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In New York Times Column, Vox Founder Excuses Domestic Terrorism Against Oil Pipelines

‘Violence is often deployed, even if counterproductively, on behalf of causes far less consequential than the climate crisis,’ writes Ezra Klein in The New York Times.


Vox Co-founder Ezra Klein excused terrorist bombings of oil pipelines in a column titled “It Seems Odd That We Would Just Let the World Burn.” He opens the column this way:

I spent the weekend reading a book I wasn’t entirely comfortable being seen with in public. Andreas Malm’s ‘How to Blow Up a Pipeline’ is only slightly inaptly named. You won’t find, anywhere inside, instructions on sabotaging energy infrastructure. A truer title would be ‘Why to Blow Up a Pipeline.’ On this, Malm’s case is straightforward: Because nothing else has worked.

The New York Times, which previously claimed that U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton calling for law and order during last year’s summer of rage was an act of violence, published Klein’s excuses for domestic terrorism on Thursday. A Times editor resigned over publishing Cotton’s op-ed.

“Decades of climate activism have gotten millions of people into the streets but they haven’t turned the tide on emissions, or even investments,” Klein noted. This, he writes, explains why people would turn to violent crime over the issue.

Klein also quotes a direct call for violence by the book’s author, Malm: “‘Here is what this movement of millions should do, for a start,’ Malm writes. ‘Announce and enforce the prohibition. 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.’”

Klein’s response? Not that bombings are evil and horrifying, but that they’d probably be counterproductive, because they’d motivate people to vote against the environmentalist left. His other concern about domestic terrorism against energy infrastructure, he says, is that the “consequence of a wave of bombings to obliterate energy infrastructure would be to raise the price on energy immediately, all across the world, and the burdens would fall heaviest on the poor.”

Klein even explains why it makes sense that someone would bomb crucial U.S. infrastructure such as oil pipelines: because the climate crisis is so dire, and not even its top political advocates are doing enough about it.

He also frighteningly declines to condemn the book author’s suggestion that domestic terrorists kill wealthy people, instead engaging the idea as if it’s completely normal.

“Malm tries, at times, to resolve this tension, suggesting that perhaps the targets could be the yachts of the superrich, but in general he’s talking about pipelines, and pipelines carry the fuels for used Nissans and aged ferries, not just Gulfstream jets,” Klein notes.

“There was no peaceful American Revolution. There were riots and rifles woven into the civil rights movement,” Klein notes. He further notes in the column that “violence is often deployed, even if counterproductively, on behalf of causes far less consequential than the climate crisis.”

Indeed, Klein expresses shock that we don’t see more eco-terrorism: “skepticism of the practical benefits of violence does not fully explain its absence in a movement this vast and with consequences this grave.” He concludes the column by pondering “how to force the political system to do enough, fast enough, to avert mass suffering.”

“I don’t know the answer, or even if there is an answer. Legislative politics is unlikely to suffice under any near-term alignment of power I can foresee — though I dearly hope Congress passes, at the least, the investments and clean energy standards proposed in the American Jobs Plan,” Klein said. “I doubt a wave of bombings would accelerate change, and even if I believed otherwise, who am I to tell others to risk those consequences?”