What is Monkeywrenching?

The monkey wrench was used in 1918 in the context of industrial sabotage.

Monkey drag is a form of sabotage that aims to create serious economic damage, thereby temporarily or permanently stopping activities that the perpetrator believes are undesirable. The activity is closely associated with environmental movement, although other causes also include monkey snatch. Different saboteurs are governed by different ethical codes, and several guides to creating this type of harm have been published for those who may be looking for inspiration.

Monkeywrenching is an activity closely associated with environmental activists.

The concept of throwing a wrench into a situation to confuse it dates back to the late 19th century. In 1918, the term “throw a spanner at the works” was used specifically in the context of industrial sabotage. Activists who fought for better working conditions and pay may choose to directly damage corporate machinery in hopes of bringing factory operations to a halt. While the equipment was being repaired, workers could place their orders. Workers would also deliberately destroy machines owned by companies with questionable practices, in hopes of shutting them down.

In 1975, Edward Abbey’s novel The Monkey Wrench Gang was published, and monkeywrenching became forever intertwined with environmental activism. The supposedly fictional book documented the adventures of a team of villains who intended to halt development and expansion in the American West. For many environmental activists, the book has become something of a bible, romanticizing this type of sabotage and also providing practical tips and techniques. Ten years later, Dave Forman published Ecodefense, a kind of monkey handbook that advocated “ecogeting” to save the natural environment before it was destroyed.

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Monkey snatch acts can range from benign to potentially very dangerous. A band may choose to attempt to permanently disable machinery and equipment, or it may attempt to inflict damage that will only require repairs. In the first sense, it is intended to paralyze development, while, in the second, the loss buys more time for negotiations and discussions on the subject.

Environmental activists are divided on the issue of monkey drag. Some embrace it as a valid method of protest, while others believe it ultimately hurts the environmental movement. Advocates may also be divided over what types of monkey sprints are acceptable, with some people striving to prevent harm to living organisms. Others are less circumspect and people have been injured or killed as a result of such sabotage activities. As a general rule, it is considered polite to alert companies to potentially dangerous forms of jacking, such as sabotage to heavy equipment that could result in operator injury.

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