April 2nd, 2008 5:33 pm | by JOHN MINERVINI News | Posted In: CLEAN UP, CLEAN UP, Politics

Eco-Seltzer: The Secret Life of Margaret Jones


Remember Peggy Seltzer, a.k.a. Margaret Jones? The lady from Eugene who wrote a fake memoir about growin' up in the hood? Well, WW's been doing some sleuthing, and it turns out that the real Peggy Seltzer—a sort of failed environmental activist and part-time anarchist—is possibly more interesting than the fake one.

Based on a tip from former WW writer Kevin Allman, Willamette Week contacted representatives from the campaign to free Jeff “Free” Luers. Allman had come across one of the campaign's web forums on which Peggy Seltzer, using the web alias “blastedagronaut,” was listed as a contact person.

For those who don't know, Jeff Luers is a Los Angeles-based environmental activist currently serving out a 10-year prison term in the Lane County Jail, outside of Eugene, Ore. That's because Luers, along with a fellow activist, Craig “Critter” Marshall, set fire to three SUV's in the Romania Chevrolet dealership in Eugene. Although the damage to the vehicles was estimated at $28,000, Luers originally received a sentence (later reduced) of over 22 years.

Luers has been linked to Earth Liberation Front (ELF), an international underground movement that carries out economic sabotage against companies engaged in activities that the ELF perceives as environmentally harmful. These include logging, genetic engineering, and urban sprawl, among others. Although it has not been responsible for any deaths, in 2001 the ELF was classified as the top domestic terror threat in the United States by the FBI.

It turns out that Peggy Seltzer was not only involved with the campaign to free Jeff Luers—for a time, she was at its center. According to Leeanne Siart, who has been involved with the campaign since the first year of Luers' imprisonment:
Peggy was involved as part of the collective doing support work for Jeffrey Free Luers during his first couple years in prison. But she completely dropped the ball on everything she was doing, and we haven't heard from her since. We have had no contact with Peggy in at least 5 or 6 years.

Seltzer was a spokesperson for Luers' defense committee, and her duties at the campaign included handling mail, donations, and press statements. But to judge from the opinions of her fellow activists, these were duties she sadly neglected. According to another source at the Luers campaign, who chose to remain anonymous:
Her involvement basically consisted of manipulating people, lying, pitting people against each other, taking on more responsibility than she should have and then dropping the ball on everything completely. Fuck her.

WW has also received unconfirmed reports from two Eugene-based activists—who prefer to remain anonymous—regarding Seltzer. The first asserts that Seltzer at one time dated both Jeff Luers and his co-defendant, Craig “Critter” Marshall. The second links Seltzer with New York-based anarchist filmmaker, Priya “Warcry” Reddy.

WW was unable to contact Peggy Seltzer, either at her home in Eugene or through her former publisher, Riverhead Books. And that's just the tip of the iceberg. Jeff Luers did not respond to requests for an interview, and WW was unable to locate Craig “Critter” Marshall, Priya “Warcry” Reddy, or Cyndi Hoffman, Seltzer's whistle-blowing sister. Moral of the story? It may be tough to be an outlaw activist, but it's even tougher to get one on the phone.

What becomes clear, though, is that Peggy Seltzer didn't need to invent an interesting life—she already had one. She was living in a communally owned house in Eugene, running around with outlaw environmental activists—possibly dating them—fraternizing with fringe types of all stripes. She has an 8-year-old daughter, Rya, whose paternity is unclear, and that story alone could probably furnish a decently thick, heartbreaking memoir. So why make up a kitschy, condescending story about the hard-knock life you never had, when your actual life is, frankly, worth reading about?

Sonja Sherwood, one of Seltzer's former housemates, sums it up best. She lived with Seltzer in the Camel Campbell Club, a community-owned house in Eugene, for three months in the summer of 1994. According to Sherwood, “the strangest thing about all this is that her actual life is legitimately interesting.”
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