How To Blow Up A Pipeline Is Freaking Out Law Enforcement Agencies

The climate activist drama "How to Blow Up a Pipeline" just got even more punk rock. The film, which is based on a nonfiction book of the same name published in 2021, caught the attention of the FBI and other law enforcement agencies with its supposed ecoterrorist message. Rolling Stone reported that on April 6, the FBI's Weapons of Mass Destruction Directorate posted a bulletin warning of the film's potential to inspire environmentalist revolt targeting "oil and gas infrastructure with explosives or other destructive devices." The FBI, along with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco Firearms, and Explosives Agency, continued to issue warnings about the potential threat of the Neon theatrical release.

The source material, written by Lund University associate professor of human ecology Andreas Malm, does indeed make the case that property damage is a valid form of climate activism and that pacifism may be a hindrance to the environmentalist movement. However, the big screen adaptation, which is directed and co-written by Daniel Goldhaber ("Cam") with other writing credits belonging to Ariela Barer (Hulu's "Runaways") and Jordan Sjol, is a fictional tale spun from the ideas Malm puts forth in his thesis.

How to blow up an FBI statement

Despite the title, "How to Blow Up a Pipeline" is not a how-to guide on orchestrating sabotage. An anti-terrorism intelligence analyst working for the Maryland Coordination and Analysis Center stated in an official report that "the movie definitely does NOT provide a step-by-step guide to construct a device, it's much more focused on the radicalization process and why these subjects choose to conduct the attack." In other words, the film isn't so much telling people how to blow up a pipeline as it is trying to answer why people would blow up a pipeline.

The singling out of film and other media by law enforcement groups is a slippery slope into the unconstitutional suppression of free speech. A Department of Homeland Security official defended the federal reaction to Rolling Stone, stating that "films, books, video productions, and their distribution channels are protected by the U.S. Constitution" while at the same time urging that "stakeholder partners practice greater vigilance and action on the tactics, techniques, and procedures that we know produce improvements in physical security" when it comes to "certain films and books that seem to promote violence and destruction to our critical infrastructure." 

The argument, basically, is that security monitoring isn't the same as censorship. However, as the Brennan Center for Justice's Mike German pointed out, these reports merely serve to "increase surveillance of people and groups that protest the oil and gas industry." A most Big Brother-y escalation indeed.

"How to Blow Up a Pipeline" is currently playing in theaters.