Friday, February 19, 2010

Who You Callin' a Terrorist?

I've been vastly amused by the media shuckin' n jivin' in the insistence that the deliberate crashing of an airplane into federal offices in Austin yesterday was not an act of "terrorism."

The whole matter came to a head last night when I was watching Rachel Maddow's show and the inexplicable Andrea Mitchell, one of the most reliable conveyors of Received Beltway Wisdom, explained why this was not an act of terror. Or I think she did. The explanation seemed to rest on two notions: 1. the perpetrator was not "foreign" (uh, read Arab). 2. His bat-shit-crazy online manifesto was not "coherent."

We'll leave No. 1 aside for the obvious reason of its being stupid,and instead consider No. 2, the assertion that the raving, paranoid 3,200-word manifesto raging against the IRS, the government and even the poor Catholic Church (what the hell does the Pope have to to with the U.S. tax code?) was definitely batty. Nevertheless, I did detect crazy coherence throughout, not to mention a very strong echo of the kind of angry undifferentiated anti-government rage one has become accustomed to hearing on the outer edges of Tea Party rallies.

But if sane "coherence" of grievance is the criterion by which an act of terrorism is defined, certainly the 9/11 killers and their ilk would fall out of code. And come on, you're telling me that men who believe that the eternal company of 72 virgins in paradise is a reward are coherent? Only the invincibly incoherent would fail to consider all of that shrieking and all of those doors slamming in the heavenly house, forever and ever.

Seriously, calling things by their right names is an imperative, especially in an this age of the apotheosis of media hype and political hypocrisy.

Here are two eminently "cogent" online essays on this subject: One is by David Neiwert at Crooks and Liars and the other is by Glenn Greenwald at Salon.

In his article, Neiwert helpfully published the FBI's own definition of what constitutes domestic terrorism. To wit: (the italics are mine)

"Domestic terrorism refers to activities that involve acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any state; appear to be intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; to influence the policy of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping; and occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States. [18 U.S.C. § 2331(5)]"

What they said.



SeanONeill said...


richmanwisco said...

I think you're trying too hard to wedge the square peg into the round hole? After all the analysis and gnashing of teeth, it was still a random act of violence by a suicidal man. If he hadn't left his screed, are we still debating calling this a terrorist act?

The rush by mainstream media to analyze these events before all of the facts are known only serves to plant misconceptions in the mind of our citizens. The truth will become known but we will have moved on by then.

The application of the term "terrorism" has become so diluted that it really has no true meaning anymore. Any violent act with a weapon and multiple fatalities and be logically shoehorned to fit. And it accomplishes absolutely nothing.

When the FBI releases the results of its investigation, I will accept their conclusions. They are after all, the experts in this kind of thing. We, and the media, are not.

PKL said...

a very strong echo of the kind of angry undifferentiated anti-government rage one has become accustomed to hearing on the outer edges of Tea Party rallies

That's a cheap shot, Joe.

Every political movement has its wackos. But one of the tropes of the American media is that libertarian-conservative-Republican movements are repeatedly linked to their nutjobs, while statist-liberal-Democrat movements are not.

When has Bill Clinton or Harry Reid or even Dennis Kucinich been linked by the traditional media to the eco-terrorists, animal rights vandals and anti-globalization rioters whose views are an echo of the angry rhetoric heard at the outer edges of the Democratic Party?