The Black Cat Sabotage Handbook, 3rd edition (1996, Eugene, OR.) is now also available from our friends at The Talon Conspiracy:
When I was a kid the world didn’t have the sort of instant gratification now expected for all transactions, and thank goodness. You can really appreciate the value of something more once you’ve clipped five proof of purchases, put them into an envelope, mailed them away, and waited 6 to 8 weeks for your Zartan action figure to arrive. Distribution for the Black Cat Sabotage book worked the same way – you clipped an ad out of a zine and mailed it in along with concealed cash. A few months later a copy showed up in a nondescript envelope. I still remember when mine was delivered…
My first copy of Black Cat left me feeling like I was involved in some sort of conspiracy just turning the pages. Sure, most of it was reprints that I had already seen before, but the layout, the graphics, and the text all seemed to carry the message that action was urgent and that the enemy was watching. (Of course, we were all sending envelopes with our return addresses to the same damn PO Box in Eugene, so if anyone was watching they already knew who we were!) At the time I didn’t know who was publishing or distributing it, but rumors eventually surfaced in the mid 2000′s that the book was compiled by Bill Rogers, an accused Earth Liberation Front member who took his own life behind bars in 2005. In his suicide note he said that his death was a “Jail break,” and as he slowly suffocated himself with a plastic bag he gripped one hand into a fist, and with the other, extended his middle finger.
I only met Bill one or two times and did not get to know him well, but since his death I have heard many complicated things about him. From what I gather he was at times heroic, but had some serious, perhaps unforgivable flaws that should not be ignored. In that respect he is like the book that he was rumored to have clipped together and sent out anonymously. The Black Cat Sabotage Handbook contains some good bits of information, some serious inspiration, and some decent arguments for the use of sabotage and even violence. Likewise, it also contains some foolhardy nonsense that could get someone jailed or killed for little positive gain. The cover shouts, “BEWARE!” and smart readers will heed that advice.
In closing, here is to Bill. He was a man I can best respect by keeping off a pedestal. I can not deny that many of the stories about him are disconcerting, but I also can not deny the beauty of his attempts to spark a revolution against industrialism. As his friends sat shivering and complaining in a car, it was Bill who trekked alone through snow, uphill and burdened with the weight of gallons of fuel to set a fire that would announce to millions the existence of the Earth Liberation Front. That speaks volumes about his fighting spirit, and his wild drive to right the wrongs our species has perpetrated. His death saddens me, but something tells me that someone so intent on freeing others would not have done well spending decades behind bars- perhaps in that sense his “jail break” really was a form of escape. He will be remembered as a warrior.