Tuesday, August 12, 2014
What the hell is a "terrorist"?
I went online to try to get at least a broad definition of what constitutes a "terrorist" and the best I could come up with was something to the effect of "someone or some group that uses violent means on a—sometimes civilian—population in order to utilize fear in the spread of some ideology or crusade. Then I went to a real world context and tried to remember how "terrorists" have been presented to me in the media and in my own social interactions. I figured maybe I could find some common denominator there.
The media was the easy one. Every station or outlet already has some well-defined political leaning and cannot see the greater context of socio-political events because they are an essential part of it; no one notices something cultural until someone draws attention to it. (That's how we figure out our paradigms.) By and large the right and left wing organizations will both call lots of people terrorists whether they be ISIS soldiers in Iraq; "extremists" from Pakistan; Al-Qaeda operatives in Yemen. Sometimes though you will have some talking head on a 24 hour news channel who will get so riled up by a guest or off their own ego (I'm looking at you O'Reily and Hannity) that they call anyone they disagree with a "terrorist."
When Occupy Wall Street was filling parks from the Shore to the Bay they were deemed terrorists by the right-wing media; The Tea Party has more than once been labeled a "terrorist organization" on MSNBC. They spew shit at each other like they are both ends of the Human Centipede. Apparently to cable news networks a "terrorist" is defined as a politically or socially motivated group or individual who engages in some form of public display to make a point or demand a change, whether it be rallies and protests or jihad and suicide bombings. Now I hope I don't have to point out the quite sizable distance between a protest and a suicide bombing, but it needs to be considered that pundits of both sides of a very influential form of media get away with lumping social activists in with jihadis.
What surprises me most is the trickle down name-calling. I hope that I have presented a good enough case to convince you of the conniving nature of the cable news narrative so that you understand just how much of a population control experiment it is. Our cultural paradigm has such a thick skin that we cannot see past the source of our angst.
I recently wrote a piece about the conflict in Gaza and how I could not believe the depths of morality that a government can sink to in purposefully wiping out civilians in its expansion effort. I also noted in that piece that the Israel/Palestine conflict has colonial roots and how it was only after a western occupation—aka at the barrel of a western tank—that the Israeli government was able to even establish a state. The US has then been propping up that occupation for more than half a century. So, according to the US narrative Israel is the good guy, right?
Now if we go back to the beginning of this piece we can figure out who in this scenario fits the description of terrorist. Israel is this situation a) is a group, b) that is politically and/or religiously motivated, c) uses violence in the forms of a relentless air and ground assaults, d) uses that violence on civilians, and e) uses fear of its superior arms to intimidate the occupants of the world's largest prison cell. Sure, Hamas fits most of that same description, but they are barely able to put up a fight in the first place. They are so desperate that they have even taken to firing from civilian areas to keep Goliath off the scent. That's shameful, but I also understand because I can see that a true Gazan defense or assault is a joke. In case you weren't aware Gaza doesn't have a military. The only resistance at all to a massacre by a western devil are these men with rockets. If your husband or wife was buried under rubble 100 ft. deep then you might reconsider whom you support too. Either way Hamas is no match for the mighty Israel sitting tight inside their iron dome with Netanyahu on his iron throne with his iron will bringing iron obedience. So, who are the terrorists?
Would you not resist such an occupation? I bet you would and I even have a good ol' fashioned anecdote to illustrate my point: Cliven Bundy. Here we have an old white man who wears a cowboy hat and stirrups, waves an American flag while refusing to acknowledge its referents existence, and talks about race relations like he lives in the eighteenth century. This man grazed his cattle on public land for decades without paying the mandated grazing fees. He figured if he didn't acknowledge the existence of the federal government then he didn't owe it any money. (If only we all lived in such a fantasy world.) Now when he refused the pay the fees federal officers planned to come to his ranch to confiscate his cattle as payment. This story got out on right wing television and consequently the Internet. When it got to Fox News there was a torrent of support flooding in from all over the country (and magnified by the mouths of the talking heads) from self-proclaimed resistors who would be willing to take up arms to keep the federal government off their "friend's" land. The feds showed up and so did the "freedom fighters". The government backed down and the white dissidents celebrated their manly show of strength, but what they failed to realize is that they had become the very thing they always claimed to detest— extremists. Who were the terrorists in this situation?
Now think about Afghanistan. The entire justification of the war was to neutralize Al-Qaeda and Taliban networks. Who was in that terrorist network? Men (by and large) who had been leading a tribal life for centuries and succeeding until this western style government-at-the-edge-of-a-sword oligarchy came in to their land to demand allegiance. When they resisted they became part of a wider population of people who have been faced with a choice: assimilate or die. When they declined our offer of western "enlightenment" (through the mouths of marionettes) then they instantly become part of the enemy. Who are the great enemy? The terrorists. Oh, and they are Muslim too? Perfect! That'll make a great headline. "The Islamic Extremists Strike Again!" it'll say on the Cooper Blitzer O'Hannity Report.
The definition of "terrorist" that we have been fed by the media doesn't seem to incorporate the seismic shift in power that results when an invading army or a central government invades a relatively unarmed country. What once was your land isn't anymore. Now someone else claims to own it and he has a gun pointed at you if you disagree. It was ok for Cliven Bundy and his bunch to raise arms against the federal government of the United States of America; it is apparently not ok to be a poor brown farmer whose only choice is "give up the way you have lived for centuries and live like us. If you don't we'll kill you, your family, and your village and spin it as "collateral damage" on the evening news." Between the Afghan oppressed and the privileged horse riding, gun-totting, NRA card-carrying, living-in-a-dream-world conservative cattle rancher who is the real extremist?
It seems to me that the real terrorists are those who use their overwhelming force to intimidate populations into submission and using fear as the balancing factor of dissent. This is consistent in Israel, Syria, Egypt, and the good ol' United States of America. That's right folks we have a whole branch of order bringers right here at home that are state sponsored and funded —the police.
They maintain an order that is defined by them (often times in conflict with the actual law), is profitable, and based on fear. Modern police tactics are more military than protection these days. And why wouldn't they want to be? They are supplied with military surpluses such as riot gear and tanks and are dressed up like they are auditioning for RoboCop. It's a basic principle of bored humans that if you have a toy you want to play with it. So they use their power and ability to circumvent the law to harass and imprison entire people groups for offenses no more harmful than drinking a beer. Yet the means used to arrest and incarnate this person more often than not looks more like a UFC match than a civil restraint. And they get away with it with impunity. So they cruise through the streets in their new air-conditioned American made pigmobiles like a possessed wolf sniffing out his kill. Why do they hide in darkness to surprise you? Because they want you to be afraid.
"That's right, you've heard the stories! You know all those stories about black and brown boys and men being viciously beaten and sometimes killed by an army designed to make you afraid of it… and we got away with it. So watch your back."
Signed sincerely, The Undercurrent Of Every Police Interaction You Have Ever Had.
That's what you get to do when you are police: you get to go to work, put on battle armor, and cruise the streets in fast fancy cars to search for prey to try out your new toys out on. And god help anyone who makes them mad because they have a blank check and will write your name in at any time. That's a real base of fear and it is all courtesy of the Church of the Capitalist Police State. Like the Afghan farmer if you disagree with the new order then you can get ready to have hell and all its army descend on your house, kick your door in, and black bag you down to a dark alley where you will never been seen again. That's fear; that's power; that's terrorism.
The eternal civilized conflict is pitted between an invading force against a person who stands their ground. That's the way it has been and that's the way it always will be and if you resist you will be given a scarlet letter—a red crescent— to inform the watching world what you have been labeled as—a terrorist.
PS- I wonder how long it will take for this post to get me on that terror watch list? Am I the millionth-and-first customer? Do I win the prize? My picture in the cross hairs of a flying robot of death?
Addendum: I do want to acknowledge that there are people in this world—truly evil people—who indeed terrorize peoples, villages, cities, and countries with the reckless abandon that is nothing short of the possession of the devil himself. I acknowledge that these people exist and deserve the name and to be treated as such. I just don't think that every Muslim or farmer who resists central control of his families land should be lumped into the same category. There is a sizable gap between a resistor and a terrorist. The reason for so much hate in the world—especially in the American narrative—is the failure to notice the distinction. Great change is hindered by blind obedience to dogma. My thesis is simple: be wise and discern your enemy and so that you learn to recognize friend from foe.