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October 31, 2006

The terrorists who don’t count
Posted by Patrick at 08:30 AM *

Via supergee: Jennifer L. Pozner writes in Newsday about the terrorists who aren’t in the news.

On Sept. 11, 2006, the fifth anniversary of the terror attacks that devastated our nation, a man crashed his car into a building in Davenport, Iowa, hoping to blow it up and kill himself in the fire.

No national newspaper, magazine or network newscast reported this attempted suicide bombing, though an AP wire story was available. Cable news (save for MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann) was silent about this latest act of terrorism in America.

Had the criminal, David McMenemy, been Arab or Muslim, this would have been headline news for weeks. But since his target was the Edgerton Women’s Health Center, rather than, say, a bank or a police station, media have not called this terrorism—even after three decades of extreme violence by anti-abortion fanatics, mostly fundamentalist Christians who believe they’re fighting a holy war.

Since 1977, casualties from this war include seven murders, 17 attempted murders, three kidnappings, 152 assaults, 305 completed or attempted bombings and arsons, 375 invasions, 482 stalking incidents, 380 death threats, 618 bomb threats, 100 acid attacks, and 1,254 acts of vandalism, according to the National Abortion Federation.

Abortion providers and activists received 77 letters threatening anthrax attacks before 9/11, yet the media never considered anthrax threats as terrorism until after 9/11, when such letters were delivered to journalists’ offices and members of Congress.

After 9/11, Planned Parenthood and other abortion rights groups received 554 envelopes containing white powder and messages like, “You have been exposed to anthrax….We are going to kill all of you.” They were signed by the Army of God, a group that hosts Scripture-filled Web pages for “Anti-Abortion Heroes of the Faith” including minister Paul Hill, Michael Griffin and James Kopp, all convicted of murdering abortion providers, and a convicted clinic bomber, the Rev. Michael Bray. Another of their “martyrs,” Clayton Waagner, mailed anthrax letters while a fugitive on the FBI’s 10 most wanted list for anti-abortion related crimes.

It’s the War on Some Terror, just like the War on Some Drugs.
Comments on The terrorists who don't count:
#1 ::: Mac ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2006, 08:39 AM:

Dear dog. And that's not counting any of the smaller, more private incidents that go largely unreported.

Do you suppose it's because Christians can't be terrorists, or because terrorism committed against women and abortion-supporters isn't really important?

#2 ::: debcha ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2006, 08:55 AM:

Mac, I'm going to have to go with 'all of the above.'

#3 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2006, 09:03 AM:

Exactly the same thing is happening in the UK; it's not just an American phenomenon.

Ex-BNP man faces explosives charge

A FORMER British National Party member has been accused of possessing the largest amount of chemical explosives of its type ever found in the country. Robert Cottage, 49, of Talbot Street, Colne, appeared before Burnley magistrates charged with possession of an explosive substance. Cottage was charged under the Explosives Substances Act 1883 on Monday night after forensic experts searched his home, allegedly discovering chemical components which could be used to make explosives.

Note for US readers: the British National Party is a hard-right, overtly racist, anti-immigrant party formed after a schism in the overtly-fascist National Front during the early 1980s. Burnley is a midlands town with a serious race relations problem -- they came close to electing a BNP member of parliament and they've got an explosive mixture of high unemployment, white racists, and a moslem community. This guy was found with a quantity of explosives that the police described as the largest haul of chemicals of its kind discovered in someone's home in the country. He was arrested after an incident in which a child was injured by a booby trap.

This incident didn't result in any charges under the Terrorism Act, and was strangely unreported in the national media.

I wonder why?

#4 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2006, 09:04 AM:

Let's call it the "War Against Some Terrorist Extremists," or WASTE for short.

#5 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2006, 09:04 AM:

Correction: it appears that Cottage was a former BNP council candidate, and a member of the party in good standing at the time of his arrest (he was subsequently disowned by them).

#6 ::: Dave Glowacki ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2006, 09:08 AM:

The excerpt left out the ironic part -- the Edgerton Women's Health Center doesn't do abortions, just prenatal care.

The Davenport paper has more details

#7 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2006, 09:11 AM:

I think the War on Terror should begin at home. Before we stamp out "Islamist" terrorists abroad, we should stamp out the Christianist terrorists at home!

Send 'em to Gitmo.

#8 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2006, 09:16 AM:

You mean that there might be a racist aspect to the War on Terror?

(Lame joke coming up...)

I am shocked, shocked...

#9 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2006, 09:18 AM:

Mac, Christians can't be terrorists. It doesn't matter what the people who do these things call themselves, I know whose side they're really on.

#10 ::: Joe J ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2006, 09:22 AM:

"100 acid attacks"? Somehow my mind can't wrap itself around the idea that someone could walk up to another person with a container full of acid and knowingly toss it at that other person. I can't explain why that is. It's not necessarily more damaging than a bomb or a gun, but somehow it's more horrifying. It's an attack that is not meant to kill. It's meant to cause suffering and pain. And 100 times? In what stretch of the imagination could this be considered the actions of a "Christian"? And yet, this is the accepted lunacy of our country. I'm baffled.

#11 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2006, 09:41 AM:

Terrorism is committed by an alien, non-white, "them". Acts committed by familiar, white, "us" (quotation marks included because one thing I'm not is white) cannot be terror because we are ipso facto good.

Or, in other words: We are the Absolute, and therefore right, they are the Other and therefore wrong. We stand for traditions (male supremacy,heterosexism, racism, white supremacy) and are therefore good, they stand for "social engineering" (equality of race, gender, consensual sexuality) and are therefore wrong. When we act against them, it's justice, not terror.

#12 ::: Matthew ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2006, 09:48 AM:

Not sure how I feel about the article. On the one hand, the article talks a lot about how the media reports on terrorism, but not a lot about the government's anti-terrorism programs or law enforcement efforts. The fact that one of the �Anti-Abortion Heroes of the Faith� was on the FBI's 10 most wanted list says someone is taking it serriously.

However, I doubt Michael Chertoff has had many meetings about these psychos.

#13 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2006, 09:52 AM:

It's creepy the way that, once you have a model of the world, your natural tendency is just to exclude stuff that doesn't fit. Post-9/11, we all know that terrorists are Arab Muslims. We maybe can make an exception for Jose Padilla or John Walker Lindh who at least appear to be Muslims. But we all know what terrorists look like.

Of course, part of this is the intentional imprecision of political slogans, right? 9/11 is widely taken to be a demonstration that Islamic terrorists are a grave danger to us, not that terrorism in general is. (This is exactly the wrong lesson. Asymmetric warfare is growing ever more dangerous because technology makes it easier and easier for small groups of people to do really destructive stuff. But abstract discussions of technology and unspecified threats and subnational groups will bore the pants off the average American voter. Pictures of sinister-looking Muslims waiting to either lock your daughter in a chador or blow her up are a lot more effective at getting elected. Judge for yourself which approach gets you elected....)

A foreign threat makes it easier to use the language of war to claim enormous powers for the government. Don't worry, though, just as those powers are currently being used against some environmentalist groups, in the next Democratic administration, they'll be used against these right-wing groups.

I wonder how many Republicans understand what they've created, and how hard it's going to bite both them and the whole nation in the near future.


#14 ::: JC ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2006, 10:04 AM:

Oddly, what comes to mind right now is Zangara's attempted assassination of Roosevelt. Keep in mind that I know about this solely from Stephen Sondheim's musical ASSASSINS. However, based on the musical, the reaction at the time was that it must have been the work of a non-American. That certainly was the initial reaction to the Oklahoma City bombing.

I guess it's a big secret that terrorism is terrorism. No one holds a monopoly on it just as no one holds a monopoly and ethics, morals and virtue.

#15 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2006, 10:12 AM:

In what stretch of the imagination could this be considered the actions of a "Christian"? And yet, this is the accepted lunacy of our country. I'm baffled.

Joe, I completely agree with that first sentence. The second, well... I am on sort of a one-person mission (others definitely welcome! and someone else *must* be doing this already) to make rhetorically visible (ack! terrible phrase, but I am only just awake) the existence those of us who do NOT accept such lunacy. I do this for specific reasons.

If I say (or read) that "X-and-such is the US attitude" or "and yet, we embrace X-and-such position," I get uneasy because the word-magic there makes me disappear, and I very much need NOT to disappear, because I need to oppose such attitudes and positions and those who embrace them and claim that they represent everybody in my country. They don't, and we who disagree need to doggedly, cleverly, relentlessly, and patriotically oppose them, get them out of office and out of positions of authority and visibility and power, and start cleaning up the horrible messes they have engineered. It'll take a lot of work and probably a very long time, which is why it's crucial that we do what we can NOW.

#16 ::: Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2006, 11:01 AM:

Elise, I'll sign on to your campaign.

The notion that the great majority of people in this country accept, or (worse) find acceptable, religious terrorism, so long as it wears a Christian face, is repulsive. And un-American. I want my country back.

#17 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2006, 11:10 AM:

Joining with Elise and Madeleine. Though I think there's already a group out there:

Not in my name.

#18 ::: Jon Sobel ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2006, 11:23 AM:

This is why the term "Christianist" has been popularized, but I'm not sure it creates a strong enough distinction, since it still contains the word "Christian" and all. Hey, how about "evildoers?" Or, wait a minute - how about "Christ Killers?"

#19 ::: Annalee Flower Horne ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2006, 11:27 AM:

I have to say that while I'm slightly depressed, I can't claim to be particularly surprised. I've had people tell me that the reason Muslims are being targeted at security checkpoints is because "it's not like America's ever had a white terrorist."

You say "Tim McVeigh" to these people, and you can watch the gears in their heads just grind to a halt. It's like they're completely oblivious to this country's long history of white, heterosexual, anglo-saxon, protestant terrorists.

And it goes so much further than abortion. It's not Muslims who've made a habit of lighting churches on fire, or shooting up schools, or driving tractors into reflecting pools on captiol hill and threatening to blow up congress in the name of tobacco farmers everywhere. I'm fairly certain it's a White American whose responsible for the "safety seal: do not use if damaged" that comes with every bottle of Asprin. WASTE indeed. What short memories some of us have developed.

#20 ::: Mac ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2006, 11:44 AM:

I'm good with "evildoers." Essentially, Dave Luckett (#9) is absolutely correct--I didn't mean to imply that Christianity somehow embraces acts of terrorism to make a point/disrupt people's lives and choices.

I do think it's interesting that many Americans--and our newsmedia--don't automatically think to apply the label "terrorism" to our own flavor of religious fundamentalist violence. It suggests that, while mainstream Christianity doesn't endorse its own extremist violence, many of us are curiously blind to it.

#22 ::: Joe J ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2006, 11:57 AM:

Elise, I'm with you too. That lunacy may be acceptable for some, but never for me. I always prefer the company of good, sane people over crazy zealots.

#23 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2006, 12:09 PM:

Speaking of Christian suicide bombers, has anyone else heard of Ichizo Hayashi? He was a WW2 kamikaze pilot from a Japanese Christian family.

#24 ::: kvenlander ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2006, 12:21 PM:

#18, #20: Christofascists? Or maybe that's too easily confused with ardent supporters of environmental art.

#25 ::: Jon Sobel ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2006, 12:56 PM:

Heh! I had thought of "Christofascists" too, but I didn't suggest it because I was afraid of opening up a whole argument about the definition of Fascism - an argument that no one can win. I don't think the American people have a clear understanding of what Fascism really is, and I don't think that's the American people's fault.

#26 ::: Rob Thornton ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2006, 12:56 PM:

#24: I think Christofascist is pretty apt, and most people don't know anything about Christo the God of Cellophane....

#27 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2006, 01:32 PM:

"Christofascist" has the same flaw as "Islamofascist" -- the assumption that fascism is any kind of violent nastiness, rather than a specific movement with a history and particular characteristics.

#28 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2006, 01:37 PM:

Part of the ongoing problem here is that an accurate reporting of the phenomenon would undermine efforts to lump all Muslims together with the tiny minority of violent Al Qaeda types.

Everyone "knows" that Al Qaeda members organize within and pass freely among the peaceful and moderate Muslim communities in America. If we were to discover that peaceful and moderate Christian communities also have terrorist cells organizing among them, then we'd have to do the same thing to their communities that we're now enthusiastically doing to the Muslims. Either that or we'd have to explain how Christians deserve leniency that Muslims do not.

It would seem to be much more desirable to just suppress news of terrorists organizing among the Christians. Isn't it a good thing we have a robust and independent free press in America?

I know I'm feeling more patriotic than ever before.

#29 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2006, 01:38 PM:

Anyone else heard of this -- Baptist terrorists in Northeast India? Killing a Catholic priest? WTF? I feel like the world is playing an elaborate prank on me.

#30 ::: Tim Hall ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2006, 01:50 PM:

This incident didn't result in any charges under the Terrorism Act

IANAL, but I believe the Terrorism Act is only used when there isn't sufficient evidence to convict under perfectly good older laws like "Possession of explosives" or "Conspiracy to cause explosions".

and was strangely unreported in the national media.

By the time the national media had heard of the case, the police had already imposed reporting restrictions so as not to prejudice a trial. All they can is report the known facts (A has been charged with offence X) until case comes to court.

#31 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2006, 01:54 PM:

I think Bruce Schneier has long reported that the war on terrorism is really driven by stupid, racially motivated posturing. Well, those aren't his words, but he has pointed out for some time that there are a lot of white folks running around our country who'd like to blow up Americans.

#32 ::: kvenlander ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2006, 02:23 PM:

For the record, I do think that labels like Islamofascists, Christofascists, Muslimoscaries etc are stupid and counter-productive. They try to make the argument that This is just like That-thing-we-sorta-know which actually clouds any real understanding of the issues. Demagoguery. 20th C. fascisms were generally state-level military-industrial complexes. Comparing that to non-state nihilistic brigands whose reach is limited is just nuts. There is no existential threat to Mom, Apple Pie and Western Civilization - unless we give in to those who would terrorize us.

I have no doubt that this is clear to people in these parts.

On a related note, experts seem to agree that we should not call wannabe Osamas "jihadists", since that has positive connotations to Muslims. They are committing "hiraba" or war against society.

#33 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2006, 02:29 PM:

Tim, did you read that Newsday article Patrick linked to? The ones that says "No national newspaper, magazine or network newscast reported this attempted suicide bombing, though an AP wire story was available" and that says the Detroit Free Press was "the only newspaper in the Nexis news database that reported [the] crime"? The national press didn't even report the bare-bones facts that you claim were all they were allowed to print. (And since when do police have prior-restraint power over crime reporting?)

#34 ::: Steve Buchheit ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2006, 02:31 PM:

No no no. This is a war against Islamofloutists, the evil villany of the world.

The angry white male isn't a terrorist because he still gives to the political party of his choice. That and he acts as an independant contractor... I mean lone wolf... I mean completely on his own having only been a part of other organizations for several years serving in various official compacity but without actually having endorsement from our... what was my point?

Oh yeah, The Eye of Sauron is on Baghdad! The Eye of Sauron is on Baghdad! Look there, look over there.

#35 ::: pedantic peasant ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2006, 02:39 PM:

I prefer "Christianists" to "Christofascists", but prefer "Right-Wing Terrorists" to either, on the other hand, "Radical Christian Terrorist" works well, too.

While I certainly agree that home-grown terror should be reported on more and taken more seriously than appears to currently be the case, I think part of what the blindness to local terrorism reflects is a fundamental difference in the way people view internal and external terrorism.

First there is the matter of perspective. Internal teroorists are people "just like us", so it is easier to understand them, or decide they can't be understood, and are just crazy.
External terrorists are (as someone said earlier) "other." We don't know them or understand them, and we often imagine they must be far more different from us than they actually are [Note all "we"s herein are broadly generic American culture "we"s, not specifically identifying or labelling any groups or subgroups.] So there is less of a tendency to treat them humanely, or to think of them as isolated individuals, separate from their culture. They are, instead, seen as a representative of their race, part of that big "other," and are viewed through the distortion of that lens.

Second is the matter of influence and control. Whether they can be understood or not, are mean, crazy or tragic, the homegrown terrorist is from here and stays here. This implies, if only on a sub-conscious level, a certain responsibility for his actions, and a certain degree of control over his future behavior. These bone-fdeep assumptions also deeply color the way we think of homegrown terrorists. There is a tendency, no matter how tragic the scene and how dangerous the terrorist, to accept the system will work, that it will catch and punish him, or the organization behind him, at some point.
Even for such lunatic-fringe groups as Army of God, the assumption is that the police will do something eventually, but are waiting for sufficient evidence connecting them to their agents o come to light.

With external teroorists this vague sense of reassurance is gone. Where did they come from, where did they go to, and if/once outside the country and our jurisdiction, what can we do? We cannot pursue, interview, capture, or control. The feeling that they have entered our space, done their damage, and left, generates a sense of dread and helplessness.

Finally, internal terrorism is seen (and this is poorly phrased) as violent social commentary. Someone who is part of the society making a violent objection. There is at some level a sense that this is part of change, a temporary interruption as new ways of thnking are integrated, and will eventually become unnecessary as society completes its adaptation.

External terrorism is again, an attack from outside. There is the sense that it is not commentary, that the attacker is not a part of our society, not dissatisfied with the way his world is changing. Global villages and economies aside, the external terrorist by contrast is an outsider, someone who has no right to comment on the society and will not (directly) benefit by whatever changes he produces.

Again, this is not in defense of any terrorist actions, but I think the reason we "accept" home-grown terrorists is that this sense of their being "one of us" gives a false sense that somehow we as a society are responsible for their difficulties, and that since they were and are "from here" we had a chance to notice they were "troubled" before hand and therefore could have kept it from happening. Essentially, Americans at large are fighting a (sub-conscious) guilt that we are to blame.

#36 ::: Tim Hall ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2006, 02:45 PM:

Avram, I was referring to the British arrests that Charlie Stross mentioned in comment #3, not the US suicide bombing. (The text I quoted was from his comment)

Our laws on press coverage of ongoing court cases are very different from yours. They're probably over-restrictive and increasingly meaningless nowadays since they don't cover foreign news on the net. Doesn't explain why the national media ignored the case before anyone was charged, though.

#37 ::: Anna in Portland (was Cairo) ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2006, 02:47 PM:

Peace,

If you are going to quibble with "christanist" because as Mac states, "I didn't mean to imply that Christianity somehow embraces acts of terrorism to make a point/disrupt people's lives and choices" then let me add my voice to the comments up thread and ask everyone to please help all of us American Muslims and come down very hard on everyone who uses "islamist" and "islamofascist" and all that as well.

In fact I think the word terrorist itself is pretty meaningless and loaded and I myself refuse to use it in this sense. There is nothing wrong with taking the position that these people are criminals and their crimes must be prosecuted. We can definitely talk about this particular kind of crime wave and speculate why so many people seem to think it is their religious duty to commit crimes at abortion clinics. but using these terms just is not really helpful to that end and legitimizes the "war on terror" flawed approach to similar crimes committed by Muslims.

I also want to register my shock and disgust that there are acid attacks. The more I see of Western misogyny the more similar it looks to Eastern (I see references to acid attacks in the news a lot, mostly referring to Pakistan and India - it is really a chilling type of crime that seems to express a particularly virulent hatred of women). I was familiar with this and Muslims often discuss it along with honor killings and FGM and other abuses that happen in Eastern countries. But I had not ever heard or read that Western, Christian abortion clinic attackers throw acid on women.

I agree so heartily that this weird hate filled attitude does not include normal citizens, religious or not, and it is great to find like minded people.

#38 ::: JBWoodford ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2006, 02:48 PM:

#34 (Steve Buchheit) quoth:

The Eye of Sauron is on Baghdad!

All the livelong day....

JBWoodford

#39 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2006, 02:51 PM:

Oh. Sorry, Tim, I should've looked closer.

#40 ::: Laurence ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2006, 02:55 PM:

The term "Islamist" has bugged me ever since the first time I saw it. I'm not a Muslim, but if I were I would find it offensive.

"Islamic fundamentalist" is longer, but it seems to me to express what people mean by "Islamist."

#41 ::: Jon Sobel ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2006, 03:10 PM:

In fact I think the word terrorist itself is pretty meaningless and loaded and I myself refuse to use it in this sense.

I agree. Terrorism means violence (and threatened violence) against civilians, but those who commit terrorist acts don't make the same combatant-civilian distinction that we have in mind. Abortion clinic bombers don't consider abortion providers to be "innocent." The 9/11 attackers didn't consider their victims to be "innocent" either. But if we don't use the term terrorism, what do we use? How do we distinguish this kind of crime from more "common" kinds of crime?

#42 ::: John Mark Ockerbloom ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2006, 03:11 PM:

I think it might help make the point more widely if we commonly used "domestic terrorism" in place of "hate crime", since that's what the latter really is, to the extent that it's a reasonable legal distinction to make in the first place.

That is, it's a crime that we prosecute more severely than others involving similar actions precisely because its intent is not only to do direct injury, but to intimidate-- that is, terrorize-- members of a targeted group.

Making this point explicitly in our terms for it would do two useful things:

-- confound the doublethink of folks who object to treating "hate crimes" specially but who want to move mountains-- and Constitutions -- out of the wat to fight "terrorism"

-- make it clearer that terrorism is a home-grown problem, not just an international one.

#43 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2006, 03:16 PM:

re: jihad

Politicians talk about a "war on drugs" or a "war on poverty", yet they translate jihad as "holy war" and proceed to view with alarm.

The idea of a "jihad on poverty" seems to me to be something laudable. It's even compatible with the religious demands for charity, Islamic and Christian.

Of course, we're talking about language, and how it can be used to shape thought. In this particular case, there seems to be a neocon sentiment that langiuage can be used by your siude to encourage violence, but such usages are wrong for anyone else. You can shape their thought as much as you please, but they can't do anything to your precious bodily fluids.

Is this, I wonder, the Sapper-Worf Hypothesis?

#44 ::: Andrew Willett ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2006, 03:27 PM:

Anna at #37, and others: this isn't the throw-acid-in-the-face violence seen in Pakistan and India. The acid used in abortion-clinic acid attacks isn't used directly on the people inside so much as on the clinic itself. It's butyric acid, a chemical that produces vomit-smelling vapors so foul that the affected areas have to be basically gutted before people can stand to enter them again. However, as the link I provided mentions, people who are exposed to large amounts of the stuff in liquid or gaseous form do suffer health problems, sometimes for months.

#45 ::: bonnie-ann black ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2006, 03:34 PM:

"religous fanatics" does the trick, i think. "fundamentalist" is a co-opted word, like "conservative." true conservatives would uphold the letter *and* spirit of the Constitution, not just the bits that their fantasies and wishes take flight with. in the same vein fundamentalists would be upholding the ideals of peace, brotherhood and kindness that are the basis of their religion. it seems to me that all religions boil down to "that which is reprehensible to you, do not do to your brother [or sister]." that is the whole of the law, in any religion, everything else is commentary.

#46 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2006, 03:50 PM:

"Islamofacist" is a propoganda word. Trying to think about its meaning too deeply is unrewarding, because the whole point of the word is to short-circuit thought. By opposing Islamofacists, you get to paint yourself as one with Winston Churchill, reacting to the impending danger when all your neighbors are blind to it. Otherwise, you might have to oppose a bunch of people who would be as poor as Afghanistan or sub-Saharan Africa, if not for oil. Islamofacists sound like the kind of threat to be opposed by a big military buildup, bloody invasions and occupations, and maybe the odd nuking of an enemy city. The real Muslim world looks like the kind of threat to be opposed by being pretty careful about issuing visas to people from Middle Eastern countries, investing a lot in alternative energy research, and maybe occasionally bombing or assassinating especially annoying leaders.

#47 ::: Joe J ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2006, 04:04 PM:

Andrew Willett: Thank you very much for the informative link on butyric acid. (People who post on this site have such a wealth of knowledge.) I was jumping to conclusions before about what "acid attack" meant. Now I know, and in a way this seems worse than what I imagined. Instead of a person to person attack, this harms anyone in the building.

#48 ::: Michael Bloom ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2006, 04:04 PM:

No, "fundamentalist" is a real word with a real meaning: one who believes that the sacred text of one's religion is literally true. Thus we have people like "young Earth creationists" who attempt to insinuate the book of Genesis into our science classes. (Other faiths have their own scriptures and their own fundamentalists.)

Unfortunately the doctrinal basis of mainstream American Christianity seems to be what Paul of Tarsus said, not what Jesus said. Thus, the ideals of peace, brotherhood and kindness that bonnie-ann black cites in #45 are largely inoperative, more's the pity.

"Islamist" also has a well established meaning, someone who believes that secular authority in Muslim polities should be answerable to competent religious authority. I agree however that "Islamofascist" is not an actual word, or at least that whatever it purports to describe doesn't really exist.

#49 ::: Anna in Portland (was Cairo) ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2006, 04:07 PM:

Oh, how interesting about the acid thing. Yes jumping to conclusions is so easy, anyone can do it.. While this form of acid attack is quite weird and disturbing, it's a relief to me that they are not aping the S. Asian form of acid attack.

#50 ::: Raven ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2006, 04:09 PM:

Re #13, albatross

It's creepy the way that, once you have a model of the world, your natural tendency is just to exclude stuff that doesn't fit.
Early last century, Charles Fort wrote about this tendency over and over, starting with The Book of the Damned — the "damned" being reported and recorded events which didn't fit our understanding of how the world works, and which accordingly were simply omitted thereafter from official discussion or consideration.

A little essay by Loren Eiseley titled "The Hidden Teacher" (in his book The Unexpected Universe), also comes to mind.   (It's summarized at the end of this webpage, after some other remarks worth mulling over; in fact, that whole site's worth exploring.)


Re #18, Jon Sobel — and #40, Laurence — and some commenters inbetween:

"Christianist" (like "Islamist") is intended to convey "someone who is not merely a member of the ______ religion, but determined to impose that religion on others, esp. as part of a group sharing that goal."   This is a fairly clear distinction, and refers to real people and groups.

There are other terms for Christianists (some of which they themselves may use, like "Dominionists")... but "Christofascist" (like "Islamofascist") is a more provocative and less accurate term, and (like Rush Limbaugh's "Feminazi") is quickly seen as propagandistic.

It's worth noting that immediate physical violence is not an essential part of the "______ist" job description.   Many simply want to use the standard political process to have the laws changed so that, for instance, American becomes legally a "Christian nation" and Biblical law becomes enforceable by courts — and then any violence upon gays, pagans, heretics, adulterers, etc., will be committed by the power of the state, not by their own hands.


Re #34, Steve Buchheit:

No no no. This is a war against Islamofloutists, the evil villany of the world.
Steve, you're severely confused, and a poor speller.

Islamoflautists play wind instruments, specifically flutes.

The evil violany of the world is perpetrated via stringed instruments, notably the villainous violas, and the base bass cellos.   (Their manifestos are composed in villanelles.)

Mike, you can take it from there.           Mike?                 Oh.             Damn.

#51 ::: Martyn Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2006, 05:32 PM:

#3 - Charlie

Just because you live in Scotland you can't describe Blackburn (Lancashire, 4000 holes in, etc) as 'midland'. England may be a small country (almost as small as Scotland) but its people know where they come from, and Lancashire is north (unless, like me, you're from farther north, in which case it is almost the midlands, but you go calling a lanc a brummie and you'll have to be quick on your feet)

#30 - Tim

The police don't impose reporting restrictions on courts, even in quaint old England. Courts are doing it for themselves, and have been for a long time because its generally considered that pretrial publicity prejudices a fair trial.

Go ask Abu Hamsa.

All terrorists are Muslims - yes, lots of Muslims in any and all branches of the IRA, the Baader Meinhof gang, the Red Brigades and - of course - Irgun was just stuffed full of Muslims.

Oh, but of course, none of them ever set foot in America, except to shake the collecting box, so they weren't real terrorists, were they. Not real, real terrorists.

#52 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2006, 05:35 PM:

Martyn: I'm from Leeds. Lancashire is south. Besides, we haven't forgotten the civil war! (Not Cromwell's new-fangled affair, the real civil war that ended in 1487 ...)

#53 ::: Steve Buchheit ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2006, 05:48 PM:

#50 Raven, "Steve, you're severely confused, and a poor speller."

Sometimes more than others, especially when I don't have much time and am commenting between printing plates spitting out from the machine I tend. At those times copyediting isn't my strong suit.

I actually like Arabic/Islamic stringed instrument music, so villainy was the correct word, just spelled atrociously. Now, when we get to Persian wind instruments, then things start getting better.

Well, the machine calls, back to the third hour of overtime. Have to keep that Bush "economic miracle" chugging along.

#54 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2006, 06:07 PM:

Raven #50: I support the ongoing campaign to stop violins in the streets.

And I agree with you about 'Christianist'. I think the fact that it contains the word 'Christian' has great pedagogical value for those who think nothing of using the word 'Islamist'.

I'd like to point out that the KKK is simply a terrorist organization, and always has been. And Tim McVeigh is far from the only Militia-movement terrorist; he's only the most successful.

So far.

#55 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2006, 06:34 PM:

Laurence #40: 'Islamist' should be preferred to 'Islamic/Muslim Fundamentalist' because, strictly speaking, all Muslims are fundamentalists.

The term 'Islamist' refers to those Muslims for whom Islam is a political code as well as a code of religious laws. I know I could put this better, but it isn't my area of expertise.

#56 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2006, 06:49 PM:

Raven #50:

I'm no Mike Ford, but here goes...


A villanelle of villainy

Islamofascists are the world's great evidoers,
they blow their evil messages on flutes,
unlike us Christians they are dark-faced boors.

Their burqa-clad women are in fact all whores,
we learned this in O'Reilly's institutes,
Islamofascists are the world's great evildoers.

Unlike good us, they give no praise to brewers,
they smoke instead a pipe that almost toots,
unlike us Christians they are dark-faced boors.

We're honest men, good zealous 'baccy chewers,
we've naught to do with those damned Muslim lutes,
Islamofascists are the world's great evildoers.

Our minds have risen no higher than the sewers,
we think unmarried sex is for prostitutes,
unlike us Christians they are dark-faced boors.

Those who disagree we'll call them the 'impures',
they'll feel the Christian mercy of our boots.
Islamofascists are the world's great evildoers,
unlike us Christians they are dark-faced boors.


#57 ::: Joe J ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2006, 06:55 PM:

Wouldn't you know it? NPR is doing a whole series this week on the terminology of fighting terrorism this week.

Exploring the Language of Post-Sept. 11 U.S. Policy

I just heard the part about "Islamofascism" tonight. The series is described as follows:

The impact of Sept. 11, 2001, forced America to engage in a kind of national "cramming session." Within weeks, such terms as "jihadist" and "war on terror" entered the American English lexicon. It wasn't long before Islamic extremist became "Islamofascists," and within months, America's publicly-stated Middle East policy became one of "democracy promotion."

All of these words and terms are understood in a variety of ways, both at home and abroad. What isn't clear is the extent to which these different interpretations affect practical policy.

The idea behind this series is to explore five terms that have gained new prominence in our lexicon since Sept. 11 -- how they are used in different contexts, and their impact on policy or discourse.

#58 ::: Jen Roth ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2006, 06:56 PM:

I favor the term "Christian supremacists".

#59 ::: Joe J ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2006, 07:00 PM:

Correction: Ignore one of those "this week"s in the first sentence of my last post. (You get to pick which one. How fun!)

#60 ::: Mac ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2006, 07:13 PM:

The problem with appending either Islam or Christ to these actions is that it implies an endorsement from the religious philosophy that, as far as I can tell, isn't shared by the sane people practicing the religion.

Likewise, there's a degree of cachet associated with being a terrorist that's missing from simply being a murdering criminal.

I suppose, from that perspective, It's just as well we aren't calling abortion clinic violence terrorism. It seems counterproductive to glamorize violence that way--and the same argument applies to other religious flavors of terrorism, as well.

We need to call it crime, though, and decisively so.

#61 ::: retterson ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2006, 07:29 PM:

I'm with ya-all here. I want my country back.

I have an idea . . . send your thoughts to Congress. Each of us should have our respective Representatives and Senators' websites bookmarked.

I'm going to write a letter tomorrow. Same letter to all three. Cut and paste the top of this post, and add a paragraph or two about why I'm sending it along.

I've been doing this a lot lately (writing to my congressmen). Because I know the fascists are writing letters, marching in the streets and making their voices heard. I want my voice heard, too -- so I've begun to yell in the same direction that the fascists are yelling.

I betcha that if each of us yell in that same direction, our collective voices would be far louder the minority fringe.

In my humble opinion, normal, rational people don't yell enough.

#62 ::: little light ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2006, 08:00 PM:

Dall Bell @43: Politicians talk about a "war on drugs" or a "war on poverty", yet they translate jihad as "holy war" and proceed to view with alarm.
The idea of a "jihad on poverty" seems to me to be something laudable. It's even compatible with the religious demands for charity, Islamic and Christian.

"Jihad" is used that way sometimes. Hell, a theologian I admire has declared a "Gender Jihad" in those terms, as a general call to fight for the equal rights of women. The word's also been used, historically, to describe internal struggles for self-betterment, as well as attempts to reform society. "Holy war" is a very narrow, and often propagandistic, translation choice.

Fragano @55: strictly speaking, all Muslims are fundamentalists.

Would you care to explain what you mean by that? Especially since "Fundamentalist" was a word coined to describe a specific American Protestant movement? Are you saying all Muslims are comparable to them, or what?

#63 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2006, 08:13 PM:

Little Light #62: I mean that in the sense that Islam is its 'fundamentals' -- to be a Muslim requires that you perform certain acts, and only those who perform these acts are Muslims.

#64 ::: Anna in Portland (was Cairo) ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2006, 08:37 PM:

#63: Well, true, Muslims are supposed to perform certain acts. But not performing them does not negate our being Muslims, it just means we aren't very good ones (e.g., prayer).

The only requirement for *being* Muslim is to believe in the Shahada / Kalima "There is no god but God and Muhammad is His Prophet".

Much like Christianity in which you have to believe certain theological concepts about Christ and God.

So really it is not all that different. And certainly not more fundamentalist.

#65 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2006, 11:01 PM:

I think "Christian Triumphalist" is an even better description.

#66 ::: TexAnne does not gloat ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2006, 11:10 PM:

I'm still holding out for "Pharisee."

#67 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2006, 11:18 PM:

This is fascinating -- 66 comments and I don't see anyone observing that fearing Islamist terrorism and not Christian terrorism is in fact a rational response for much of the U.S.

Consider the numbers; even with Oklahoma City added in, the ratio of deaths in the U.S. is still >10:1. Think about the spectacular, many-deaths-possible plots that have allegedly been stopped, and compare them with any of the everyday halfwits who've been caught planning to do something -- anything -- against a clinic. Then add on the fact that the violence has been committed mostly against "faceless government bureaucrats", with a residue against people involved in giving the less-powerful control over their own sexuality. How many of the people who yak about "Islamofascism" and ignore Christian violence are likely to be victims of the latter?

It's not that the terrorists are "them"; it's that the victims are "them". This reframing -- this putting citizens beyond the pale -- is expectable from the CHINO leaders who derive power from declaring their flocks to be the only "us"; that it has been allowed into political discourse is another vileness committed by the Right. Worse, enough people are squishy on choice that appeals to common humanity are hard sells; how many politicians are willing to take that step?

#68 ::: Writerious ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2006, 12:15 AM:

"I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ."
Mohandas Gandhi

#69 ::: Raven ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2006, 01:10 AM:

Re #53, Steve Buchheit:

#50 Raven, "Steve, you're severely confused, and a poor speller."

Sometimes more than others,...
Steve, I'm sorry.   I meant to be funny by saying that and then getting the words so wrong myself.   Instead, all I managed to do was stick my clumsy foot in it, to be insulting and unfair and wrong.   Please forgive me.

#70 ::: eric ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2006, 01:19 AM:
This is fascinating -- 66 comments and I don't see anyone observing that fearing Islamist terrorism and not Christian terrorism is in fact a rational response for much of the U.S.

Fearing any terrorism isn't a rational response in the US. You are far more likely to die from smoking, second hand smoke, motor vehicles, and other things that most people don't think about every day.

Data from here.

Terrorism in 2001, a bad year for that sort of thing in the US, killed roughly the same number of people as died from surgical errors in 2003. Also at that level are Accidental Drowings, Fires, Poisoning.

Yes, we should prepare for it, as we prepare for fires and such. But we could probably prevent a lot more deaths if we spent 1/4 trillion on preventing some of the more common forms of death.

#71 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2006, 02:29 AM:

Matthew: re Eric Rudolph

The Feds cut him a deal. In exchange for him telling them where he'd buried some explosives they let him avoid a trial, and the attendant attention to just what he had done.

As Orcinus pointed out, the sentencing allowed him to make a public statement of his manifesto. It also let him off the hook about anyone who might have helped him, either in planning, or while he was on the lam (for five years).

There's also some scary stuff in the reactions of other people. Porter Goss (yes, that Porter Goss) said, in hearings, after, That Tuesday, The trouble is, 'terrorism' is a very broad word, and it lends itself to a lot of mischief for people who would abuse common sense," He then cited bombings of abortion clinics. "To me, that's not the kind of terrorism I'm talking about."

There are people who agree with him, and aren't afraid to share there opinions, in public, "He's a Christian and I'm a Christian and he dedicated his life to fighting abortion," said Mrs. Davis, 25, mother of four. "Those are our values. And I don't see what he did as a terrorist act." (NYT, now behind the firewall).

When newpaper editorials say things like, "Rudolph allegedly has ties to the radical Christian Identity movement and its violent Army of God offshoot. We don't know if Christian Identity truly reflects Rudolph's beliefs or merely became a convenient vehicle for him. But the easy generalization is to paint all conservative fringe religious groups as violent - even though the pastor of a church Rudolph attended as a youth insists his sect teaches non-violence," then we aren't going to see any real treatment of the problems of domestic terrorism, they are all going to be lone wolves, and the people (like Hal Turner) who are telling people to become such lone wolves, to "solve" the problems of non-ideologues being elected aren't going to be ignored, as they should be, but rather to get more mainstreamed.

#72 ::: Giacomo ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2006, 03:16 AM:

what's wrong with the perfectly apt "religious fanatics" ("religiofanatics")? After all, that's what they are, on both sides. But I suppose that admitting that religion can drive people to fanatism (can, not will) would be too revolutionary and too subtle a point to make.

The western world constantly forgets what "Religious Wars" were really like. In Europe, we are reminded every once in a while (Ireland, Balkans, etc) but apparently that doesn't make a big difference.

#73 ::: Martin Wisse ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2006, 03:35 AM:

#30: court reporting laws or none, you stil l have to explain away the discrepancy between say the police operation in Forest Gate and in the case Charlie Stross mentioned, as well as the entirely different media responses to both cases.

The same alleged laws that supposedly stopped the press from reporting on the ex-BNP man case should've stopped them from reporting on the Forest Gate arrests, or the ricin case, but didn't.

#74 ::: Gag Halfrunt ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2006, 06:35 AM:
"He's a Christian and I'm a Christian and he dedicated his life to fighting abortion," said Mrs. Davis, 25, mother of four. "Those are our values. And I don't see what he did as a terrorist act."
Which, as everyone knows, is completely different from something like:
"He's a Muslim and I'm a Muslim and he dedicated his life to fighting the infidel," said Mrs. Talib, 25, mother of four. "Those are our values. And I don't see what he did as a terrorist act."
#75 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2006, 06:58 AM:

Anna in Portland #64: That's the point. If you will, performance of the Shahada five times a day is a 'fundamental' of Islam.

#76 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2006, 07:14 AM:

TexAnne #66: Hmm, the trouble with that is that 'Pharisee' is a compliment among Jews. I've been told so by a rabbi (gods, I almost typed 'rabbit'...that would be embarrassing).

Let's keep a list of names to recite when people make these ridiculous claims. So far, I have:

Tim McVeigh
Eric Rudolph

I know there are lots of others, but their names don't get into the media that easily, and I don't know them.

#77 ::: candle ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2006, 07:32 AM:

Xopher: there's always the Unabomber, Theodore Kaczynksi, whose victims were essentially random and who did get a lot of coverage. Possibly he doesn't fit our conventional ideas of right and left, though, which might complicate this kind of discussion further. Although as I recall, he had a beard, and therefore may count as essentially Muslim.

So that I don't have to send another message explaining myself, that last bit was intended as satire.

#78 ::: pedantic peasant ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2006, 07:38 AM:

Retterson #61

In my humble opinion, normal, rational people don't yell enough.

Yeah, that's because they're normal, rational people. Which doesn't mean you're wrong actually.

The other side of Edmund Burke's chestnut regarding evil succeeding is that good men -- or at least rational, logical, civilized men -- tend not to be comfortable getting into shouting matches with crazies. It appears to the logical and reasonable (often, if not always) that the person shouting is obviously cracked and irrational, and therefore not someone worth debating, because obviously no one is going to listen to someone like that ...


CHip #67

Not sure I'm following all your argument. Are you including church bombings, gay bashing, various KKK actions, and others in your ratio?

Given the much longer history of homegrown terrorism to that "imported" from the Middle East, I would guess -- based on feelings and absolutely no data -- that the 10:1 ratio is high.

Various

Which is the more accurate definition of terrorism?

Conducting acts intended to cause terror.

or

Violence (or threatened violence) against [innocent] civilians.

John Mark Ockerbloom #42

I think it might help make the point more widely if we commonly used "domestic terrorism" in place of "hate crime", since that's what the latter really is, to the extent that it's a reasonable legal distinction to make in the first place.

That is, it's a crime that we prosecute more severely than others involving similar actions precisely because its intent is not only to do direct injury, but to intimidate-- that is, terrorize-- members of a targeted group.


Yes!, excellent point. Thank you.

#79 ::: Steve Buchheit ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2006, 07:39 AM:

#69 Raven, no worries, mate. I took it as gentle ribbing and the riff on violins/cellos and violas was great. Now, if you could have worked mimes playing silent violins being wacked with a pickle loaf, that would have been a huffalump of a different color.

I am a bad speller. I've twisted grammer unto mobius strips more often than I care to admit and sometimes my participles dangle like ripe fruit in the fall sun.

When I write for publication I scrub my prose like you wouldn't believe, because I have the time. When I post comments, I don't always have the time to get it as clean as I would like. So sometimes I err on the "get it posted and get back to work" side over the "scrub it until it shines."

#80 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2006, 07:46 AM:

Xopher, #76: Rats. One perfectly good insult down the drain. Besides, the Immoral Minority would probably take it as a compliment: they ignore Christ in favor of Leviticus and Paul (and misunderstand both).

#81 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2006, 07:59 AM:

"Pharisee" doesn't work for two reasons--one is that most Jews are from the Pharisaic tradition, even if the word's most common use in English is from one side of an old factional dispute.

Also, the connotation in English is of well-off smugness--this doesn't apply well to terrorists.

"Religious fanatic" does strike me as a good choice, and there's nothing awful I can see about making it "Christian religious fanatic", "Muslim religious fanatic", "Hindu religious fanatic", "Jewish religious fanatic", or whatever.

Orcinus reports on non-Muslim terrorism in the US now and then from the point of view that the authorities aren't taking it seriously enough.

#82 ::: NelC ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2006, 08:00 AM:

Texanne: Doesn't that make them heretics?

#83 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2006, 08:19 AM:

Nancy, I was thinking only about the soi-disant "Christian" Right. Well-off smugness about covers it.

NelC: Yes, they're heretics. I've been flat-out told by one of them that he prefers the Old Testament to the New. He didn't explain why he was wearing a 3" cross instead of a 3" Star of David, though, and I was too croggled to ask. OTOH, he has since gotten a girlfriend, and I hear he's loosened up considerably.

#84 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2006, 09:03 AM:

#78 and others:

I'd say the right definition of terrorism is violent actions intended to cause terror to accomplish some kind of political objective. Abortion clinic bombings are intended to accomplish a political objective by making people scared to go to abortion clinics, and more scared to run one, or work in one, or insure one. This works exactly the same way as Shiite militias in Iraq closing down liquor stores by beating up their owners, or burning the stores down.

I've often seen people distinguish between this kind of action done by governments and by non-state entities. The distinction becomes important when you're trying to figure out how to respond. If the state of Alabama is terrorizing blacks to keep them from voting, the attorney general or president of the US can hold the governor, legislature, and police and courts of Alabama responsible. If Iran is sending bombers into Iraq to kill Americans, we can hold the Iranian government responsible. But if it's a small group like the Oklaholma City bombing or a loose affiliation of small groups like with the 9/11 attack, Madrid bombings, London bombings, etc., then it's hard to find the people we want to hold responsible.

This is the biggest problem with terrorism--it makes deterrence hard to use. Most of our defenses against an enemy blowing up our buildings, gas pipelines, power lines, factories, chip fabs, refineries, etc., center around our ability to do other people harm. If China launches some missiles from ships offshore to blow up a bunch of buildings in New York, we will almost certainly go to war with them, and our ability to do that is clear enough that this is an effective deterrent. If Al Qaida manages the same trick somehow, we can go to war with them, but we may not be able to get to them. This successfully kept the world from a big nuclear exchange for decades, right? The deal we offered the USSR was "if you launch a first strike and kill 100 million of us, we'll retaliate and kill 100 million of you." They offered us the same deal.

This is what's so scary about a terrorist nuke. Nobody has a good defense against being nuked except to deter such a thing by threatening to retaliate. If we don't know who nuked us, we can't retaliate--which means we're back in the realm of trying to defend against this kind of attack. That looks really hard, though I'll admit I don't have any special expertise in this area.

#85 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2006, 09:35 AM:

Raven #50

(Their manifestos are composed in villanelles.)

Se ne la Selua Idea, oue il Pastore,
A mille Tauri die vincendo il vanto,
Vi foste ritrouata VOI, che tanto
Colma n'andate di belta, e valore:
Perdea l'orgoglio, vinta di pallore,
Forse la Dea, ne tenebroso pianto
Copria le spnde a Simoneta, e Xanto,
Ne lungo incendio altrui fea breuil'hore;
Che mirando il diuin conguinto in Voi,
Di cui fe degne il Ciel le luci nostre,
L'aureo pregio ui daua, e l'alma insieme.
Real Signora dunque, non vi annoi,
S'io che si basso son, le virtu vostre
Cerco essaltar con BALLI, e canti insieme.

Continenza, ripresa, ripresa, Ri...ve....ren....za.

#86 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2006, 09:45 AM:

candle wrote that the Unabomber had a beard, and therefore may count as essentially Muslim.

Good thing for me that I sport a (usually) neatly trimmed beard in the General Zod style. In fact, airport security recently found my tooth paste more threatening than my pilosity.

#87 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2006, 09:46 AM:

Albatross at 84: If we don't know who nuked us, we can't retaliate

I know -- we'll attack Iraq!

Oh, wait...

#88 ::: retterson ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2006, 10:21 AM:

Re # 78 . . . because obviously no one is going to listen to someone like that ...

I see you appreciate the irony of my statement!

The trouble I see is that politicians do tend to listen to those with the loudest voice. Mind, "voice" can usually rendered as a number -- number of letters, number of dollars contributed, etc.

The challenge for good people is to learn to yell politely yet forcefully. Strong but not shrill. Counted, not content.

My mother had a knack for yelling at us without ever raising her voice -- it's that kind of yelling we should all be doing.

#89 ::: Andrew Willett ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2006, 10:41 AM:

Fragano in #75: But one could also say that taking communion is a 'fundamental' of Christianity, so I'm not sure I follow you. Every religion has a few basic tenets--laws, or rituals, or beliefs--to which one must hold if one is to be considered a member. By your logic, does that not make all religions fundamentalist?

#90 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2006, 11:08 AM:

Andrew Willett #89: Some religions have no core practices fundamental to them (Hinduism, for example), others have a set of core practices but no necessity for following all of them (you don't have to get married if you're Catholic, although marriage is a sacrament). Christian fundamentalism emerged within American Protestantism in rejection of 'modernism' (the belief that not all scripture need be taken literally, but that it contained a moral code which should be followed) urging instead a biblical literalism and a return to the fundamentals of the faith.

Islam, on the other hand, has certain fundamentals (reciting the Shahada, tithing) which you must follow in order to be a Muslim. In that sense, Islam is nothing but its fundamentals (which is part of the reason I prefer 'Islamism' to 'Islamic fundamentalism') unlike Christianity, within which it is possible to take non-literal readings of scripture and consider oneself a member of a church without necessarily subscribing to all elements of doctrine or accepting all scripture as literal truth.

#91 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2006, 11:24 AM:

Fundamentalism is a movement within modern American Protestantism that followed the publication of a series of pamphlets called "The Fundamentals" early in the 20th century.

It is both modern and heretical.

#92 ::: Anna in Portland (was Cairo) ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2006, 11:28 AM:

These fundamentals are issues of belief, not praxis. This aspect of Islam, like other religions, is not the same as a fundamental of praxis. Of course in Islam you are supposed to believe in one God and Muhammad as his prophet. But, as I said upthread, whether you pray or not, whether you SAY the Shahada or not, as long as you believe it, other muslims have to consider you as a muslim (excluding weird fringe groups that excommunicate each other for all sorts of silly reasons but are not acknowledged or countenanced by normal everyday Muslims). I am speaking both about Shia and Sunni here.

In Christianity, you're supposed to believe in God as well, and also to believe in some sort of divinity role for Jesus. Or else, most people would say you are not really Christian, right? I mean if you don't believe in these two core concepts what is there to the religion?

But belief in theological concepts exists in most religions and I don't see how you can thus call the entire religion "fundamental" unless you are using a very unusual definition of the word.

As for the Protestants who base their beliefs on a near total reliance on the words of certain sections of the Bible who are called Fundamentalists, there exist similar groups in Islam - such as the Salafis who ignore a lot of later scholars and go back to the "basic texts" i.e., the Quran and Hadith, and there are some other smaller groups that use the quran only (see Submission.org for their take on things). Those would be what I'd call Islamic fundamentalists using a similar meaning of the word as it is used to describe Christian sects.

Anyhow this side discussion has as usual disintegrated into a discussion of how to define a term. It seems like a whole lot of Internet discussions end up like that.

#93 ::: Pedantic Peasant ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2006, 11:31 AM:

Retterson in #88

Oh, absolutely I take your point, and it's ironic as hell (which, appropriately enough appears to be where we're going ... in a handbasket!).

The one oversight in your generalization, of course, as has been pointed out on numerous occasions on this site, is that just making noise isn't enough to get the politicians attention -- they also have to believe a majority of you and your noisemaking friends will vote, and that the issue you're being noisy about is sufficiently important to change that vote.

#94 ::: Anna in Portland (was Cairo) ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2006, 11:34 AM:

Once again here:
Frank Ledgister, Muslims are still Muslims whether they tithe, pray, fast, make pilgrimage or not. They are supposed to pray, etc. it is a duty, but if they don't, they are just not very "good" Muslims but they have not ceased to be Muslim. So your argument is not all that compelling.

As long as a Muslim says that he believes in God and the Messengership of Muhammad (PBUH) then whether he/she tithes, prays or not he/she must be considered as a Muslim by others. They may castigate him/her for lack of praxis / works. But that is not the same thing as total excommunication.

There are some who would take this argument even farther and argue for the existence of "cultural" Muslims or "secular" Muslims who are not religious AT ALL yet consider themselves Muslim in some cultural sense, and this is a current debate among Muslims. Generally, Muslims are leery of pronouncing non-Muslimness on anyone who chooses to identify as such because it is a very serious step for us (there is a saying of the Prophet that if one person pronounces unbelief on another, God will consider one of them so - so if you are wrong, God will consider you an unbeliever for being so hasty to judge the other guy).

#95 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2006, 12:14 PM:

I think 'fundamentalist' is a bad term when applied to Moslems. And here I'm using 'bad term' as a term of art meaning that it doesn't convey much meaning, and a distressingly high amount of what it does convey is inaccurate.

I'd also like to offer a definition of 'buzzword': a word or phrase which conveys more connotatively than denotatively, that is, one used more for its emotional impact than for its semantic value. 'Fundamentalist' is also a buzzword, which adds to its being a bad term.

Actually, I don't even like the term when applied to Christian terrorists. I have a friend who subscribes to Fundamentalist theology (for example, he believes that since the accounts of the Miracle of Loaves and Fishes differ in different Gospels, it must have happened more than once). Yet he is a good person, he's able to be friends with me (!), and he certainly would never be party to violence for political ends.

That's why I like the term 'Christianist'. It's formed by analogy to 'Islamist', and thus conveys the meaning of "wanting to impose [a particular form of] Christianity through law and/or by force," which is exactly what those people want; it's a buzzword, yes, but not a bad term. We need a word for these people that makes them sound as bad as they are.

Mind you, not all Christianists are terrorists. Eric Rudolph is a terrorist. Rick Santorum, frothy mix that he is, is a Christianist, but not AFAIK a terrorist.

#96 ::: retterson ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2006, 12:26 PM:

Actually, I'd argue that the lack of normal people voting is part of the irony.

It's one way we can all yell without the appearane of lunacy.

#97 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2006, 12:34 PM:

Anna in Portland #94:

First of all, my name is not 'Frank'.

Secondly,the issue is not whether Muslims do all the things they're supposed to or not. The issue is what things is it necessary to do to be a practicing Muslim.

Certainly, there are Muslims who are unobservant, secular and so on. The key thing is, what do you have to do to be a Muslim -- what are the 'fundamentals' of Islam. The acts required are all fundamental, that's all. That's why the term 'fundamentalist' shouldn't be applied to Islam. On the other hand, I find 'Islamist' useful for describing those people who see Islam not simply as a religion but as a political order that should be imposed on both Muslims and non-Muslims.

I say this, btw, as a bearded man with curly hair and tawny skin who is constantly taken for a Muslim (even though I'm not one).

#98 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2006, 12:41 PM:

Fragano, I recommend that you, and anyone else interested in American Christian fundamentalism, pick up Kevin Phillips' book American Theocracy, and read the multi-chapter section titled "Too Many Preachers." You might also Google Dwight L. Moody and read about him and his successors.

#99 ::: Laurence ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2006, 12:58 PM:

Xopher said at #95:

the term 'Christianist' [is] formed by analogy to 'Islamist' . . .

See, that's one of the things that I don't like about it. To me, it implies that "Islamism" came first, which I find hard to believe, and moreover that we never needed a word like that until "Islamism" became a problem.

Also, you know, technically "Islam" and "Christian" are not matching terms. It would have to be "Muslimism," or "Christianityism," which obviously no one would go for.

#100 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2006, 02:09 PM:

You can read part of The Fundamentals on-line. It is a fairly obscure text, of mainly historical interest at this point. I think the actual "New Testament" is a much more interesting document.

The term also, of course, has become a generic description of radical reactionary authoritarian religious movements which share a number of attributes with radical reactionary authoriarian political movements, with which they are often symbiotic: that is, they are authoritarian, patriarchal, and claim inspiration and direct authority from some mystical source. I suppose, therefore, that "Islamofascism" and "christofascism" are not unreasonable constructions, little though I like them. For myself, I simply say "radical right Islam" or "radical right christianity", which makes plain what I am talking about and also makes plain that the radical right groups are in fact factions, rather than the whole of the religion.

#101 ::: Pedantic Peasant ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2006, 02:47 PM:

Retterson @ 96

Actually, I'd argue that the lack of normal people voting is part of the irony.

Well, yes and no.

There have been any number of bad jokes about how we vote for the best of bad choices, or vote against the guy we fear most. There is a fair amount of truth in that. Many people (at least until recently) have come to look at elections as a kind of zero-sum game. Essentially, the question is: "If, whoever I elect, half of what happens will be good and half will be crap, how much does it really matter to me if I vote?" This is not so much apathetic as frustrated.
And in any event, I'm not sure "normal" and "rational" are interchangeable terms.

That wasn't quite my point, though.
What I was trying to say is that there are so many issues voters are dealing with today that it often happens that no single candidate is for or against all a voter's issues. Then it becomes a case of prioritizing one's concerns. In the election Bushco actually won -- as opposed to the "judicial activism" that put them into office in the first place -- a lot of normal and otherwise rational folks bought into all the administration's misinformation on Iraq and terrorism. Many (Some?) people who may have disagreed on a number of other issues voted for Bushco on the basis of feeling he would keep them safer. (And as long as they felt that way at election, nothing else mattered. Wish we could call no confidence votes here, instead of just getting an "Approval Rating")

Likewise, politicians often feel (or seem to feel) that nutcake group "A" definitely will vote against them unless they do "X", while logical and rational group "Y" is not going to vote against them on "X" as long as they are the (only) candidate supporting "Y" and "Z". So, they feel they can/must support looney plan "X".

#102 ::: Pedantic Peasant ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2006, 03:03 PM:

Fragano Legister

You appear to be using a circular definition:

All muslims are fundamentalists because their religion has fundamentals.

However, everything you've said and all the examples you've provided about Muslims also apply to Christians:

Each sect has its list of "Fundamental" beliefs and actions to which one must subscribe to be considered a practicing member. Therefore, if all Muslims are fundamentalists, then so too are all Christians.

This seems like the same sort of "one-size-fits-all," us against them mentality the topic started with:

Religions at home have a variety of people who think a variety of different ways and may consider themselves a member of their religious group even though they don't subscribe to all aspects.

Religions abroad are all the same, and any memebr of that group falls under this definition.

#103 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2006, 03:15 PM:

The thread's title reminds me of graffiti I once saw in a theater's bathroom. The first word was scratched out, it obviously was a reference to non-white ethnic groups...

(scratched-out) multiply like rabbits

...to which someone had added...

so do bigots and they can't add or subtract either

#104 ::: rockycoloradan ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2006, 03:31 PM:

Xopher #76

Without going too far back,

John Brown
Quantrill
Sherman
Sheridan
Forrest
Custer

#105 ::: DaveL ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2006, 04:00 PM:

I think CHip (#76) is onto something.

The intended victims of the 9/11 terrorists, the UK Tube terrorists, the Madrid terrorists, and the Bali terrorists (all Muslims) were simply whatever random people happened to be in a particular place at the time the attacks occurred. This is not true of any of the counter-examples I've seen. It's not true of people killed in traffic accidents, by smoking, Hurricane Katrina, or other "acts of God." It's not generally true of political violence in the US (the KKK, abortion clinic violence, even to some degree of the Unabomber).

The only recent examples I know of in the US of randomly directed political violence by non-Muslims are the previously cited McVeigh and Rudolph. Even McVeigh was targeting government offices but didn't care about causing others to die. (The DC sniper self-identified as a Muslim or Muslim sympathizer).

This is why most people are afraid of Muslim terror but not of other political violence (which is pretty rare anyway). If you aren't a member of the targeted group, you are in very little danger. This may constitute being self-interested or even immoral, but it is hardly irrational.

#106 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2006, 04:01 PM:

Mark...what we're talking about is why they're not called terrorists, when their acts are the same acts. McVeigh is sometimes called a terrorist, but he's the exception. Eric Rudolph never is.

#107 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2006, 04:06 PM:

Nancy (81): Pharisees would be Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, and IMO most if not all of the unaffiliated mega-churches*, and definitely the ones like Second Baptist here in Houston, which is actually SEVEN churches nominally under one pastor. One wonders whether he does sermons at one per week on a rotating basis, like the traveling preachers of old...

"Unaffiliated" in the sense that they are not associated with any particular sect, which has the dual convenient effects of (1) releasing them from any sort of effective hierarchal oversight (most of them are cults of personality plain and simple) and (2) keeping all that lovely MONEY collected from the parishioners in one place, rather than having to send some of it to the parent organization. These things scare the bejeezus out of me, because they're perfectly free to make up doctrine as they go along and you never know what one of the loons at the top will come up with.

#108 ::: mds ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2006, 04:25 PM:

Good thing for me that I sport a (usually) neatly trimmed beard in the General Zod style.

I fail to see how that helps you, since General Zod was even a convicted terrorist.

That's why I like the term 'Christianist'. It's formed by analogy to 'Islamist', and thus conveys the meaning of "wanting to impose [a particular form of] Christianity through law and/or by force," which is exactly what those people want;

This is my reasoning for using the term "Talibornagain," which has the benefit of underscoring that I am referring to those who espouse virtually the same agenda as the Taliban. It has the disadvantages of sounding really flippant, and of making decent people who consider themselves "born from above" uncomfortable. OTOH, "theocratic hatemongers" doesn't really help either, and takes longer to say.

#109 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2006, 04:47 PM:

True, mds, but Zod's criminal record was on another planet, which soon after went kaboom. But you do have a point. His trashing the White House and half of Metropolis probably didn't help his record on Earth.

Still, I'm reluctant to let go of my pilosity. The plucked-chicken look just wouldn't appeal to my wife of 21 years. (No, I don't have another one for other timespans.)

#110 ::: DaveL ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2006, 05:02 PM:

McVeigh is sometimes called a terrorist, but he's the exception. Eric Rudolph never is.

All it takes is Google and the phrase "eric rudolph terrorist" to show you are wrong about this. On the first results page alone we have CNN, the Christian Science Monitor, and the FBI all calling him a terrorist.

#111 ::: FungiFromYuggoth ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2006, 06:48 PM:

DaveL: I don't think you can consider an attack on the Pentagon an attack on "random people". Ditto the World Trade Center, if you're not a big fan of the West and capitalism. I don't even think there's that much distinction (by the perpetrators) between bombing an abortion clinic and a nightclub frequented by foreigners. The public transit bombings in Spain and Britain weren't terribly targeted, except that they were targeted against the Spanish and the British.

Snipings are more targeted than bombings, but that's the nature of the tactic. I think that's a matter of convenience rather than ethics.

You are right that people in this country are, at least based on past statistics, more likely to be killed by Islamic terrorists than Christian ones. However, we're still at hit by lightning or running into deer numbers here. That's where the "irrational" part comes in, IMO.

#112 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2006, 07:09 PM:

Lizzy L # 98: I've seem quite a few references to it. I'll see if I can fit it in somewhere. Right now, and for the next week or so, I'm reading Kymlicka's Multicultural Citizenship. Actually, between now and Sunday I'll be travelling and so reading this months F & SF, Analog, and Asimov's before I get back to Kymlicka.

#113 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2006, 07:12 PM:

Pedantic Peasant #102: Hmm. What I'm saying is that Islam is its 'fundamentals', whereas Christianity is not, and, further afield, Hinduism has no fundamentals. I dislike the application of the term 'fundamentalism' to Islam because it confuses it with one element of Christianity. I think Anna from Portland actually agrees with me, but is hung up on the word 'fundamentals'.

#114 ::: Meg Thornton ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2006, 08:59 PM:

I've a question: if we posit that a terrorist is someone who attempts to cause fear, and use the fear thus generated to satisfy a desire for power (personal, or political) then can we categorise serial rapists and serial murderers as terrorists?

I'd argue that this is possible, and feasible, because an entire section of the community (women) is taught from an early age to live in fear of rape, and taught to modify their behaviour in the hope of avoiding this. How does this differ from the terror inspired by a bomber of an abortion clinic (another person involved in terror against women), or the conditions created in England and Ireland by the IRA during the "Troubles"?

It's also worth noting that terrorism against a large group of people who are regarded as politically less powerful (eg women, blacks, the poor) is more likely to be disregarded by the press, whether for reasons of straightforward agreement with the motivations of the terror (keeping them down where they belong) or the perception that such terror is not as important as terror inflicted on a politically powerful grouping (whites, men, the rich). The targeting of the WTC, the Pentagon, and the various attacks of the Unabomber largely targeted the politically powerful (ie rich white men), and were therefore much more "important" than terrorist attacks on abortion clinics, on black churches, and indeed any terrorist attack on the African continent. So not only does terrorism have a political agenda, but the reporting of it has one as well. This is why the Bali bombings got coverage - they targeted the rich, white tourists, rather than the poor, brown locals. The poor, brown locals have been targeted for all kinds of things over the years by the various factions warring over this and that in Indonesia - but the bombings got the coverage.

#115 ::: steve ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2006, 09:41 PM:

Mrs Robinson at Orcinus has been doing a lot of nice pieces recently on understanding fundamentalism. One of the most remarkable observations is that fundamentalim offers easy answers, and treats us as children. She quotes Salman Akhtar, a noteworthy pshychiatrist:

When we say fundamentalism, we mean a complex set of five things that go together. First, there is a literal interpretation of some religious tract so what is written is no longer deciphered or deconstructed. It is not to be thought about, it is not to be given meaning, it is what it is. There is literalness to the interpretation one. Second, there is an ethnocentric attitude. The fundamentalist says my belief, my religion, my book is the best one there is. So there is literalness and there is ethnocentricity. With that there is megalomania We know and we have the solution and we can solve the problem; we know exactly what the problem is and we know exactly what the solution is. Megalomania, and then interestingly, a little spice, just as we add a little hing when we are cooking aloo gobi , a little spice of a sense of victimhood, a sense that we are endangered. Real or imaginary, it is a cultivated sense of delightful and delicious masochism, a masochism that will come very handy, as you will see. The imagined cultivated threat is what creates cohesion of the group and would then permit the enactment of violence towards others as a justified protective device. But this is merely a description. Why does fundamentalism have such a powerful appeal? If Marx called religion the opium of the people I believe fundamentalism is intravenous morphine.

Salman Akhtar

It is interesting that fundamentalism always promotes fear of "the outsider" "the other" and calls us to make war on this other or the otherness of it. Hence the war on drugs, the cold war, the war on terra. The thing we ought to fear is the damage done by fundamentalism. And the thing we need to focus on is how to reverse the damage.

#116 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2006, 10:07 PM:

I've a question: if we posit that a terrorist is someone who attempts to cause fear, and use the fear thus generated to satisfy a desire for power (personal, or political) then can we categorise serial rapists and serial murderers as terrorists?

I'd say no, because their purpose isn't to cause fear. The fear they cause is a byproduct of their actions.

A terrorist wishes to cause fear, and chooses an action likely to do so.

We could eventually define everything and everybody as a terrorist. That doesn't profit anyone but George Bush.

#117 ::: Anna in Portland (was Cairo) ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2006, 10:24 PM:

OK Fragano, I guess I differ from you in this a bit but maybe not in the way I originally thought.

First, I find it sort of hard to define the actual religion, particularly since it's a faith I am involved in, because I believe it is a divine system and therefore beyond my finite and human understanding to begin with - so when I talk about the religion I talk about the people who practice it. Thus, I have been discussing Muslims and you are discussing Islam.

Yes, Islam does indeed have fundamentals (the 5 pillars that you have referred to: Shahada, prayer, alms, fasting and pilgrimage). But, I am confused regarding your contention that Christianity has none. Does not Christianity have views about faith and works, and what you are supposed to do as a Christian? The new testament is filled with suggestions as to how to live life. I thought those were fundametnals of Christianity. I guess I am wrong, or I am still not understanding you.

As I said, eventually it seems that all conversations on the Internet get reduced to differences as to the meaning/definition of a word. This conversation has been too interesting for that so I hope to hear more from you. Also sorry for mangling your first name earlier.

#118 ::: Nancy C ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2006, 11:08 PM:

Anna,

In 1909 (Wikipedia), a series of pamphlets was published that listed a bunch of beliefs that are refered to as, "The Fundamentals." People who subscribe to these beliefs are called Fundamentalists. They are Christian Fundamentalists, and the term is extended to groups who have similar behaviors and analogous beliefs.

As far as I know, one of the beliefs in the Fundamentals is that the Bible is both literal and inerrant. Groups that interpret their sacred scripture as both literal and inerrant tend to have the term, "Fundamentalist," extended to them.

Randolph Fritz in 100 gives this link to an online copy of the original pamphlets.

HTH.

#119 ::: Anna in Portland (was Cairo) ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2006, 11:16 PM:

Nancy C:

OH. I see. In that case you could conceivably define the entire Muslim religion as fundamentalist as we believe our text is divine. Of course, that would be kind of silly though. Because our text plays a different role in our theology than the Bible plays in Christianity. Actually if you compare Islamic theology to Christian theology the Quran would be analogous to Jesus rather than to the Bible.

#120 ::: Margaret Organ-Kean ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2006, 11:23 PM:

Well, it's difficult to get down to the nitty-gritty of Christianity, because it comes in so many flavors, and there's lots of disagreement about even what appear to be the basics.

I think you could make a start with what a quote from Jesus - 'Thou shalt love the Lord thy GOD with all thy heart, with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. The second is like unto it; thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets."

Then, almost always, most Christians will recognize two rites or sacraments recognized by Jesus - baptism and communion. Now keeping track of how they recognize them and how they practice them is enough to make your head spin. For instance, Episcopalians practice infant baptism, with godparents who take the infants vows for it, and promise to do their best to see the child turns up for confirmation (a minor sacrament if you're Episcopalian) when it's old enough to understand the vows. But there are Christians who don't recognize infant baptism, and members may not be baptized until they're in their teen or even until they're adults.

One thing that may be important about Christians is that there's always this sense that organizational heirarchy is important - even if the reaction to this sense is to rebel against it. I hadn't realized how fundamental this was to my sense of religion, until I tried understand some other faiths and kept running into this.

#121 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2006, 11:37 PM:

pedantic #78: how far back do you want to go? AFAIK all the violence you mention is rare, especially fatal violence; you'd have to pull in some decades to get parity, where I was describing relatively current events.

eric: I was describing relative fears. On another thread we can take up the question of whether any sum of money would make much of a difference; e.g., most deaths-by-car (judging by what I've read recently) are attacks of stupidity which usually kill the actor(s) rather than bystanders. Spending the cost of the Iraq war (your figure) to help smokers quit would certainly save more U.S. lives than have been saved by the invasion -- but then, so would anything, since it's improbable that \any/ lives have been thus saved.

#122 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2006, 01:27 AM:

Meg (114):

if we posit that a terrorist is someone who attempts to cause fear, and use the fear thus generated to satisfy a desire for power (personal, or political) then can we categorise serial rapists and serial murderers as terrorists?

I would say no, because the target is different. The serial rapist or murderer wants to cause fear in his specific victim(s) -- the effect on other people is secondary, if even noticed. It's the personal element that's of primary importance. In the case of clinic bombers or 9/11 or McVeigh, the primary motivation is to cause fear in other people; the specific victims are just means to that end.

Granted, I'm not sure where (by that definition) things like the Ecole Polytechnique shooting, or the two recent American school attacks, fit in. All of these were clearly hate crimes, since the killers separated out women specifically and let the men go free, but determination of primary motivation isn't easy.

#123 ::: Edward Oleander ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2006, 01:57 AM:

#72 what's wrong with the perfectly apt "religious fanatics" ("religiofanatics")? After all, that's what they are, on both sides. But I suppose that admitting that religion can drive people to fanatism (can, not will) would be too revolutionary and too subtle a point to make.

Might I suggest "Religifant"? It's the same term distilled for Newspeak simplicity, which makes pundits happy. And if they're happy, they might spread the word, so to speak... :-)

#124 ::: Edward Oleander ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2006, 02:25 AM:

Xopher: I'd also like to offer a definition of 'buzzword': a word or phrase which conveys more connotatively than denotatively, that is, one used more for its emotional impact than for its semantic value. 'Fundamentalist' is also a buzzword, which adds to its being a bad term.

I think you hit it there.

Anna: Anyhow this side discussion has as usual disintegrated into a discussion of how to define a term. It seems like a whole lot of Internet discussions end up like that.

I think that's ok. Upthread was a bit about how language shapes the perception of the event. In other words, language becomes as valid an historical (perhaps 'hysterical'?) record as the event itself. After all, history is nothing but words (and a few images), and the words we read do indeed shape our percetion, especially after the passage of much time.

I agree with you about the use of the word 'fundementalist.' Because it began as a word to describe a more-or-less accepted, but fringe, branch of Christianity, it connotes(sp?) to a meaning almost opposite that of the dictionary. Fragano (correct me if I'm wrong, Mr. L) is trying to return the word to it's original meaning from before it was co-opted by religion. That's going to be a steep uphill climb. I might suggest that 'extremist' fits the bill better, since it's connotations are negative, but in a more focused manner, and it implies a clear seperation from mainstream practioners. Even my 'religifant' from above must be used sparingly since it is an aggressive term bound to spark conflict (more so anyway than 'extremist'). The mis-use of 'fundementalist' or the use of aggressive verbage should only be used when one is spoiling for an arguement.

#125 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2006, 07:38 AM:

My thesis has been, for some time, that "fundamentalist" belief & behaviour — it could also be called "doctrinaire" "hard-line", "radical", "extremist", or the other names suggested in this thread; you could find other names too — is a particular set of characteristics which humans are liable to, and which can be co-opted for most belief systems, not just religious ones.
The ones which were most prominent in the 20th century across a lot of the world were political &/or economic. Even now, "economic rationalism" (sort of the quintessence of capitalism, "free trade" & Ayn Rand), for instance, is still busily undermining my own country's best & highest achievements.
From what I've seen over history, any belief system applied to human lives & society in such an inflexible & intolerant way causes suffering & is destructive of much that I personally find good in them.

#126 ::: Pedantic Peasant ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2006, 08:52 AM:

Fragano at #113

What I'm saying is that Islam is its 'fundamentals', whereas Christianity is not,

Um. Okay, then what is Christianity? (This is not a gibe. I think -- as Anna has half-way stated -- all religions are by definition "fundamental" in that there are certain things you are, or are not, supposed to do and believe. You appear to be using a different definition -- or using the definitions differently? -- so what are "non-fundamental" religions, how do they differ?

I dislike the application of the term 'fundamentalism' to Islam because it confuses it with one element of Christianity.

How about "didactic," "doctrinaire," or "dogmatic"?


Meg at 114

Interesting idea. The only argument I can see (as others have said) against the classification -- and I stipulate in advance that it's a lousy, superficial, and generally sexist argument -- is that serial rape (and possibly serial murder as well -- anyone know how often serialists target men?) does not generate the same broad-based level of terror. Bombing an abortion clinic gets doctors, any men supporting the clients, and as previously mentioned, all sorts of associated business: insurance, nearby business, etc.

Theoretically, as I understand it, rape and murder -- even serially -- are about immediate personal one-on-one power, with less global effect.

And yes, you are only too right about how much the "Perceived social imporatance" of the taregets matter.

CHip @ 121

Does it matter (within reason) how long ago things were if the same groups are taking the actions?

But which are far away? KKK still exists, and acts, even if not as blatantly as 50 years ago.

Gay bashing is an increasing trend over the past two decades. And the "gays" thus bashed aren't always gay.

Church burnings still happen.

Are these okay?
Are these not counted as terrorist acts because people don't always die?

#127 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2006, 09:58 AM:

I think terrorism isn't a cleanly defineable term. But in general, I think the terror needs to have a political or social dimension, not just terror for its own sake. If some nut goes on a shooting rampage in the local mall and kills a dozen people, he is surely trying to sow terror, but he may not be trying to *do* anything with the terror. The use of terror induced by violence as a source of political or social power seems like a fundamental part of what we mean by terrorism. And to be very effective long-term, this needs to be a kind of consistent thing. One nut shooting up a mall who is found to have distributed tracts against consumerism looks like a tragic case of someone going crazy and killing people. A string of a dozen such nuts looks like a scary terrorist campaign. Something similar applies to abortion clinic violence.

When terrorism happens across groups to which people may have strong loyalties, I think it can lead to pretty horrible outcomes. White Americans blowing up a government office building look like "us," so mostly there's no outside group we might want to retaliate against. (To some extent you can say "the right," or "the militias," but neither group really had much to do, broadly, with the bombing. And anyway, they're still "us.")
Arabs blowing up a building looks like an attack by "them." And we are jam-packed full of instincts to respond to attacks by "them" by doing nasty things back to "them." This justifies things like bombing and invading Arab Muslims in Iraq, in retaliation for things done by Arab Muslims from Saudi Arabia, sheltering in Afghanistan, Europe, and the US.

#128 ::: Laurence ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2006, 10:17 AM:

White Americans blowing up a government office building look like "us," . . . Arabs blowing up a building looks like an attack by "them."

So, an attack by "them" is terrorism. And similarly, I think, an attack against "them" cannot be terrorism. That's why, as Meg said:

terrorism against a large group of people who are regarded as politically less powerful (eg women, blacks, the poor) is more likely to be disregarded . . .

It can't be terrorism, because it's not an attack on "us." In essence, it doesn't count.

(That's also why women might believe that violence against women counts as terrorism - because they are the "us" being attacked, and men are the "them.")

#129 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2006, 10:48 AM:

(To some extent you can say "the right," or "the militias," but neither group really had much to do, broadly, with the bombing. And anyway, they're still "us.")

albatross... The idea that the Right or the militias are part of the "us" that includes yours truly makes me feel dirty.

#130 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2006, 11:11 AM:

When Meg (#114) posited that a terrorist is someone who attempts to cause fear, and use the fear thus generated to satisfy a desire for power (personal, or political), I thought immediately of current attack ads here in AZ -- particularly the Repubs, with their "soft on illegal aliens" and "nasty former ACLU chairwoman" (favoring pedophiles) slime, but Dem ads use some of the same techniques. (Of course I do fear the current government, so it isn't hard to scare me!) Extending the concept of terrorism that far may make it seem almost universal these days, but it's still an interesting way to rethink the current climate of fear.

Epacris (#125), I agree wholeheartedly with your statement, From what I've seen over history, any belief system applied to human lives & society in such an inflexible & intolerant way causes suffering & is destructive of much that I personally find good in them. It seems as though inflexibility is a bad way to go, pretty much every time (though I expect others can find exceptions to this).

#131 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2006, 11:34 AM:

The targets of clinic bombings include doctors, nurses, and all pre-menopausal women and their close friends or relatives who might accompany them to the clinic.

That is not a small group: that's most of the population of the United States. And the goal is to scare all those people, and use fear to restrict their actions.

#132 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2006, 11:39 AM:

Sidenote to the matter of flexibility I mentioned above: the next website I turned to after this one was ScienceDaily, which has this article on age making even our veins inflexible. (It can happen to opinions much earlier, though.)

#133 ::: MLR ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2006, 11:57 AM:

The Southern Poverty Law Center published an article back in September 2005 about the Department of Homeland Security listing only left-wing groups as domestic terrorists, omitting right-wing groups like those bombing Planned Parenthood clinics.

Yeah, I feel safer.

#134 ::: dolloch ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2006, 12:17 PM:

How about: Terrorism - the use of random attack to coerce change.

No, wait. That includes pre-emptive war...

The use of suprise attack against previously undeclared targets and the threat of more attacks to coerce a change.

Er, without 'previously undeclared' as "if yins go to one a dem abortion clinics, ye'll get kilt*" seems like terrorism to me.

...except that includes many actions of war. Maybe include something about the veiled nature of the assailant and their alliance to a cause not a state?

Terrorism: The use of suprise attack by an assailant, hidden and allied to a cause, against targets to coerce a change via the threat of further attacks.

* - although a nice tartan would be a comfort after the proceedure...

#135 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2006, 02:21 PM:

Molly Ivins today:

"...May I remind you what this election is about? Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, unprecedented presidential powers, unmatched incompetence, unparalleled corruption, unwarranted eavesdropping, Katrina, Enron, Halliburton, global warming, Cheney's secret energy task force, record oil company profits, $3 gasoline, FEMA, the Supreme Court, Diebold, Florida in 2000, Ohio in 2004, Terri Schiavo, stem cell research, golden parachutes, shrunken pensions, unavailable and expensive health care, habeas corpus, no weapons of mass destruction, sacrificed soldiers and Iraqi civilians, wasted billions, Taliban resurgence, expiration of the assault weapons ban, North Korea, Iran, intelligent design, swift boat hit squads, and on and on."

"This election is about that, but much more -- it's about honor, dignity and comity in this country. It's about the Constitution, which gives us this great nation. Bush ran on a pledge of "restoring honor and integrity" to the White House. Instead, he brought us Tom DeLay, Roy Blunt, Katherine Harris, John Doolittle, Jerry Lewis, Richard Pombo, Mark Foley, Dennis Hastert, David Safavian, Jack Abramoff, Ralph Reed, Karl Rove and an illegal and immoral war in Iraq. People, it's up to you..."

#136 ::: Howard Peirce ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2006, 02:58 PM:

On the meaning of terrorism: It's worth noting that the word is not derived from the English noun terror (14th c., from MFr. terreur). It's derived from the French word terrorisme (first cite in English: 1795), which originally referred specifically to the atmosphere of political violence following the French Revolution. Only later did the term come to refer to the practice of commiting individual acts of political violence.

I don't mean to suggest the etymological fallacy (i.e., that the "original" meaning is the correct one), only that the emotion of terror is a red herring when you're trying to understand terrorism.

Like chief and chef, terror and terrorism entered the English language hundreds of years apart.

Terrorism is an exclusively political act. Fear is not the primary goal, and may not be a goal at all. From the anarchists onward (at least), the real goal has been to trigger an overreaction from the target. It's about sowing mistrust in established institutions -- "heightening the contradictions," as the Trots put it.

#137 ::: Laurence ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2006, 03:09 PM:

the real goal has been to trigger an overreaction from the target

Mission accomplished, no?

#138 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2006, 03:18 PM:

Oui, oui...

#139 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2006, 03:29 PM:

About Molly Ivin's list, quoted by Serge at #135: The fact that Richard Pombo is one of the repincumbents most likely to lose his seat fills me with a degree of happiness which is almost like hope. One of the ways in which the threat of terrorism has been used to manipulate public opinion may not be apparent from east of the Cascade crest, but Pombo's persistant identification of all environmental activists with the tree-spikers and vandals of logging equipment and arsonists of forest research stations (aka environmental terrorists) has helped keep residents of the northwest forests from joining in common interest with conservation organizations.

#140 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2006, 07:07 PM:

Kip W altered a classic cartoon today.

#141 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2006, 07:14 PM:

JESR... One can hope. Of course, in 2004, I had hoped that the revelations of prisonners being tortured would tip the scales. It didn't. Well, only a few days left...

#142 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2006, 09:01 PM:

Yeah, I'm hoping the poll numbers hold and the Republicans get it in the neck this election, but the apparent reasons don't fill me with comfort. Torture prisoners, run secret prisons, abduct innocent people and do unspeakable things to them, bypass all court oversight in wiretapping US citizens, no problem. Cover up one of your own trying to get into the pants of the male pages, though, and you're in trouble. (Though it looks creepily like what was really happening was the party hierarchy trying to cover the scandal up for him in order to keep blackmail information on him. Who knows, though?)

#143 ::: Pedantic Peasant ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2006, 07:53 AM:

Howard Peirce @ 136

Thank you for the etymology. Your point is well taken, but at the same time, if you look at the "next step", both of these words evolved (albeit at different times) from the same master root, that middle French word terreur.

This is different from the case of say, quarrel (a bolt)and quarrel (an argument) which are from wholly different roots for linguistic meaning.

[The quarrel bolt derives from Middle English and Latin quadrus for square, based on the shape of the head;
The quarrel as fight comes from an Middle English and Latin querele complaint, from queri to complain

#144 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2006, 10:51 AM:

Anna in Portland #117: Christianity does have fundamentals (that's rather the point of fundamentalism), but one can be a Christian without holding to said fundamentals (reading the Bible as allegory, for example, rather than as literal sacred history).

#145 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2006, 10:57 AM:

Pedantic Peasant #126:

Good question. The answer is that one can be a Christian without taking the Bible literally, and that provided that one believes in the core redemptive message -- that God is love -- one can believe a range of things while still identifying as a committed Christian. There is a difference between a Quaker and a Jesuit, after all.

I use 'Islamism' to refer to certain Muslims because they see their religion as a political doctrine, and the '-ism' suffix relates that to other political doctrines such as liberalism, fascism, communism, or libertarianism. Andrew Sullivan's use of 'Christianism' to refer to the views of some Christian fundamentalists is, I believe, a good parallel.

#146 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2006, 11:59 AM:

...one can be a Christian without taking the Bible literally...

Sometimes (?) it feels like America is socially going backward. Watch the Fifties movie The King and I where that very point is made and one gets the sense that this was a fairly mainstream position. Look at things today.

#147 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2006, 07:02 PM:

Serge #146: Indeed!

#148 ::: Mez ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2006, 09:01 PM:

Serge (#146), if you mean the Deborah Kerr/Yul Brynner film about Anna Leonowen's experiences, that's a part of it that I never noticed, despite seeing it quite a few times — as my aged mother deteriorated in body & mind, one thing that kept us both happy was watching DVDs of old musicals.
When I can face seeing it again, I'll keep it in mind.

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