Appalachian Basin

UPDATED: Napoleon’s Children Attack Natural Gas Bonanza

There are some interesting parallels between a TV episode of Bonanza and many natural gas opponents.  The latter often represent superb examples of “Napoleon’s Children,” a group of spoiled youths with no cause other than self-glorification and no commitment to anything but outlandish behavior that costs them nothing.

UPDATE: Right on cue, Chip Northrup included this appeal for “prank assassinations,” as Earth First describes them, on his Shaleshock Media blog post:

Promised Land has been screened to a friendly audience of fractavists, some of whom were apparently disappointed that Mr. Damon did not undergo a transformation on the road to Damascus  “turn Bourne” and take out a few of his former fellow frackers with some anti-fracking polemics, if not a sniper rifle.  Sort of like Josh Fox with an AK-47 instead of a banjo. Apparently no such luck. 

Read on to see what I mean.  

Relaxing during the holidays, I turned on the television to see if something might be worth watching. One of those upper channels was playing old Bonanza shows so I tuned in to watch a 1967 episode entitled “Napoleon’s Children.”    Like most of those programs, it was a simple story with a moral theme.  Ben, Hoss and Little Joe Cartwright saved the day, yet again, by bringing to bear a combination of common sense and good will to expose the real character of a self-important gang leader who had targeted Ponderosa and Virginia City.

A little later I was perusing some of my favorite blogs and came across this story about the activities of Earth First, the extremist group that sets itself above the law in defense of what it perceives are threats to the environment.  It turns out some of the kids at Earth First have set out on a campaign of “prank assassinations” to let certain people know “they are vulnerable, and well hated—even that we wish they were dead.”  They provide the names, addresses and phone numbers of the assassination targets, the top ranked target on the hit list being Chesapeake Energy’s CEO, Aubrey McClendon.

Reading the antics of Earth First and, in particular, the childish language employed by its adherents, it all became crystal clear; many of the natural gas opponents we deal with every day are modern day versions of “Napoleon’s  Children.”

Here’s the basic plot of “Napoleon’s Children” as described on Fandango:

Virginia City finds itself under siege from a group of highly organized juvenile delinquents, all guided by a disturbed young man who calls himself Napoleon. Raised by his dissolute uncle, a professor with a drinking problem, the boy knows his history well, and plans to terrorize the countryside in the course of making himself master of his “army” of delinquent teens. Standing in his way are the Cartwrights, who keep interfering with his plans — and caught between the two sides is Donny, a fatherless teenager, friend of Ben Cartwright, and one of Napoleon’s new recruits, who is tired of being treated like a boy by his mother but who also doesn’t want to see anyone hurt.

This description leaves outs two important parts of the story, though, including the motivation of the Napolean character and the nature of his demise as leader of the band of delinquents.  The motivation was simple.  There was no real cause other than the personal aggrandizement of the kid who called himself “Napoleon.”  The mission was but a facade for the ambition of the leader, who longed for the glory of another.  The demise is captured in this ending, schmaltzy to be sure, but still instructional:

“Napoleon” was exposed in the end as a coward; one who talked sacrifice and claimed a willingness to die for his cause but who, when put to the test, didn’t dare make a move for the gun.  Neither he nor his followers had anything in the game but their egos and they collapsed like a sand castle when the tide changed.


The parallels with Earth First, and so many of the natural gas opponents we write about, are striking.  Read the Earth First description of their “prank assassination” initiative.  Their loose talk turns out to be nothing but some  grandiose prattle about how they imagine themselves, as warriors in some galactic battle for control of the universe.  When we get to the bottom of things, however, we see they think glory can be had for the price of daring to engage in acts such as these:

These could range from the classics, like flaming-####-on-the doorstep or a strategically placed dollar bill covered in #### on the facedown side, to the new fangled hacker-style #### all up in their internet profiles, and a million things in between… (of course, the more feces the more better.. just remember security culture, and use non-identifiable ####.)

The Earth First knockoffs of “Napoleon’s Children” apparently think martyrdom is achieved by wiping their behinds with dollar bills and leaving them for others to pick up.  Yeah, that’ll get them into the history books.  It’s the kind of commitment one expects from a bunch with nothing at stake – the sort of folks who on depend on their parents or their trust funds for income or the kind who are otherwise freed from responsibility by the nature of their employment in careers where they can’t be fired.

We  see the same sort of braggadocio from others, some of whom are even regular readers of this blog.  Here’s a sampling of writings we’ve seen over the last year from the other side.  Take my word for it, because I’m not going to give them the publicity they crave by identifying their names.  Some will recognize their words, no doubt, and seek to identify themselves, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.

“2013 will see resistance to this atrocity that will make 2012 look tame.”

“In the shadow of the gallows
We have sworn a solemn vow, 
That soon Thomas and his henchmen
Will lie still beneath the plow.”

“Since we last met on this day in 2007, the lust for money at the expense of the innocent has risen anew in the hills and valleys of Pennsylvania. And our government has once again accepted money to look the other way. Power is fleeting. So is life. When the new day of reckoning arrives, it is our hands that will be on the lever.”

“Cuomo will not issue one permit.  Unless he wants a civil war.  The Elders have been meeting. We are all preparing.”

“If you think you’re going to drill, you’re going to have to hang me.“

“You’ll know who I am when you’re meant to know who I am .. and don’t worry, you WILL know who I am when it’s your time.”

“The only answer to this GREED will eventually be ‘Domestic Terrorism’ against the actual sites.”

“Lawyers will probably come to represent people who have been charged with vandalizing property or trespassing if they’re on property trying to monitor gas drilling activity.  There are all sorts of ways lawyers will be useful, but they’re tools…[and the] muscle of activists is necessary to drive those tools.”

“Go burn their trucks at night. I’m done with this [expletive deleted].” 

“Or some anti-natural gas industry activists, frustrated with the federal government disenfranchising them from the process, may decide to embrace various forms of direct action to stop natural gas development.“

“This course will study instances of such violence, and explore why violence has been seen as an acceptable or sometimes the only way to achieve a desirable end.”

Interestingly, two of these statements were from lawyers, which raises a host of additional issues, but we’ll save those for another day.  The key point is simply this; such babble bears a striking resemblance to that of a silly character from a Bonanza episode of 45 years ago.  The individuals involved, despite their varying ages, would have been good candidates to audition as “Napoleon’s Children.”  They’re a group of individuals with no real stake in the matter; whose incomes are derived from sources that aren’t threatened by much of anything they do; and who seek attention for being outlandish as a substitute for being brave or actually giving up anything for their cause.  They are absolutely convinced of their superior intellects and morals, and intolerant of any opinions but their own.  They are, in a word, spoiled – spoiled children, “Napoleon’s Children.”

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