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Speak out, speak wisely

Environmentalists' outrage over news reports is outrageous

Activists of every stripe are familiar with staging stunts to grab attention. It's why they call the media before rallies or sit-ins or protests.

They want attention to the cause.

But when does attracting attention become so important that an activist should do anything to get it? It's a question we've got to ask this week after several days of protest in response to logging in roadless areas burned by the 2002 Biscuit fire near Cave Junction.

Is it ethical to park yourself in a road not because you've been propelled there by your cause but because you've calculated, publicly, that you'll get the attention you want only if you're arrested?

Is it ethical to enter a designated botanical area, cut down a 40-foot tree and then use it to help you make the point that logging's wrong? Activists to whom these activities have been attributed are incensed by the Bush administration's go-ahead to logging in roadless areas, and they are struggling to find a way to make their message heard.

The ability to speak out is crucial in such situations, environmentalists outside the activists' immediate circle said this week.

We won't question that. But there are heartfelt protests and there are calculated actions designed to force messages through a filter, and this week's events have been less inspiration than calculation.

It's what environmentalists themselves would call spinning or worse if it came from the other camp.

Activists are irritated that the news after Tuesday's protest near the logging site focused on the botanical-area tree and the matching stump nearby, not on the atrocity of logging in roadless areas.

Would they have had news organizations fail to mention that anti-logging activists apparently had cut down a protected tree? Would they expect the same easy-going approach if it were the administration that was breaking environmental rules? Does the end justify the means here or just show us how it's possible to justify hypocrisy?

And then there's this: Did any of this add to public understanding about cutting trees that ought to be left alone?

We don't think so, and that may be the best reason of all for activists to consider a different approach.