Colorado Newspaper Publishes Letter Calling For Activists To ‘Blow Up’ Oil & Gas Wells And ‘Eliminate’ Workers
A newspaper in Boulder, Colo. published a letter to the editor this week calling for violent attacks on oil and natural gas workers and facilities. But instead of retracting the letter and issuing an apology, as other publications have done in similar cases, the newspaper let it stand with some minor edits.
“If the oil and gas industry puts fracking wells in our neighborhoods, threatening our lives and our children’s lives, then don’t we have a moral responsibility to blow up wells and eliminate fracking and workers?” Andrew J. O’Connor wrote in the Boulder Daily Camera on April 19.
The letter was edited the following day to read “don’t we have a moral responsibility to take action to dissuade frackers from operating here?” The edited letter now carries a statement from the newspaper which explains the change, but does not apologize.
“This letter was edited to delete references that may have been construed to expressly advocate violence or property destruction,” the Daily Camera’s editors wrote. “The Camera does not condone or endorse violence or property destruction of any kind. However, the letter presents a philosophical question the Camera believes is worthy of community conversation in the context of the ongoing discussion over fracking.”
The edited letter, however, still contains violent rhetoric. O’Connor, the author of the letter, claims “fracking equals murder” and says using violence against the oil and gas industry would be the “intelligent” move for Colorado residents. To support his argument, he quotes 1960s activist Malcolm X: “I don’t call it violence when it’s in self-defense; I call it intelligence.” O’Connor also credits anti-oil and gas activists in Canada who “fought back by pouring cement down wellheads and blew up wells.”
Other newspapers in similar situations have chosen to retract threatening letters. In January, the News Review in Roseburg, Ore. removed a letter from its website that called for left-wing political protestors to be shot and buried at sea.
“After reviewing our guidelines, which clearly state not to threaten the harm of another individual, we removed the letter,” the News Review’s editors said in a note to readers. “We apologize,” the editors said. The publication of the letter and its retraction was covered by The Oregonian, the state’s largest newspaper.
In 2015, a central Pennsylvania newspaper – The Daily Item – apologized for running a letter that threatened violence against President Barack Obama. The newspaper made the apology in an editorial headlined “We bungled the Obama attack letter.” The editorial said letters are normally screened for “offensive language and ad hominem attacks” and there was “no excuse” for publishing threats of violence. The letter was later deleted from the newspaper’s website.
The issue of violence against the oil and gas industry was debated this year in the Colorado legislature, with the Republican-run state Senate passing a bill that would increase penalties for tampering with energy infrastructure. The bill was a response to anti-oil and gas activists shutting off valves and other acts of sabotage against oil and gas equipment, according to the Denver Business Journal.
The bill was opposed in the state House, where Democrats have a majority, over concerns the legislation could serve “as a deterrent to protests against oil and gas wells,” the Business Journal reported. It was blocked in a committee vote last week, ending its chances of becoming law this year.