Jay Gould is supposed to have said, “I can hire one half of the working class to kill the other half.” As it turns out, that works as well among modern-day activists as it did for Gilded Age factory hands. From the NYTimes review of “Better This World”:
… Through the eyes of Bradley Crowder and David McKay, who were accused of a firebombing plot at the [2008 RNC] convention, “Better This World” examines the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s controversial use of informants, an issue that receives far less attention than initial reports of suspected terrorism. Through interviews, telephone recordings and text-message transcripts the film leaves viewers with the impression that Mr. Crowder and Mr. McKay were philosophically seduced by an informant. The two men admitted to making Molotov cocktails on their own, but the cocktails were not used.
The film had an Oscar-qualifying theatrical release here last week, but it will reach many more people when it has its television premiere on Tuesday night on “POV,” the PBS documentary series. Simon Kilmurry, the executive director of “POV,” said it was timed to coincide with the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. […] __
Mr. Crowder and Mr. McKay, angsty young men from Austin, Tex., say in the film that they looked up to Brandon Darby, an activist who co-founded a relief group in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. Together, Mr. Crowder and Mr. McKay say in the film, they made plans to protest the Republican convention in Minneapolis. Because the convention was treated as a possible target for terrorists, the F.B.I. was aggressive in its monitoring of protest groups; Mr. Darby was made an informant…
Ms. Galloway noted that defendants in many cases like this one have accused informants of trapping them. “That’s a common situation,” she said. “You have the flashbulb headlines about a domestic terrorist case, and then, not long after, a counter allegation by the defendant about misconduct by a government agent or informant.”
The film also poses thorny questions about government prosecutions of cases like the one involving Mr. Crowder and Mr. McKay, who were called terrorists but who were convicted of lesser charges. The filmmakers said that audiences on the festival circuit this year were “surprised by how far the government is allowed to go” in such prosecutions. When they screened the film for international audiences, Ms. Galloway said, “people were stunned by the amount of resources devoted to terrorism.”
Mr. McKay suggests in the film that the government “didn’t want two kids who made a mistake; they wanted two terrorists who were going to hurt people” because “it legitimizes everything that they’ve done.”