Fiction Movie ‘How to Blow Up a Pipeline’ Sparks FBI Alerts, 35 Warnings From 23 Agencies, Just Lots of Silly Panic in General

For the last time, the Neon film is not a documentary


The reason so many tragicomic stories are told in song and onscreen about authority structures severely overreacting to silly situations is that it happens — All. The. Time.

And now, here in real life, we add “How to Blow Up a Pipeline,” the Toronto Film Festival darling about radicalization – and not at all instructive in the rapid unscheduled disassembly of pipelines – which has inspired 35 messages from 23 separate state and federal law enforcement agencies to the FBI, according to a report in Rolling Stone.

The magazine obtained FBI documents, including an alert issued around the time of the film’s April 7 release, warning that “Pipeline” could inspire terrorist attacks on energy targets. Rolling Stone called the flurry of agency messages “a veritable alphabet soup of angst,” and noted that oil and gas infrastructure has remained quietly operational in the United States in weeks past.

“The consensus amongst law enforcement and the private oil sector is that this film may motivate attacks or disruptions on critical infrastructure throughout the country,” the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives wrote back in March. Another such message comes from the ominously named Weapons of Mass Destruction Directorate branch of the FBI, stating on April 6: “The film has potential to inspire threat actors to target oil and gas infrastructure with explosives or other destructive devices.”

The bulletin was distributed to not just police forces all across the nation, but government security agencies protecting infrastructure. The FBI urged them to keep an eye out for people attempting to access facilities to photo taking and video recording.

It was not immediately clear whether the warnings inspired squadrons of SWAT-teams to rappel down the side of buildings yelling “Hut!” but there had been no such reports as of Friday. Law enforcement agencies did not comment on whether they has deployed officers outfitted with magical staffs and swords around the releases of the “How to Train Your Dragon” movies.

Credit to one “senior weapons of mass destruction intelligence analyst” with Maryland’s state Coordination and Analysis Center’s Anti-Terrorism division, who wrote, knowingly, that “The movie definitely does NOT provide a step-by-step guide to construct a device, it’s much more focused on the radicalization process and why these subjects choose to conduct the attack.”

“How to Blow Up a Pipeline” was acquired by Neon following this year’s TIFF. It’s a dramatized, fictional version of a non-fiction book that also does not give instructions on how to blow up pipelines, though it does argue, in some sense, that doing so might be a good idea. Please do not call your local authorities or the FBI – the book came out three years ago, they know.

So next time you listen to “99 Red Balloons” or “Alice’s Restaurant,” watch “The Blues Brothers” or hear the story of how “The War of the Worlds” original radio broadcast was received, we invite you to set that incredulous attitude aside, friend. It happens all the time.