If a tree falls: A story of the Earth Liberation Front (documentary)

If a tree falls: A story of the Earth Liberation Front (documentary)

The complete 85 minute, award winning documentary, that tells the story of the Earth Liberation Front. (Link broken)

If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front explores two of America’s most pressing issues — environmentalism and terrorism — by lifting the veil on a radical environmental group the FBI calls America’s “number one domestic terrorism threat.” Daniel McGowan, a former member of the Earth Liberation Front, faces life in prison for two multimillion-dollar arsons against Oregon timber companies. What turned this working-class kid from Queens into an eco-warrior? Marshall Curry (Oscar®-nominated Street Fight, POV 2005) provides a nuanced and provocative account that is part coming-of-age story, part cautionary tale and part cops-and-robbers thriller. A co-production of ITVS. Winner of Best Documentary Editing Award, 2011 Sundance Film Festival. (90 minutes)

As stated in the title, the link below is to the full 85 minute documentary.

Posted By

working class s...
Jan 12 2012 00:11


Attached files


Jan 13 2012 03:49

Even though I'm not exactly a fan of the ELF or Earth First I thought I would give this a watch and I was surprised how interesting it turned out to be. The stuff on the police brutality and how terrorism is defined is quite good, which makes in more relevant to people who are involved in class struggle orientated activists too. Thanks for sharing.

Juan Conatz
Jan 13 2012 22:57

Yeah, this was really good, which I'm not sure I expected. Honestly, the shadow of the ALF and ELF has always hung over me it seems since I became involved in anarchism in late 2007/early 2008.

What I mean by that is that Operation Backfire was still something that haunted the anarchist movement. Pretty much every gathering or convergence I went to had some lit or workshop on the topic of the Green Scare. I always felt a couple of degrees of seperation between myself and folks who got knocked, and it sometimes seemed exactly like that.

For instance, when notorious FBI informant and probable provocateur 'Anna'1
met Eric McDavid, I believe it was at a Crimethinc convergence in Iowa.

Then there was the recent Grand Juries in Davenport (where I lived briefly last year) around the 2004 ALF action at the University of Iowa (in Iowa City where I also used to live). 2 anarchists from the Twin Cities (where I now live lol) were targeted and spent months in jail/prison over their refusal to say anything to the Grand Jury. Eventually one of them was released after months of being constantly transferred to different jails in Iowa and the other one plead guilty to some unrelated action and spent some time in federal prison.

When the ALF action happened in Iowa City, the police and FBI visited a lot of people, including the owner of an organic farm I worked on. I think they probably just followed and visited pretty much anyone that seemed like they were in that subculture.

And then, when the Republican National Convention came to the Midwest (St. Paul to be exact) one of the precursor justifications for the FBI, Joint Terrorism Task Forces, sherrif's departments and police was relating ALF/ELF stuff to protest groups, particularly anarchist ones. I remember when seeing initial FBI documents on the group I was involved with, the informant suggested one individual in particular had been involved in 'environmental actions' including some training on tree spiking. Of course, this was nonsense. The person in question never had gone to anything of the sort. He was a guy who grew up about 25 miles from me and was in the construction trades. He became involved in the group at pretty much the exact time I did. When they couldn't tie ALF/ELF to RNC protest groups, they simply dropped 'eco' from 'eco-terrorist' and went as far as they could with it. Someone meticulously went through the FBI documents on the group I was involved with and highlighted the farce of all this. And then there was the much more visible case of the RNC 8.

The most recent case of the 'terrorist' boogeyman being used is the raids and Grand Jury subpoenas of a number of members of the Stalinist Freedom Road Socialist Organization, who were also involved in SDS, Anti-War Committee, and UE (including the Republic Window & Doors occupation and the Quad City Diecast anti-Wells Fargo campaign)

This is the post-9/11 world the radical left has to deal with in the United States.

Jan 15 2012 22:22

This was pretty good. But I don't really get what the groups ideology is aside from environmentalist.

Jan 28 2012 04:24

Youtube already removed it, copyright complaint. Anyone have any alternative sites to watch it?

working class s...
Jan 28 2012 11:44

Damn, I will have a look for another site

working class s...
Feb 17 2012 21:19

new link, can be watched on youtube

Feb 17 2012 22:37

watchin this on iplayer now, interesting so far

Feb 17 2012 23:04

It's also on Netflix for Americans with access.

It's actually a very good film. I knew and was critical of a number of folks in this milieu. I learned allot about their trajectory as well.

Ravineman as about their politics. I would call it insurrectionary liberalism.

A Wotsit
Feb 18 2012 02:08

I enjoyed this. I think their politics were basically decent, after all, the environment is a commons resource that under capitalism we are all prevented from protecting and utilising properly as it's stripped for profit. It was just the tactics that were a bit shitty, granted that's a pretty big criticism.

I see the possible justification people might use as focussing on these sorts of struggles is because they saw their one and only chance to try to save a bit of what's left of the natural local environment, it would be lost if they stood back. Once those trees are gone they are gone for centuries. They believe in direct action and they didn't have leaders, I'm down with that. Their tactics clearly backfired and didn't achieve a great deal but they at least had a go.

I think it's essential to take environmental struggles extremely seriously (look at Niger delta for e.g. but there are loads of examples). We can oppose certain tactics and critique their choice of targets and method in this particular movement/ group but I think their instincts re. nature and re. capitalism and government are in roughly the right place.

I would have liked to see them do more to say to workers- we'll help you make use of the forest- maybe take one or two trees each but don't give them to your boss- get the timber yard occupied and we'll help you harvest at a slow pace by taking out a few trees in patches try and get some organising going on, lets get some sort of sustainable system going etc.... Obviously you can't fight environmental destruction effectively without fighting capitalism and while attacking private property/capital can be a good tactic, doing it in secret gangs is probably not going to get the workers or wider public on-side.

Burning cars is also a waste of time, even though I do think they represent injustice in and of themselves seeing as they are dangerous to pedestrians, impede the freedom of inner city kids and pollute everyone else's air and yet the rest of us have to give right of way to them when we're out and about but attacking cars will not bring us any closer to overcoming the root problems of hierarchy and capital. imo

Still, I don't hate on anarcho-environmentalists (if that's what they are?), I even have space in my head to sympathise with some elements of primitivism, but not much.

Sep 15 2016 08:15

The video that is posted in the OP has been removed or privated so here is a link to a version that is still up: