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The American Skinhead, and Greenpeace: Humanitarians or Terrorists

The Greenpeace and American Skinhead movements have come to attract a lot of controversies in regard to their intentions and legality of action in terms of whether they are meeting their objectives by fair or unfair means. There is a lot of concern amongst social organizations as also authorities in several countries about the validity of their actions in pursuing what they stand for. These movements have been described through studies, reports and interviews in regard to the intensity of their political and cultural influences on society. There are several arguments that doubt the authenticity of pleas by Greenpeace in being genuinely concerned about humanitarian objectives and there have been a large number of incidents that indicate its involvement in indirect terror practices which amount to literally pressurizing authorities to undo what has been done for the benefit of mankind. The beliefs of the Skinhead movement are viewed through their relationship with the Nazi inspired violent practices and attempts of causing disturbances in society. Their political viewpoints are also not free of conspiracies. This paper will examine all these aspects in the light of available research and facts from different sources.

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Greenpeace is a non governmental organization that operates on an international level with the objective of protecting and conserving the environment. In efforts to achieve its goals, Greenpeace takes direct action and does research and lobbying. In having a worldwide presence, Greenpeace has several offices in the US as also in over 40 countries. It frames its policies and line of action from its Amsterdam based office and in essence, is a global organization that has huge financial resources at its disposal by way of support from the over three million financial supporters that it has. The Greenpeace Foundation was originally founded in 1972 at Vancouver in Canada while protesting against the US decision to test nuclear devices in Alaska. Gradually the foundation evolved into a wide spectrum of collection of environmentalists that were reflective of the culture represented by the hippie culture and youth movements in bringing about significant social revolution during that time. The Greenpeace movement heralded a period of change that was for long hidden in the cultural and social background immediately preceding the formation of the Greenpeace Foundation. There appeared to be immense potential at the time for the development of new codes of behavior in regard to the environment and its social and political ramifications. However, in due course the attention of the organization came to be shifted more towards environmental issues such as global warming, bottom trawling, whaling and nuclear power, instead of just being engaged in anti nuclear protests.

However Greenpeace has come to be criticized in being very radical and alarmist in using ways and means that have come to be referred to as eco terrorism. Allegations have been made against the organization for having caused more damage to the environment than what it envisages to do. It has been charged with adopting practices which are not considered to be economically and environmentally sound and for giving more emphasis to non-human issues than for human causes. Such charges have been leveled against it not only by other environmental groups, but also by governments of several countries and political and industrial lobbyists. In 1986, Patrick Moore, the co-founder of Greenpeace had left the organization over differences emanating from the issue of his organization supporting the ban on using chlorine in water used for drinking, since he stressed the vital role of the same in maintaining public health. It is felt by many organizations that Greenpeace has become more politically motivated and does not essentially take up issues based on scientific facts.

Weyler (2004), who joined Greenpeace while he was still very young, has outlined the development of the movement from the days of the Vietnam War when local environmentalists had raked up the adversities resulting from the fallout of nuclear weapons testing. The activists had started a campaign to merge the peace and green movements during the time and the basic difference between previous efforts and that of Greenpeace pertained primarily to the difference in the media campaigns. Weyler has focused on the humanitarian efforts of Greenpeace during that time and justified the mix of civil disobedience and some indirect violence used in achieving the objectives of curbing nuclear testing by the US.

Radcliffe (2000) has traced the rising influence of the Greenpeace movement in mainstream politics and the increasing incidents whereby educational considerations and political agendas accept and use green issues to further their own objectives. Hence it is said that there has been a development of green politics resulting from such revolution in political and social green thoughts. Consequently, as observed by Radcliffe, green politics has become a term that is widely used by political groups and other action groups in making issues out of the environment to meet their agendas and motives. Hence it is essential to disintegrate the political actions from those that aim at bringing about reformist actions and those that wish to further the radical style politics. In effect, Radcliffe has provided the need to think whether movements such as Greenpeace are dominated by political aspirations and whether there is need for Greenpeace to bring about influences on political differences.

Taylor (2001) has described the world wide growth of environmental movements that have specifically become interested and skilled in the manipulation of the environmental regulatory system in the US. Such organizations are taking political advantage under the guise of seeking exemptions by feigning as organizations that should get exemptions due to the environmental protection efforts that they are said to be engaged in. It is true that several companies have become keen to take advantage of the regulatory provisions that provide tax concessions and exemptions on account of the environmental protection that they seek to bring about. But in fact most of such organizations have been exploiting their political connections in seeking exemptions at the cost of the tax payer. Taylor (2001) has effectively and logically argued that such organizations are more in the nature of being radical, anarchist, extreme, and nihilist entities and has termed them as having eco terrorist tendencies.

Greenpeace has been found to have engaged several times in eco stunts by encouraging the formation of human chains and by placing big protest signs on bridges, skyscrapers, trees and ships, thus putting to extreme danger both lives of people, and properties. There have been instances when Greenpeace has instigated violent reactions to support its arguments, which literally amounts to the use of terrorism in achieving its political aspirations.

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Skinheads form a subculture and initially comprised youths in the United Kingdom who came from the strata of the working class, and gradually spread throughout the world. They are named after their style of having shaved heads and were much influenced by the Jamaican lifestyle of music and fashion. Skinheads are considered to be a sub group of the neo Nazi movements and portrayed themselves in a rather intimidating fashion that was replete with tattoos and a symbology that relates them to Nazi ideology. American skinheads are made up of different sub cultures and belong to traditional skins, racist skins, anarchist skins, anti racist skins and a number of other groups. Some have organized themselves into national, international or regional groups while some are independent of any group bindings. Typically, skinheads are associated with racist ideologies as related to the skinhead movement in the UK which picked up from the 1980s. They strongly believe, just as the Nazis did, that the whites are a much superior race genetically and are in risk of becoming wiped out in view of the rising influence and numbers of the colored races. It is this fear that is very real amongst them and makes them involved in the actions which have become very violent during the last few years. There has been an increase in the number of organized groups of racist skinheads and their rising numbers have greatly fuelled the increase in the incidents of skin head related criminal activities.

However Moore (1993) has supported the argument that the skinhead movement is based more on cultural perspectives than being politically motivated and has used reports of the Anti-Defamation League, the Southern Poverty Law Center, articles from newspapers and discussions with skinheads in coming to this conclusion. His book Skinheads Shaved for Battle: A Cultural History of American Skinheads has detailed the origin of skinheads, their development amongst the youth groups, and the evolving of their activities and ideas. Music has played an important role in their development and formation, and their activities have brought about a feeling of hatred against them amongst the general public in America and throughout the world. Moore has been specific in portraying the skinheads as fascists and racists and labeled them as working against the cultural and social set up in the country.

Hamm (1993) has written in his book about the relevance of Nazi ideology in being related to the increasing instances of crime and delinquencies by skinheads. Just as large-scale brutality was practiced by the youth in Hitler’s regime, several crimes have been committed by youth on the same parameters in the present times. Such youth, in being neo Nazi skinheads, have used the same modus operandi as during Hitler’s time by assaulting people with knives, ball bats, beer bottles, guns and explosives and sometimes committing heinous crimes such as murder also on foreigners and colored people. Hamm has concluded that there is a distinct similarity of such actions by the skinheads with the systems as prevalent during the Nazi regime. His book helps a great deal in understanding the extent of violence indulged in by the skinheads.

The most recent example of violence perpetrated by skinheads relates to the plot to kill Obama when two white supremacist skinheads were caught for planning to go on a killing spree with the ultimate objective of killing the Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama. These skinheads were indicted with criminal conspiracy and threatening a presidential candidate, were charged with the unlawful possession of a gun as also with the plan to raid a gun dealer. Although the said conspiracy was not of a very sophisticated nature, it did spell the inherent violent nature of dangers lurking behind the skinhead movement. An article in this regard by Charles (2008), throws valuable insight into gauging the intensity and extremity of the skinhead movement.

According to Sickboy (2004), “the skinhead is not about color, race, religion, and national origin. It is a brotherhood and sisterhood of individuals who share the same passions in what is called a skinhead”. In being a skinhead himself, he provides his own views on politics as not being influenced in any way by orientation of any class or race. He believes that the cult of skinheads is in fact a way of life and any one who claims to be a skinhead does so by virtue of being dedicated to the belief of belonging to the creamy layer of the working class. He also believes that it is not within everybody’s ability to become a skinhead since it requires a particular breed of character in understanding the pride that goes with a skinhead. Surely Sickboy provides a different basis for viewing and judging skinheads by way of what they do and say.

Some people who are directly associated with the skinhead movement have now started to call for a fundamental change in the tactics by throwing away the traditional garb of the culture that has enabled a negative influence on them. Skinheads are now being asked to grow their hair, remove or cover up their tattoos and to integrate themselves more into the mainstream of society, and perhaps wait until the right time comes to hit back in achieving their motives. Several music crews have come up in America that have turned their backs on violent practices and reinvented activities in clubs and other political affiliations. They have set their way towards appealing to the mainstream in using every possible tool at their disposal. Skinheads have been observed to have greatly reduced their rhetoric and started to shape their message in appealing to larger audiences. And they have started to get the desired response by using measures such as internet and popular music in reaching out to large number of people with their messages.

Despite the dwindling numbers, the propensity of skinheads to indulge in violent activities can never be ruled out and authorities are always concerned about law enforcement in this regard. Most of the original skinheads who perpetrated violence and hatred have been arrested and imprisoned and the intensity of their activities during the last few years has been considerably reduced. In some communities skinheads have clearly vanished but authorities still look at skinheads as belonging to hate groups who carry out hate crimes which amount to nothing less than terrorist activities. Hence there is still a strong need for such people to be vigorously investigated in all respects and prosecuted for all illegal activities.

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Charles, D. (2008). Skinheads held over plot to kill Obama. Washington: Reuters.

Hamm, M. (1993). American Skinheads: The Criminology and Control of Hate Crime. Greenwood Press.

Moore, J. (1993). Skinheads Shaved for Battle: A Cultural History of American Skinheads. Popular Press.

Radcliffe, J. (2000). Green Politics: Dictatorship or Democracy? St.Martin’s Press.

Sickboy, (2004) A Rant of Enlightenment. San Francisco, CA: RoadDawgz and Pacific News Service.

Taylor, P. (2001). Ecoterrorism: an overlooked threat to the United States. Insight on the News.

Weyler, R. (2004). Greenpeace: How a Group of Ecologists, Journalists and Visionaries Changed the World. Vancouver, British Columbia: Raincoast Books.

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StudyCorgi. "The American Skinhead, and Greenpeace: Humanitarians or Terrorists." October 21, 2021.


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