This Alternet piece on the new "eco-terrorism" hype covers ground mostly familiar to Grist readers. But it’s got some important details.

The piece identifies two specific groups behind the recent hype: the American Legislative Exchange Council, a group of conservative lawmakers, and — behind them — the Center for Consumer Freedom, a group that shills for the alcohol, tobacco, and restaurant industries. CCF is one of many front groups for Berman & Co., a lobbying firm owned by Rick Berman, a former restaurant industry executive. Berman is legendary as a ruthless fighter against any regulation or taxes that might hamper his industry friends. He’s also known for close ties to Republican lawmakers.

He once told Chain Leader Magazine, a restaurant trade publication, "Our offensive strategy is to shoot the messenger. We’ve got to attack [activists’] credibility as spokespersons."

The strategy isn’t difficult to discern: Hype the threat from "eco-terrorists," lobby friendly lawmakers to pass draconian laws, and then work hard to tie these "terrorists" to activist groups that hinder your clients’ interests. From the Alternet piece:

David Martosko, a CCF official, told the House Ways and Means Committee in March that the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), the United States Humane Society (USHS), and the Rainforest Action Network (RAN) have, to varying degrees, supported known eco-terrorists.

"I urge this committee to fully investigate the connections between individuals who commit crimes in the name of the ALF [Animal Liberation Front], ELF [Earth Liberation Front], or similar phantom groups, and the above-ground individuals and organizations that give them aid and comfort," Martosko testified. "I would also urge members of this Committee to prevail upon their colleagues to re-examine the tax-exempt status of groups that have helped to fund, directly or indirectly, these domestic terrorists."

There’s the nut: "re-examine the tax-exempt status." It’s an overt attempt to shut down particular activist groups.

For industry, it’s a way of destroying threats to their financial interests. For Republicans, it’s a way to damage political enemies. For the mouth-breathing, talk-radio-listening Republican base, it’s another focus for their spittle-flecked hatred. Everybody wins.

Don’t get distracted. This whole kerfuffle about eco-terrorism isn’t about objectively weighing threats to our country. Don’t start arguing about what really is or really isn’t terrorism. Don’t feel pressured to incant the line, "Of course I disavow the tactics of those groups, but …" The merits of the case against "eco-terrorism" are a total distraction. The people waging this war could give a rat’s ass about the merits.

Call it what it is.