Actor Mark Ruffalo Lands on Terror Watch List for Promoting Documentary, Seriously!

November 30, 2010

(ChattahBox Op/Ed) – Wisconsin native and talented actor of such critically acclaimed films like Shutter Island, The Kids Are All Right, Blindness and Zodiac, Mark Ruffalo has found himself on an unwanted celebrity A-List, reminiscent of the McCarthy era.  He is now on the infamous terror watch list. Why?  Because the actor organized a screening of a documentary directed by Josh Fox called Gasland.  The film follows the filmmaker as he visits communities in Pennsylvania where gas drilling takes place and in one dramatic scene, as tap water is run into a sink, as a match touches the water it catches fire!

Ruffalo, who wanted to bring awareness to this issue set about to do just that and when word spread the Pennsylvania Department of Homeland Security they placed him on the dreaded terror watch list.

What all that means for Rullafo is that as he travels he can expect to be under much higher scrutiny. He will NOT be barred from flying however.

The film was obviously not welcome by the Gas industry and when filmmaker Fox, whose family owned property in Pennsylvania, was offered $100,000 to lease their land to the Gas company for the purpose of drilling, it got Fox’s attention.  Following a hunch, he began a journey that uncovered the infamous scene of flaming water and found more than a handful of people who are suffering from many diverse medical conditions that they all believe are as a direct result of contaminated water.

I do use the word paranoia from time to time in my scribbling here, and most times I do it tongue in cheek, but maybe not so much in this case.  Ruffalo in GQ magazine is quoted as saying he isn’t worried about the designation and added that, “It’s pretty fu@$ing funny”.

But is it?

As the First Amendment has become the centerpiece of almost every dialogue these days, and rightfully so, the government paranoia in this case is clearly a severe over reaction to one person’s interest in bringing light to a serious issue.  Documentaries are interesting communication tools and they can of course be skewed to a point of view, but in this case the truth is the truth.   Flaming water is telling and medical records don’t lie, so why would Pennsylvania DHS be so paranoid?  And, more telling perhaps, or more confusing, why would they place Ruffalo on a terror watch list for advocating for truth?  It is odd, don’t you think?

The trailer I have attached is stunning, disturbing and terrifying, but not in the Mark Ruffalo terror kind of way, hardly.  It is reminiscent of a documentary titled Food. Inc. which tells the story of the chicken you eat every day. And Gasland is deserving of a wide audience, which was of course Ruffalo’s goal, obviously.

I haven’t seen the film, but the trailer leads me to believe that the cozy partnership between corporations and politics is as intimate here as it always seems to be when the wrong thing in done in the name of profit.  Not unlike almost every Michael Moore documentary, Josh Fox’s Gasland is about accountability and truth, and I realize that that can cause terror but only for those that have so much money to lose.

It’s ridiculous to believe that talented actor Mark Ruffalo is subversive and dangerous to his country because he believes in truth, but it has to make you wonder how little you have to do before you and up on a government list: maybe something as simple as writing a column about a documentary.  We’ll see.

Tony Trupiano is a former national syndicated progressive radio talk show host, author, and a former candidate for Congress. He is also a nationally recognized media trainer.  He can be reached at and can read his Blog at


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