The Professor's Notes

Where my thoughts and your eyes (and now ears!) collide

TERRORISM: Used by our own government to Terrorize Our Own Citizens?

Do you wonder how the government manipulates words to make us “feel” certain ways, with the intention of manipulating the population as well?

I have to admit, in a discussion with my Brother (Christian Brady) about terrorism I was sticking to the long standing definition of terrorism that defines it based on the intent to create fear in the populace. That is the definition that most people think but I have been quite surprised (!=) to learn that the FBI and the State Department have adopted a far broader definition.

Under the FBI definition, “Domestic terrorism is the unlawful use, or threatened use, of force or violence by a group or individual based and operating entirely within the United States or Puerto Rico without foreign direction committed against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof in furtherance of political or social objectives.”

Note that there is not mention of the desire to incite or induce terror or fear. It’s simply doing something to coerce. The definition of “international terrorism” is equally broad:

“violent acts or acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or any state, or that would be a criminal violation if committed within the jurisdiction of the United States or any state. These acts appear to be intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population, influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion, or affect the conduct of a government…”

In reading this it is small wonder that people are unable to draw distinctions between Guerrilla warfare and terrorists. We hear “terrorists” and “Terrorism” and we immediately have a picture in our minds based on the portrayal in the media of rag-tag groups of ne’er do wells, hell bent on their agenda and assume they are attacking the general population. By the current definition the Viet Cong were not Guerrillas fighting in the jungles of Viet Nam, they were “terrorists.” In fact, Mao Tse Tung, the master of Guerrilla warfare was actually just another Osama Bin Laden.

But this is not the case. Remember the USS Cole? We claim it was a “terrorist” attack by a “terrorist organization” but in reality it was a targeted attack on a legitimate military target. We may have not liked the way they snuck up beside us on a boat, and that they have never “declared war” on us as a nation-state would. but that doesn’t in any way negate the decision to target a military unit.

So what happens when our government chooses to define “terrorism” so broadly? Why would they choose to do that?

First, given the “general” view that terrorism is against the population and designed to strike fear into our hearts, by constantly labeling acts and actors as “terrorists” the government leads us into that very fear. We willingly give ourselves over to the police state to protect us, because as we have seen with all the “security” measures introduced in the past week “we aren’t safe” even in our own homes. (Of course, it was the police entering all the homes in Watertown but that is a different discussion.)

Second, and most importantly, the government deflects the discussion. We immediately know that these are “irrational” actors bent on inflicting harm. We aren’t talking about the legitimacy of the claims of the combatants. We can go after them with impunity because, after all, they are “lawless” individuals and organizations. (And yet, we view them as “enemy combatants” as well. Irony? Expediency?)

We need, as a nation, to step back and evaluate how not only the media, but our own government has been controlling the message, and through that message controlling our responses. How they, in an effort to “fight terrorism” legitimize actions solely on the basis of the description of “terrorism” rather than looking at and assessing the broader policy and geo-political issues that surround these actions.

So what makes one a terrorist?

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