In his hit-piece concerning the lecture I offered at Susquehanna Univesity, Monday 11.12.12 ( http://www.nofrackingway.us/2012/11/14/youtube-the-good-ole-boy-extraction-club-the-pseudo-patriotic-and-pervasively-patriarchal-culture-of-hydraulic-fracturing-why-breast-cancer-is-the-canary-in-the-fracking-coal-mine), Energy in Depth’s Joe Massaro insists that civil disobedience is the province of the child, that adults never engage in an exercise of their right to freedom of expression if it violates the law, that I attack women who don’t agree with me, and that I am mistaken about the link between benzene and breast cancer. You can find his piece here: Wendy Lynne Lee: Activist, Professor and Now a Fiction Story Teller | Energy In Depth – Northeast Marcellus Initiative.
Here is my response:
Let us examine Mr. Massaro’s argument in very careful and patient detail:
1. Mr. Massaro begins his article in a tone of ridicule and dismissal. You have to give him credit for knowing his audience–white, mostly male, mostly men who look just like himself–and have a monied stake in hydraulic fracturing. Indeed, we can only surmise that we in the anti-fracking movement must really be getting under the skin of the fracking proponents when they go after us individually. Mr. Massaro quotes me: ““Marxist, Atheist, feminist, vegetarian, union activist, queer, animal welfare theorist – and one of the most reliable, hard-working, publishing professors BU has. Want to discuss my commitment to my university with my university president? Call him: 570-389-4674.” That’s exactly right, Mr. Massaro–and unless you’re a homophobic, misogynist, anti-collective bargaining bigot, you’ll find everything in that list is something to be proud of–indeed to celebrate as excellent avenues of intellectual investigation and opportunities for freedom of expression in a democracy. Call my university president, Mr. Massaro. You have his number. Ask him about the service I render to my university. In fact, come to my campus. Talk to my students. Ask them about my work ethic. Free time? No, Mr. Massaro, very judicious and thoughtful use of my time. After you chat with my president, sign up for my course next term: Philosophy of Ecology. You might learn something.
What this is called is a cheesy hit piece–and nothing about its opening lines recommends Mr. Massoro as anything other that a hired hit-man for an industry known for its hired hit-men and women. The trouble with that, of course, is that it makes plain right form the beginning that Mr. Massaro has nothing with which to actually argue any case. Ridicule and dismissal is the refuge of the lazy and the empty-handed–and in this Mr. Massaro does not disappoint. The FABULOUS thing about it is that Mr. Massaro rises to the occasion of exactly the man I describe in the piece–coming to the defense before Ms. Colley utters a peep–calling her by her first name–Rachael–and thereby treating Ms. Colley with precisely the patronizing attitude the industry is no richly known for. Irony atop irony, but more of this later.
2. Civil disobedience: Mr Massaro claims that “[l]ike many of you, no doubt, I remember thinking it was cool to stand up to the “man” in high school and then I grew up. I also recall from my school days that civil disobedience was supposed to involve a serious commitment to pay the price required for the disobedience. It’s not something that’s supposed to be enjoyed.” So, Mr. Massaro identifies civil disobedience with childishness and by extension conformity to existing law–obviously regardless the content of that law–with maturity. Good thing, then, that Martin Luther King or Gandhi or any number of other civil and human rights leaders engaged in the childish. By Mr. Massaro’s reasoning, we’d still be living under Jim Crow segregation and women (say, “Rachael”) would still be in the kitchen making his dinner and pumping out “his” babies. I have no reason to think that he’d have thought these movements just as “childish” as he thinks the anti-fracking movement. And no wonder–these movements offer equality–something that threatens the money-soaked privileges and un-earned power folks like Mr. Massaro enjoy.
He then goes on to suggest that there’s something wrong with teaching one’s students about the value of civil disobedience, and again, by implication, that students ought to be taught conformity. But Mr. Massaro is very very wrong. Civil disobedience is at the heart and soul of American democracy. Without vigorous exercise of that fundamental and basic human right, the state–and particularly our increasingly corporatized state–becomes precisely the dictatorship we–including Mr. Massaro–say we must avoid. Mr. Massaro suggests that I–and my fellow anti-fractivists–am unwilling to pay the price for that civil disobedience. But he in fact, has absolutely no idea and no evidence for such a tedious claim whatsoever. Of course, civil disobedience has a price, and of course where the stakes are this high–the destruction of the environment and with it our children’s futures–it is a price well-worth paying. That Mr. Massaro chooses the easy-money path of an industry that, as Dean Marshall put it to me, “is willing to burn the furniture to heat the house” is his choice. But the consequences of his actions redound to the detriment of us all–including himself. It is my and my fellow citizens moral responsibility to make it as clear as we can the destitution of his position. And if THAT requires civil disobedience, then so be it.
3. Riverdale: “…they [Aqua America/PVR) gave residents a month and $2,500 to move, which was more than fair, especially given the long period during which the property was for sale.” While some of the residents knew that the land was up for sale, they had, in fact, no reason to believe that Mr. Leonard had gained any traction on this quest. They found out IN THE NEWSPAPER that the property had been sold. And that gave them two weeks notice to relocate in a region completely over-run by gas workers–and with it rents that had in some cases tripled. Fact: it costs at least 7-9 thousand dollars to relocate a mobile home–leaving many of the residents in no other position but to abandon homes they owned. Riverdale was indeed located on a flood plain–like many mobile home communities because they offer land-owners an opportunity to make enormous sums of money from economically vulnerable people in virtue of rents. Mr. Leonard was being pressured to improve the park by the local municipality in order to prevent flooding–but he did not want to do this.
Now for some more rich irony: Mr. Massaro asks “Let me ask what might have happened to those residents should another major storm on the order of Sandy hit this particular area like it hit Staten Island?” Hard to say, Mr. Massaro–especially since the likelihood of storms like Hurricane Lee and Tropical Storm Sandy are on the increase due to precisely the pollutants industries like the natural gas industry make regularly available to our atmosphere. Once you factor is all of the pollutants cradle to grave of the fracking process including the process itself, the trucks emissions, the compressor station emissions, the dehydrator emissions, and so on and so on, it becomes abundantly clear that fracking is a major contributor to climate change. Mr. Massaro knows it. Skip Leonard knows it. We all know it. So this crazy idea that Mr. Massaro implies that Mr. Leonard was doing the residents of Riverdale a favor by evicting them is completely undermined by the fact that Mr. Leonard is making money from a process that is destructive for us all.
Mr. Massaro seems to think that he can read my mind and divine my motives: “Wendy Lynne Lee’s problem with this situation was nothing more than the fact a company supporting the natural gas industry bought the park. Does anyone believe she or others would have been at the park with arms linked if someone had bought the park evicted the tenants to turn it into an organic farm, a recreational river access or a university athletic field?” Here too he could not be more mistaken–and it’s clear that he hasn’t done his homework. Had he, he’d know that I have a long history in the defense of the vulnerable–whether these be human beings, nonhuman animals, indigenous peoples, or environments. THAT the park was going to be converted into a water withdrawal for fracking was one of the reasons I and the many other protesters came to Riverdale. But as is abundantly clear from our actions in the park, our wholly democratic form of decision-making which included the residents, and our willingness to engage in the civil disobedience Mr. Massaro dismisses as childish to defend the dignity of the residents and the park, the Occupation of Riverdale is a shining example of what a democracy should look like–however uncomprehending of our country’s foundational principles Mr. Massaro may be. Don’t believe me? ASK KEVIN JUNE. ASK DEB ECK.
Mr. Massaro: “Lee described her time of “democracy” in Riverdale with joy and a sense of accomplishment, kind of the same way I described my camping trip down the Delaware river this past past summer. The only difference is this; I was allowed to camp on the river and was not disobeying laws in doing so.” No, Mr. Massaro, the difference is that the beautiful environment you got to enjoy for your camping trip is made possible by the actions of people just like me to protect the water and the air you breathe. You may take this for granted–but you re not entitled to. Yours is called egregious hypocrisy; mine is called moral consistency. Moreover, we were NOT disobeying any law whatsoever at Riverdale. We were there as GUESTS of the residents. They WANTED us there, and unless you think that Aqua America had some right to tell the residents prior to the eviction of July 12th that they could not have guests–well, you’re just even more enamored of corporate fascism that I thought. THE moment the residents asked us to leave–to protect US from the state police–we left.
It is notable that Mr. Massaro says nothing whatever about the failures of DEP to demand inspection for asbestos at Riverdale–the main content of that section of my research essay. Does he simply not care about the poetential exposure of economically vulnerable people to asbestos? Can he find no way to defend DEP?
4. Mr. Massaro opens the next section of his hit piece with the claim that I attack women who disagree with me. No, Mr. Massaro–i find it ironic and tremendously important to any evaluation of fracking that the industry goes out of its way to employ women to greenwash and genderize this environmentally horrific process. This isn’t about agreeing with me; this IS about the use of women by the industry as a front–and some women’s complicity in that use. That Mr. Massaro continues his piece by way of straw argument–distorting my argument in order to dismiss it–is not surprising, but it is wholly dishonest. Dishonesty number 1: I describe ALL of you folks here at EID as cheerleaders–not just the women of EID. I have not disrespected Ms. Colley (as you have by calling her by her first name in a “professional” venue). I have laid out the hypocrisy and self-undermining facts of her position.
5. In a particularly ludicrous and apparently desperate attempt to downplay the fact that benzene is a carcinogen, Mr. Massaro offers us a picture of a smoker at the Schlumberger protest. Indeed, smoking is very very BAD for you. I wished no one smoked at all. But the notion that because there as a smoker at this protest means that it is somehow morally unobjectionable that benzene is used in a process that could expose women UNKNOWINGLY to a carcinogen identified in breast cancer is absurd. That second hand smoke is a source of benzene exposure has led to the regulation of cigarette smoking in closed spaces. GOOD. Now why doesn’t Mr. Massaro apply that same reasoning to fracking? That if it cannot be done without insuring against the exposure to benzene it should not be done at all. Ipso facto: fracking CAN’T be done without this mammoth risk–as the evidence makes abundantly clear. Hence, it should be banned. Thank you Mr. Massaro for offering such a good argument for banning fracking!
6. The facts are clear: benzene is associated with breast cancer as a cause. benzene is used in fracking. Fracking accidents expose women (and all of us) to the potential risks bosed by this carcinogen. Susan B. Koman takes dirty money from the fracking industry contrary to their stated mission to defeat breast cancer. Rachael Colley, Kathryn Klaber, Nicole Jacobs all make their money from an industry that traffics in a cancer causing agent that decimates women’s lives. That is called hypocrisy. And worse: it is charlatan.
That Mr. Massaro apparently fancies himself as some knight in shining armor coming to the defense of fracking industry women epitomised precisely the masculinist politics and culture that I spell out in my piece. That he doesn’t appear to get this is not surprising–but it does illustrate the willful ignorance for which this industry and its cheerleaders are well known.
For a section of the piece which is the source of Mr. Massaro’s displeasure, please see:
The hit piece comes after one of the most significant days in my effort to photo-document the industrialization of Pennsylvania at just one of thousands of sites: the Janet Hock Road Compressor Station. Here re just two of the pictures from my FaceBook photo Album, “Where water goes: From Pristine Creek to Poisoned Compressor” ((1) Where water goes: From Pristine Creek to Poisoned Compressor). But for the full impact of what this particular piece of fracking infrastructure is going to mean, please see–or rather listen to Dean Marshall’s YouTube from the same location, same day: What must be saved and what must be stopped! 014 – YouTube