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Is How To Blow Up a Pipeline pro-terrorism?

How to Blow Up a Pipeline is a movie that has attracted controversy, with the FBI and other security organisations sending out warnings regarding the film – the question has to be asked, is the movie pro-terrorism?

What is How to Blow Up a Pipeline about?

In “How to Blow Up a Pipeline”, we witness the radicalization of eight different climate activists. The movie culminates in an exciting climax where the group explodes a Texas pipeline. The film aims to evoke sympathy for the characters and help us understand their motivations. Each character brings their unique spin to the situation, and many feel disenfranchised with current modes of organization.

The movie offers a fresh take, with a lot of honesty about the current state of activism. There’s little attempt to create a balanced argument, which is likely what has wound some security agencies up about this film.

Check out my full review of How To Blow Up a Pipeline here.

Is How To Blow Up a Pipeline pro-terrorism?

To understand this movie, you have to first understand where the climate movement currently is. The two most prominent climate groups in the UK are Just Stop Oil and Extinction Rebellion. These organizations have faced intense media scrutiny for political stunts, such as disrupting snooker matches and blocking roads. From the reaction and vitriol on social media, you might forgive yourself if you’d believed these groups had blown something up.

In terms of eco-terrorism, there’s actually very little of it going on in the world. There aren’t many people blowing up pipelines, which is a good thing. As much as the movie tries to breeze past it, this behaviour can hurt people. This movie doesn’t need to hold the viewer’s hand and tell them that blowing up pipelines isn’t okay, we already know that. It wants us to look at the people currently being disruptive with understanding rather than scorn. Disrupting a sports match isn’t as direct as blowing up a pipeline, but it’s direct action that progresses the mission. It gets people talking about climate change and it puts pressure on the political machine. It’s direct action with less risk of collateral damage, which is a good thing.

If anything, this movie makes it clear exactly why you shouldn’t blow up a pipeline. Most of the characters do not end up in a good spot, and those who do – will be looking over their shoulder. Their actions are glorified, but the consequences are made clear.

What is the original book about?

The 2023 movie is based on a book by Swedish professor Andreas Malm. He is explicit in his calls for direct sabotage of fossil fuels. Despite the provocative nature of the book, however, sabotage isn’t synonymous to explosives. It can take the form of blocking access to refineries or vandalizing offices. Both are less dramatic than this movie, but both are arguably more effective than peaceful demonstrations.

Of course, there are some instances where things do reach the extremities of this film and critical power infrastructure has been attacked. However, these are rarely, if ever, about climate. In 2022, North Carolina infrastructure was attacked by far-right activists – with speculations that they were attempting to disrupt a nearby drag show.

In conclusion, whether or not How To Blow Up a Pipeline is about terrorism depends on your definition of terrorism. If you think any form of disruption to public events, however peaceful they may be, is terrorism – then yes, this film is supportive of that. If you are worried that this film is encouraging people to want to blow-up power infrastructure, I don’t think that’s the case. You should be more worried about the far-right than any sort of climate activist, if that’s where your concerns lie.

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