Our View | What’s Next? ‘How to Blow Up a College’?

Our View

By The Signal Editorial Board

“How to Blow Up a Pipeline,” coming next week to a community college near you — College of the Canyons — is a movie about domestic terrorists.

And the terrorists are the protagonists.

The film, a fictional tale based on the book of the same name, follows a group of mostly young environmentalists whose hatred of the oil industry is so fervent, they take to executing a plot to blow up an oil pipeline, risking lives, property, economic havoc and, ironically, a potential environmental disaster to prove their point.

As the title implies, it spends a lot more time on the “how” than on the “why.” Not that the “why” necessarily justifies their actions — it doesn’t — but it would at least provide some comfort if the film were more thoughtful and reflective about the consequences of activist sabotage, aka terrorism.

To be fair, several of the characters do have actual personal reasons to hate the oil industry, including one who developed terminal cancer after living close to a refinery.

However, contrary to most of the reviews by liberal film critics, the film provides only brief lip service to the more thoughtful questions it could raise. It’s mostly a caper film in which several of the supposed clean-air advocates are frequent smokers and the cops are either crooked stereotypes or driving their squad cars while drunk, and the viewer is supposed to root for the terrorists. 

That much is abundantly clear.

We know. We watched the movie before drawing a conclusion on whether it’s a good idea for the COC philosophy department to present this 2022 film to students as a teaching tool, ostensibly as a subject for discussion.

College officials insist they are not presenting the film in the name of advocacy. What utter hogwash that is. Be careful. Your academic conceit is showing. 

This film is all about advocacy. If you don’t think the educators behind this presentation are putting their thumb on the scale in favor of progressive extremism, we have a bridge to sell you.

Perhaps, then, the COC philosophy department could teach you how to blow up the bridge.

Here are a few other handy “how to” lessons this film offers our young people:

• How to be an A-hole to your mom. This is the least of its offenses to the senses.

• How to make a blasting cap out of stump remover and drain cleaner you can buy at the neighborhood hardware store.

• How to make an improvised explosive device. And how to control it using a handheld radio you can find at any big-box store. Because you just never know when you’ll need a roadside bomb.

• How to slash an innocent individual’s tires because they are obviously an elitist bastard, driving a gas-guzzling SUV. Buy a damn Tesla already!

• How to snort cocaine off your cell phone screen with a rolled-up dollar bill. Smartphones have SO many uses!

• How to break and enter into private property. Bolt cutters are handy! And they fit in your backpack!

• How to circumvent a private residence’s security camera system. And how to use THAT skill to fabricate an alibi.

• How to build a fertilizer bomb. You know. Like the one that killed 168 people (including 19 children) at the Oklahoma City federal building in 1995.

• How to make a homemade spike strip to block a dirt road.

• How to field splint a broken leg when a 55 gallon drum of explosives falls on it. Dodged a bullet there, though: It didn’t blow up on you.

• How to extract a slug from your friend’s arm in a seedy motel room because he got shot while trespassing on private property and can’t go to the hospital without risking arrest.

• How to get rid of DNA evidence. Hint: more explosives!

• How to leave a note explaining to a stranger, “Why I sabotaged your property.” For example, when you plant a homemade bomb aboard a stranger’s luxury yacht, it helps to leave a note explaining to them that you have concluded their boat serves no practical use and that’s why you sunk it. (There’s no God complex there at all, right?) Your explanation will help them understand why you had to destroy their boat to make your point. Hopefully their children weren’t sleeping below decks! That would kind of suck. But, oh well.

The movie, while it follows a fictionalized plot, does not deviate far from the nonfiction enviro-extremist treatise that inspired it. Here’s an excerpt from the Amazon description of “How to Blow Up a Pipeline,” a 2021 book by Andreas Malm whose premise is that “property will cost us the Earth”:

“In this lyrical manifesto, noted climate scholar (and saboteur of SUV tires and coal mines) Andreas Malm makes an impassioned call for the climate movement to escalate its tactics in the face of ecological collapse. We need, he argues, to force fossil fuel extraction to stop — with our actions, with our bodies, and by defusing and destroying its tools. We need, in short, to start blowing up some oil pipelines.”

Malm — and the producers of the film — of course have a First Amendment right to express themselves. We would defend their rights to publish the book and produce the movie, and those who wish to consume the material can decide to do so. 

Our objection here, though, is to the community college making the choice to present this material as a teaching tool. The film is far from being an even-handed presentation of the questions it purports to raise. At a time when pro-terrorist sentiments have been disrupting college campuses nationwide, you’d think COC would think twice about screening a movie — for “discussion” — that seems hellbent on grooming more terrorists.

But, you know. The ends justify the means. This was explained succinctly when one character voiced a rare moment of concern about harming innocents, saying, “We could kill someone.”

The other protagonist replied, matter-of-factly:

“Sabotage is messy.”

Indeed it is.

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