Lycos grudgingly agrees (for now): man's not a destroyer

By Gord Gekko
web posted September 1998

Back in May of this year, search engine company Lycos signed a contract agreement with EnviroLink, a database of the environmentalist movement with information and links to web sites not unlike or Town Hall for us good guys.

The agreement saw EnviroLink receive a prominent link off Lycos, a $40 000 donation (plus another $60 000 if traffic hit a certain level) while in turn Lycos got news and information. The two also shared ad revenue and worked together to produce an Earth Day '98 supplement.

"Our support of EnviroLink is another example of the commitment Lycos had made to promoting important issues like the environment," Lycos CEO Robert Davis said when the deal was announced.

The deal was important to both. For EnviroLink, a web site set up a few years ago by a college student, the $40 000 represented one-quarter of the organization's budget for this year. Lycos received new and original content and burnished its corporate image.

Lycos also received a bit more than they bargained for.

On the surface a deal between a business and an environmental group shouldn't be very newsworthy. For years business has attempted to dull the charge of crimes against the environment by co-opting and supporting the environmentalist movement. It's good for the corporate image to be green.

All went well between the two until August 10, when EnviroLink founder Josh Knauer returned from his honeymoon and learned that all links from the search engine to EnviroLink had been cut, and the passwords his staff used to update content had been changed. Later that day Knauer learned through his attorney that Lycos had terminated the deal.

To this day, Lycos has not specified why they terminated the deal, though they have nebulously cited non-performance.

The story becomes a bit muddled at this point. A few days earlier, at the beginning of August, a senior editor with on-line motor sports magazine, Norm Lenhart, published a lengthy editorial piece on the content agreement between Lycos and EnviroLink. Lenhart documented hypertext links from EnviroLink to radical environmentalist groups that advocated an array of bizarre practices including sniffing urine as a restorative practice, committing suicide to ease the supposed burden on the planet, and the worship of feces.

While those practices make for good -- if somewhat disturbing -- copy, Lenhart also showed links to instructions in the creation explosives, the occasional tool of extremist environmentalist and animal rights groups.

In his editorial, Lenhart rightfully took Lycos to task for teaming up with people who are actively working against corporate America. As an example, said Lenhart, groups linked to by EnviroLink were opposed to the internal combustion engine while Lycos actively promoted NASCAR racing.

After news of the cancellation made its way to the real world, Lenhart claimed that it was his editorial and a letter sent to Lycos executives that was responsible, though the company denies he had anything to do with the decision. He can make a credible case, in a HotWired story a Lycos spokeswoman did acknowledge that some of the links exposed by Lenhart played a role in the company's decision.

Whether or not Lenhart had anything to do with the cancellation, at least one environmentalist group took exception to his editorial and the role it may have played. A group that he referred to as the Animal Liberation Front, a group that has claimed responsibility for a number of terrorist acts, claimed it was actually the Animal Liberation Frontline Information Service and that there was no link between the two.

ALFIS did admit, however, that information on their web site "indirectly" comes from ALF supporters groups.

Obviously angered by Lenhart's "error," they referred to him in a press release as a "rabid anti-environmentalist" who had posted "hundreds" of his rants to USENET. A search with DejaNews did find that Lenhart has engaged in debates with environmentalists on talk.environment in August.

In an internal statement posted to the ALFIS web site and later posted anonymously across USENET, ALFIS published thorough contact information for Lenhart and the staff and snidely stated that "we in know (sic) way advocate harassment of them. :)"

Lenhart's assertion that some of the groups that EnviroLink promotes are working against the internal combustion engine is an easy thing to overlook because of the silliness of the notion. It does, however, point to the fact that all of these groups are not simply working towards cleaner air and water, but against industry and even civilization itself, whether or not they are extremist groups or the "mainstream" ones that you may have donated money to. They all share the same basic philosophical position.

It is called Intrinsicism. Pay attention, although this seems like boring philosophy stuff, this is important. It is the calling card of environmentalists whether "mainstream" or extremist and it tells you how they think.

"Had the environmentalist mentality prevailed in the 18th and 19th centuries, we would have had no Industrial Revolution, a situation environmentalists would cheer -- at least those few who might have managed to survive without the life-saving benefits of modern science and technology."
- Environmentalists: The New Life Haters by Dr. Michael S. Berliner, Ayn Rand Institute

Nature and animals, say environmentalists, have an intrinsic value. They should simply be valued for their own sakes irrespective of any other concern. That means, any use outside of worshipping Gaia is morally wrong, and even inherently evil.

Since man is a creature that must adapt the environment and use nature for his own ends -- survival -- man is inherently evil and an aberration in the history of the Earth. Their perverse philosophy holds that the more successful that man is, the more evil he is.

As Dr. Michael Berliner points out though, it is only man that faces this conviction of evil:

"It is not invoked against caribou who feed on vegetation, or wolves who eat caribou, or microbes that attack wolves. It is invoked only against man, only when man wants something."

The theory of intrinsic value relies on removing the concept of a moral value from purpose or good from its beneficiaries.

Environmentalism is anti-man because his inclination towards good means that he must adapt nature to create value, something that is evil to the environmentalists. Man is evil because of that nature.

Lycos may not cut down trees or mine nickel, but they too change the world in their own way, moving man further away from a mythical sylvan past which never existed. That makes Lycos, and all other business, evil for adapting the world.

Lycos and businesses that support environmentalist causes are supporting their sworn enemies. If the ultimate goal is promoting nihilism over the production of value, then all that business is doing is financing their deaths.

I suspect, however, that Lycos and their ilk don't realize this and will seek out other environmental partnerships that support the same basic philosophy, except wrapped in a more human friendly guise.

You can at least learn from Lycos' example and remember EnviroLink the next time you think about donating money. Norm Lenhart knows the you?

Read Norm Lenhart's follow-up September editorial here!

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