Bay Area Coalition for Headwaters

The Secret Agenda of Author Kate Coleman
and the real story of Judi Bari and Earth First!

Below are some of the more important inaccuracies contained in The Secret Wars of Judi Bari: A Car Bomb, the Fight for the Redwoods and the End of Earth First! published by Encounter Books.

Correcting the inaccuracies in this book is a daunting task.  Over 351 falsehoods have so far been documented on, a compilation that many of Judi Bari’s colleagues and friends contributed to.  The factual errors run the gamut from where Judi’s children spent the summer after the 1990 car bomb attack on Judi Bari and Darryl Cherney, to where and how people organized for Redwood Summer after the bombing, to the tactics used by Earth First!, to the very existence of the Earth First! movement past 1997.

They are important falsehoods to correct because Coleman’s treatment of Earth First! and of Judi Bari trivializes important political work, misrepresents a movement carrying out cutting edge work to protect the planet, and perhaps most importantly, because of the apparent agenda of the book.  Kate Coleman was commissioned to produce this book by Peter Collier for Encounter Books.  Encounter Books is funded by the right wing Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, which put up the money to produce such pieces as The Real Anita Hill: The Untold Story, which attacks Hill as “a little bit nutty, a little bit slutty”. Encounter Books collaborator neocon pundit David Horowitz worked with Collier on an attack piece on Noam Chomsky, and this crew has produced hit pieces on feminism, secularism, counterculture, labor unions and Mexican immigrants, as well as cheerleading tomes on the War in Iraq (Dawn Over Baghdad: How the US Military is Using Bullets and Ballots to Remake Iraq).  Coleman herself has written extensively and critically about the Black Panthers and has contributed for years to Horowitz's on-line propaganda outlet Front Page Magazine.  She revealed her bias against forestry activists in an East Bay Express piece (1/15/03) when she said they “just trespass on land and fuck with the loggers who are working for a living.” Do you see a pattern here?

1.      Coleman claims Earth First! encouraged use of explosives.  THE TRUTH: Earth First! never advocated use of explosives and in its publications and organizing, always warned activists against their use, but organized and promoted non-violent civil disobedience tactics, including blockades, tree-sits, guerilla theater, office occupations and the like.

2.      Coleman portrays Judi’s involvement in Redwood Summer (1990) after the bombing on May 24 of that year as such: “Bari remained in the background during Redwood Summer, watching it all slip away.”  and portrays the unprecedented forest campaign itself by saying, “Redwood Summer sank without making much of an impression…”  THE TRUTH:  Judi was active in helping strategize and organize—as active as she could be, lying as she was in traction in a hospital bed for 7 weeks.  As evidenced by the chronology of Redwood Summer from the Earth First! Journal (Nov. 1990), the campaign was going full bore, on track with strategy Judi was prominent in devising, before and after the bomb attack. (note: She was strategizing with others, not “issuing orders to the EF! cadre”, as Coleman says) Contrary to “not making much of an impression”, as Coleman contends, the summer-long campaign that mobilized thousands of people in opposition to the overlogging of California’s coastal forests marked a turning point that brought the forest campaign to the national stage, gained international press, and laid the groundwork for the 1993 Headwaters Forest Act in Congress and for other efforts to reduce the rate of over-logging put forward in the state legislature and regulating agencies.

3.      Coleman claims Bari abandoned forest activism in favor of working on her FBI lawsuit and generally playing “martyr.”  Coleman contends this contributed to what she calls “the end of Earth First!”   THE TRUTH:  The growing campaign, referenced above, also spawned huge rallies which Judi played a principal role in organizing until her death in 1997.  The 1995 rally brought 2000 people to the edge of Maxxam/Pacific Lumber property (264 people participated in civil disobedience protest); the 1996 rally brought over 6000 people to rural Humboldt, of whom an astonishing1033 stepped over the property line in an act of civil disobedience protesting out of control logging.  In 1997, months after an aggressive cancer took Judi’s life, a staggering 8000 people came to Humboldt to rally for the forests.  See 15 pages of news clips of Judi’s activism in 1992-97 at Moreover, activists claiming Earth First! affiliation are everywhere to be found in the political landscape today: opposing corporate globalization in Miami, Cancun and Seattle, protecting the last wild buffalo herds in West Yellowstone, sitting in trees in northern California, and fighting mountain top removal in Tennessee.  See the EF! Journal for evidence.

 4.      Coleman suggests “speed explains how Bari was able to do so much with so little sleep during those intense months.”  THE TRUTH: Judi Bari had boundless energy and considerable stamina before the bombing severely compromised her endurance, but even after the bombing, she worked on activist causes longer hours than most people, without the crutch of hard drugs.  This is a cheap shot with zero evidence.

5.      Some of the crudest propaganda in Coleman’s book includes the personal attacks, belittling Judi as “braless” (and noting her large breasts, accusing her of exposing her breasts at bar contests), portraying her as a drug abuser, violent, dishonest, and hypocritical.  THE TRUTH:  Judi was an ardent feminist, would never have participated in a breast contest and would not have garnered the respect she did in the environmental movement and the labor movement had she been dishonest and hypocritical as Coleman accuses.

 6.      The FBI’s flagrant abuse and false arrest of Judi after the 1990 car bomb attack is defended by Coleman.  She even thinks “It was not impossible that Bari had knowingly carried the bomb as part of the Earth First! plans to interrupt power to the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant…”  THE TRUTH:  Besides the now well-documented infiltration and disruption of Earth First! by the FBI over several years, including the use of agents provocateur, the bomb that injured Judi Bari and Darryl Cherney was triggered by a motion device, was wrapped in nails for shrapnel effect and was hidden under the driver’s seat in her car. It was not the sort of bomb one would transport, besides the fact that Earth First! has an unbroken record of non-violence and has never used or advocated explosives. After a 6-week trial in 2002, a federal jury was so convinced of the FBI’s misconduct (i.e., violating Constitutional rights in framing Bari and Cherney and smearing Earth First!) that it awarded the activists a record $4.4 million damages.

If Judi Bari was still alive today, she would laugh the loudest at Coleman’s clumsy hatchet job, cut it to ribbons with her famous wit and sharp tongue, and then point us to the real story—the power of grassroots, non-violent mass protest in defense of the earth.

Coleman’s hit-piece should stimulate interest in the real history of Judi Bari and the fight for the redwoods that is documented in detail at the official Judi Bari website, . Other sources of reliable information include Judi Bari’s book Timber Wars (1994, Common Courage Press), the Friends of Judi Bari website, the Earth First! Journal or on sale at the Ecology Center store. Expected out in the fall or winter of 2005/2006 is a book in progress on Judi Bari and the bombing by Pulitzer prize winning feminist author Susan Faludi that promises to be a much better read.

Don’t give your money to right wing publishers for a book that has nothing to offer those looking for a glimpse into Earth First! or Judi Bari’s life.

--Karen Pickett, BACH  (prepared 1.26.05)