson, a former Greenpeace leader, left that group because it wasn't radical enough. He then founded the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society to employ "direct action" tactics against the whaling industry. After buying a steel-hulled ship, in 1979 he chased a whaling ship into a Portuguese harbor, then rammed it. "It was probably the most ecstatic experience I've ever had," Watson told Oregonian reporter Jim Lynch. Lynch notes, "During the past 30 years, Watson takes credit for sinking eight whaling ships and ramming six other vessels," and Lynch quotes him as justifying the violence this way: "Sometimes you have to break laws because it's dictated to you by your conscience, because it's the moral thing to do."

Moral? Here's where animal-rights philosophers come in, providing Watson the necessary ethical rationalizations for violence and property destruction. The often-arrested Watson, a fervent proponent of animal rights, "sees himself as a modern-day Copernicus, trying to make humans understand they're not the center of the universe." (As reported by the January 18, 2004 Los Angeles Times, Watson's animal rights philosophy leads him to conclude, "Human beings are literally stealing resources from all the other species on this planet.")

Watson has become a "fatherly mentor to eco-saboteurs everywhere" and an apologist for convicted eco-terrorists. The Oregonian quotes him as having said: "There's nothing wrong with being a terrorist, as long as you win. Then you write the history." His only cautionary advice: "Don't get caught." For example: "He doesn't distance himself from former Sea Shepherd crew member Rodney Coronado, who served time after leading an arson and vandalism campaign against Oregon and Washington mink farms and animal research facilities in the early 1990s....'In a world which is rapidly being destroyed, with incredible diminishment of the environment, I don't think Rod's crime is really up on the top of the list.'" In fact, Watson's own wife, Allison Lance Watson, was indicted in February for lying to a grand jury investigating the arson of an Olympia, Washington timber operation—police say that a truck she rented was used by a friend in the crime. Author Patti Strand, who heads up the National Animal Interest Alliance, describes Watson as a dangerous inspiration to people like Michael J. Scarpitti, aka "Tre Arrow," the fugitive eco-terrorist and arsonist arrested March 13 in Canada. Concludes David Martosko of the Center for Consumer Freedom: "He has trained some of the most radical and violent thugs involved in the animal-rights movement in North America."

With his repugnant record of anti-human misanthropy, contempt for the law, violence against individuals and property, and encouragement of eco-terrorism, it's only natural that Paul Watson would become a darling of liberals and the Hollywood Left. His excuse-making defenders include famous nature-writer Farley Mowat, author of Never Cry Wolf (and subject of the same-titled film). Mowat says it's one of the greatest compliments of his life that Watson has named a Sea Shepherd vessel after him. "If his personality comes on a little strong at times," says Mowat, with considerable understatement, "I believe that's permissible if his achievements are as remarkable as Paul's have been." Watson's other public champions include actors Martin Sheen (who says Watson is a "personal hero of mine"), Pierce Brosnan, William Shatner, and Richard Dean Anderson.

And now (shall we add, "inevitably"), Tinseltown is set to make a movie glorifying Watson's life. According to the Oregonian: "He's been spending time with Sean Penn during the past six months, he says. This year's Academy Award-winning actor is preparing to play Watson in a movie that will focus on his 1979 whaler-ramming in Portugal." (Given Penn's own off-screen personal antics, the role seems typecast.)

The article's concluding words are particularly revealing—and chilling:

"Watson understands the power of film. 'We live in a media culture, so that when Sean Penn becomes me, he'll be more me than I've ever been,' he says. 'And not only that, but what was not acceptable will become acceptable. Society might frown upon what you do, but when they make a motion picture about you then, hey, it's OK.' He smiles. 'It even worked for Bonnie and Clyde.'" [Emphasis added.]

Indeed it did. Hollywood saw to that, too.

And so, philosophically corrupt contemporary intellectuals, abetted by the morally corrupt Hollywood Left, continue their cultural jihad against America's battered moral infrastructure. In their unswerving efforts to "define deviancy down," these enablers of modern terrorism are set to canonize yet another human-hating thug, and to rationalize the private initiation of force and violence for political purposes. 


This article was originally published in the May 2004 issue of Navigator magazine, The Atlas Society precursor to The New Individualist.

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