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June 23, 2009

Domestic Terrorism
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 11:05 AM *

The terrorist threat in America remains the same as it has always been.

The typical America terrorist is a white right-winger. Not just James W. Von Brunn, not just Scott Roeder, now along come Shawna Forde of Buena Vista, Arizona; Jason Eugene Bush of Kingman, Arizona; and Albert Robert Gaxiola of Tucson, Arizona.

These folks are from the Minutemen American Defense, a splinter group from the Minutemen Civil Defense Corps. After they got kicked out of the main group for being even crazier than the average Minuteman, they apparently financed their freelance border patrols with armed robbery, home invasion, and murder.

The story just popped up at CNN.under the headline Rogue Minutemen leader held in fatal home invasion.

Raul Flores thought federal agents had barged with guns drawn into his home in Arivaca, Arizona, in the middle of the night.

The woman and two men wore uniforms and identified themselves as U.S. Marshals. They claimed the house was surrounded. They said they were looking for an escaped prisoner, Flores’ wife told a 911 dispatcher.

But there was no backup waiting outside, and no fugitive. The marshals were imposters.

They had targeted Flores because they suspected he was a drug trafficker and they wanted to rob and kill him, according to the Pima County Sheriff’s Department.

As the intruders searched his home, Flores asked one of the men why his handgun was taped. The man responded by shooting and killing Flores.

“Someone just came in and shot my daughter and husband,” Flores’ wife frantically told 911. She tells the police operator that she was shot and left for dead with her husband, Raul Flores, 29, and daughter Brisenia, 9, who were both shot in the head.

Comments on Domestic Terrorism:
#1 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: June 23, 2009, 11:17 AM:

I believe that for some noticeable span of the 20th century, the Ku Klux Klan was the most active and dangerous terrorist group operating within the US.

And I speculate, without evidence or expertise, that ideologically motivated terrorists, especially loners who shoot someone or shoot up a school/church/museum, are basically people who are inclined to scary and violent behavior, and who simply find an ideology that pushes them to find an acceptable target. But those violent people are made much more effective, because the ideology also convinces non-monstrous people to go along with them. The thugs beating up or lynching some black guy were thugs, who would have found some reason to beat up someone regardless. The sheriff who wouldn't arrest them for it, the jurors who wouldn't convict them, the normal citizens who wouldn't testify against them, even the respectable older men who helped choose the targets--those are the folks whose support is ensured by the ideological goal, and who make the thugs far more effective and dangerous.

#2 ::: Dave Fried ::: (view all by) ::: June 23, 2009, 11:52 AM:

There are three basic motivations for people to carry out inhuman acts against other people:
* money
* power
* hatred

Money is why the drug cartels are shooting up northern Mexico.

Power is why the Iranian government is shooting up its own people.

Hatred is why (typically right-wing and/or religious) extremists across the world carry out terroristic acts.

I don't think an extreme viewpoint is enough to motivate this sort of things. I think you have to dehumanize the people you are attacking first, to the point where murder is justifiable. And the Right deals so openly in dehumanization and hatred, even in the "mainstream media", that it's hard to understand why we don't see more of this stuff happening.

#3 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: June 23, 2009, 12:09 PM:

Flores asked one of the men why his handgun was taped. The man responded by shooting and killing Flores.

Ok, that was obviously a bad question to ask.

Can someone explain what the bad question means?

#4 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: June 23, 2009, 12:12 PM:

We are going to be treated again and again to the spectacle of right-wing columnists and bloggers insisting that the people who they steamed up about immigrants, terrorists, Muslims and so on, are all nutjobs with no ideology. Because their words have no effect. I wonder why they're so busy uttering them?

#5 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: June 23, 2009, 12:12 PM:

I'm pretty sure that was the subject of the thread I was commendig PJ on.

Orcinus has been my Go-to place for the subject, for years.

#6 ::: Dave Fried ::: (view all by) ::: June 23, 2009, 12:23 PM:

Niall @3:

AFAIK, tape can be used to get a more fitted grip, but some gun nuts and criminals put it on because they think it will make the weapon harder to trace (wearing gloves and/or wiping down the weapon after you use it is better, but nobody said they were smart).

I assume that these guys were doing it for the latter reason and got flustered when they were called on it. It's not the sort of thing real federal agents would do.

#7 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 23, 2009, 12:23 PM:

It's putting friction tape on the grip.

You can get commercial kits for this, if you like.

It's supposed to improve handling if your hands get sweaty. It's also allegedly used to keep your fingerprints from being recoverable from the weapon. (But, in fact, you can still get fingerprints off the weapon, including by taking the tape off, then getting the fingerprints of the guy who put the tape on the weapon from the adhesive on the back side.)

#8 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: June 23, 2009, 12:28 PM:

Ah, duck tape, is there anything it can't do?

#9 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: June 23, 2009, 12:29 PM:

More seriously, thanks, the report made no sense to me at all.

#10 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: June 23, 2009, 12:33 PM:

The version I saw (sorry, can't remember exactly where - probably a UK news source) a few days ago, they shot the child for the simple reason that they didn't want to leave anyone who could identify them. Because, hey, what's the life of the child of a possibly-drug-trafficker against the funding of a "mission" to protect the USA?

Aren't you glad your security is in such good hands? /sarcasm

#11 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: June 23, 2009, 01:01 PM:

Having taken the risk of spoiling my lunch hour already, let me point out this story popped up here over a week ago.

#12 ::: Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: June 23, 2009, 01:15 PM:

Oh, John Ringo fans, no.

#13 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 23, 2009, 01:16 PM:

A little cross-thready: how come this doesn't put all the Minutemen on the terrorist watch list?

Oh, wait, I don't know for sure that it doesn't, because the list is seeekrit.

#14 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 23, 2009, 01:28 PM:

Thanks, John.

Also worth noting: Bush, the "Gunny" of your referenced story, is also wanted in connection with the murder of a homeless man (one Hector Manuel Lopez Partida) back in 1997.

#15 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: June 23, 2009, 01:35 PM:

John A Arkansawyer @ 11

So that's where I'd seen it.

#16 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: June 23, 2009, 02:09 PM:

David:

I don't think hatred explains much--it's kind of a generic explanation for doing awful things to someone, once the more obvious motives have been ruled out.

ISTM that a critical part of terrorism is a model of the world in which some violent or attrocious acts have deep meaning, and might reasonably lead to achieving some goals. Generic hatred will get you isolated beatings and murders--at the worst end, something like the murder of Matthew Shepherd. But a real campaign of terrorism (say, bombing gay bars or something) requires some deeper belief about this actually having some effect. I think it requires the terrorist to have a plan, some reason to choose some targets over others, some goal.

I gather there's a very common picture of the world among terrorists, which I think is widespread among white supremacists: The terrorists see themselves as defenders of a group (whites) who need to be "woken up" to the struggle. By carrying out various attrocities, they hope to trigger either open repression or open conflict, and thus to recruit more of their group to the struggle. I think some subset of white supremacists would like to start a race war, on the theory that most whites would then join their side of the war. And this is built on a worldview in which whites are under siege, oppressed, beaten down, etc[1], and need only to recognize and throw off their chains to join the cause[2]. Similar rhetoric comes from some Christian political/social movements (cf the "war on Christmas").

[1] Which isn't exactly consistent with observable reality, but then, part of the function of an ideology is to help you blur out the inconvenient bits of reality.

[2] Note that not all people who believe that there is some inevitable conflict between blacks and whites want race war, though. Plenty of politicians and ideologues want to use that same dynamic to accomplish conventional political change (say, restricting immigration), though ISTM that they're playing with fire.

#17 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: June 23, 2009, 03:30 PM:

albatross--

For a different version of the same "need to kick-start the coming conflict", consider Charles Manson's Helter-skelter prophecy. Equally obsessed and violent, even if he's coming in at a different angle, and on a different side.

#18 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: June 23, 2009, 03:31 PM:

I thought that ELF was the most active domestic terrorist group. Lotsa arson from those folks. (My brother's wedding reception was nearly derailed when they firebombed a research facility near the arboretum they'd reserved.)

#19 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: June 23, 2009, 03:39 PM:

Has Rush figured out a way to blame this on Nancy Pelosi?

#20 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 23, 2009, 03:51 PM:

Compared to the Aryan Nations ELF is nothing.

#21 ::: Chris Eagle ::: (view all by) ::: June 23, 2009, 05:16 PM:

@18: Wikipedia tells me you probably mean something else, what for a moment I thought the Erisian Liberation Front was alive and well…

#22 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: June 23, 2009, 05:26 PM:

All this talk about domestic terrorism reminds me that Mister B supposedly went away on a world tour. The cops were never able to pin Hazel down for that one.

#23 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: June 23, 2009, 08:22 PM:

Oh yeah. I looked into Gunny: I am pretty sure I said he was a fraud from the get-go (Marine Corps rank, Army Awards, and Army Unit).

Six-tours overseas, and the awards were presented in the wrong order. Then I looked into him. Unh-hunh. Did time more than 10 years ago (when the services weren't doing waivers for felons). When did he get his medals and overseas tours? How did he, at 24, have all that time in the SF.

Posers, and common thugs.

Re pinning it on Pelosi: read the comment threads at Orcinus (moderated, and so pretty good). There are people who "explain" things like this ar the natural outcome of the oppression of whites, and the rise in activity is because, "more of the Oppressed White Race are becoming aware of their shackles and rising to throw them off, before they are wiped out by the non-whites."

They go hand in hand with the apologists who explain that no true anti-illegal groups would have anything to do with this kind of violence and that Shawna Forde spoke at one of their conferences was a huge mistake, and she wasn't supposed to be there at all, blah-blah-blah.

It's a strange world they live in.

#24 ::: Tony Zbaraschuk ::: (view all by) ::: June 23, 2009, 08:29 PM:

Fear rather than hatred, I think. Not that hatred is entirely off the map, but I suspect it may be a symptom rather than a cause.

There are right-wing terrorists, granted. There are also left-wing ones.

#25 ::: Cygnet ::: (view all by) ::: June 23, 2009, 08:53 PM:

This doesn't surprise me. Sadden me, but doesn't surprise me. I'm an Arizona native and live in a rural area ... there's racism from the top down in this state. The only thing that surprised me about this story was that the guys were actually caught.

#26 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: June 23, 2009, 09:01 PM:

Tony at 24: Names and cites, please. Only current decade: SDS and the Weathermen don't count. I'll stipulate that some of the Animal Liberation Movement actions are both wacko and criminal.

#27 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 23, 2009, 09:14 PM:

I didn't say there are no left-wing terrorists. I did say that the typical terrorist in America is a white right-winger.

See also: http://www.publicgood.org/reports/wmdbrief.pdf

#28 ::: beth meacham ::: (view all by) ::: June 23, 2009, 10:55 PM:

They made the mistake of committing their crimes in Pima County instead of Cochise. Thus, the Sheriff took it damn seriously.

I live less than 50 miles from the Mexican border. Those psycho Minutemen occasionally parade around on their ATVs around here, harassing my neighbors. We've told them more than once that they're trespassing on our private road, and to get the hell away. That they've turned to terrorism doesn't surprise me, but it does alarm me.

#29 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: June 23, 2009, 11:25 PM:

Lizzy: ALF and ELF are committing terrorism. But they aren't the typical domestic terrorist.

Tony Zbaraschuck: I'm with Jim, show your work. I won't deny there are some leftist terrorists in the US, but to make a direct (and somewhat dismissive) comparison) is to make a false equivalence.

#30 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2009, 02:45 AM:

"Fear" and "hatred" both seem inexact to me. Plenty of people feel one or the other or both, but don't become terrorists. A much smaller segment of the population just wants to be told that there's a class or category of people they're allowed to mistreat.

#31 ::: Micah ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2009, 03:44 AM:

I'd say that the underlying difference between terrorists and others is a fundamental belief that violent protest is effective. Most people recognize the results of the past century, showing that non-violent protest is the most effective path, but many do not.

Once you believe that violent protest is effective, having an issue that you feel is sufficiently important to justify the violence is a fairly small step removed. The fear and hatred come in at this stage, but they're not what separates a terrorist from a protester.

If we go off of fear and hatred, many Bush protesters should have naturally become terrorists. I certainly know that I was frightened of what he was going to do to my country. Hate might be a step past where I was, but quite a few people did fall into that category. Yet anti-Bush sentiment led to lots of non-violent protests, but not to terrorism.

(Of course, describing terrorism as "violent protest" feels a little off, but I think it's logically sound, protest being demonstration to provoke political/social change, terrorism being violence to provoke political/social change.)

#32 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2009, 04:21 AM:

Tony Zbaraschuk @ 24: "There are right-wing terrorists, granted. There are also left-wing ones."

And when they bust into someone's house posing as federal agents and kill them, or shoot down a doctor during church, you can be sure that we will condemn them loudly. Until that point, I think I'll focus on the terrorism that actually happened though.

Micah @ 31: "Most people recognize the results of the past century, showing that non-violent protest is the most effective path, but many do not."

Off the top of my head: Iran, China, Vietnam, Indonesia until 1999, and Russia. These are all countries where within the past fifty years the leadership was determined by violence. Violence is actually quite an effective way of capturing political power--you just don't end up with a particularly stable country, or with clean hands.

#33 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2009, 06:46 AM:

heresiarch @ 32:
Off the top of my head: Iran, China, Vietnam, Indonesia until 1999, and Russia. These are all countries where within the past fifty years the leadership was determined by violence. Violence is actually quite an effective way of capturing political power--you just don't end up with a particularly stable country, or with clean hands.

Which of those countries are cases where the leadership was determined from below by violence, in the last fifty years? (The only one that I can see which might qualify is Iran; the rest are all outside that window.) That's what I think Micah was getting at with the idea of "violent protest."

More generally: Full-scale popular uprising/insurrection/civil war can sometimes succeed, especially if there is outside support. But terrorism by itself has a very poor record of success, if by "success" we mean "achieving most or all of a group's goals." Most terrorist groups end up disbanding, being suppressed/eliminated by the police, or giving up violence and joining the political process.

#34 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2009, 07:43 AM:

Terrorism is effective. That's why it's committed. Try to get an abortion in Wichita.

#35 ::: Michael I ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2009, 07:52 AM:

Peter Erwin@33

Iran isn't really an example either. The movement to overthrow the Shah was mostly nonviolent, at least until after it took power.

#36 ::: Micah ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2009, 08:10 AM:

What Michael I @35 and Peter Erwin @33 said. Violence works for many things, it just doesn't provoke political change from a minority position, which is what terrorism is for. If you have a majority and want violence, you use war, not terrorism.

#37 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2009, 09:03 AM:

Peter Erwin @ 33: "Which of those countries are cases where the leadership was determined from below by violence, in the last fifty years?"

"From below" strikes me as a term with a very ambiguous definition, and somewhat circular--those who seize power obviously have it, and therefore aren't "from below," hm? In the interests of avoiding a game of No True Scotsman, let me define the scope of my claim: violence is a common and effective tactic with which radical minorities can gain political dominance.

This clearly holds true for the Chinese Communists, and the Viet Cong certainly did not oppose their various opponents with non-violence. Iran I will withdraw--my history was shakier than I thought. Indonesia is a pretty clear-cut military coup, however, and was quite violent. Russia--well, I think any time tanks are actually advancing on the house of parliament it counts as a violent coup.

I'd also nominate Argentinia and Chile for inclusion, though my South American history is also shaky enough that I'll bow to anyone with real expertise.

#38 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2009, 09:24 AM:

Is anyone going to point out that the right-wing punditocracy and news media have been encouraging lawlessness and violence for years?

#39 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2009, 09:59 AM:

Teresa:

I haven't listened to much right wing talk radio or watched much right wing TV in some time now[1], so maybe I've missed it. But my small exposure to this stuff has not included many cases of those guys encouraging actual violence or lawlessness--like encouraging people to bomb abortion clinics or shoot abortion doctors or lynch uppity blacks or bash gays or whatever. What I have heard and seen is the use of inflamatory rhetoric and words, which probably encourage people already inclined in the direction of violence to feel like they're justified in doing so. Terms like "war" and "treason" and "socialism," and comparisons between Obama and Hitler[2], those are all ways of raising the anxiety and tension and anger of listeners. I suspect they do this mainly because it gets them more audience, but there's a negative effect there.

Now, I'm sure there are cases where right wingers are encouraging this, even right wingers with some non-marginal voice in the media. But it's not the general pattern I've seen. Is this because I am not listening to/reading the right (wrong) things?

[1] I'll read far right sources of information or analysis, because they're often interesting even when they're wrong or evil. But not propoganda or lowbrow rabble rousing--life's too short.

[2] This isn't exactly limited to the right; plenty of folks were using inflamatory rhetoric against Bush and company when he was president.

#40 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2009, 10:08 AM:

albatross @ 39... Regarding our side's rhetoric against Bush (a name I wish never to have to utter or type ever again), there was a slight difference. It's his side that accused the other side (aka us) of being traitors for disagreeing with him.

#41 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2009, 10:12 AM:

Teresa #30:

Yeah, I suspect this is a big part of it. Being told there's someone you're allowed to hate and to do awful stuff to without guilt is very common in all kinds of mass violence, from war to terrorism to violent bigotry. The same thing is behind the warporn phenomenon of fighting faceless evil hordes of Orcs or Trollocs or Japs or Injuns or whatever--you never have to reflect on the fact that you're cheering on the slaughter of human beings with feelings and lives and families.

The war on terror gave us another demonstration of this, showing us otherwise civilized and apparently decent people who were (and are) ready to justify torturing scary brown terrorism suspects, ruling those people outside the realm of human beings with rights, and quite a few people who favor really horrifying policies toward Muslims[1].

ISTM that we've all got the equipment to declare everyone outside our tribe subhuman, that this equipment is installed at the factory, and that it takes some careful thought and self-training not to allow that equipment to be turned on. But if you need people murdered or even just mistreated, you want to turn that equipment on in other people--as with the nasty anti-immigrant rhetoric from some people who want to restrict immigration, or the "welfare queen" imagery used to justify welfare cuts/reform.

[1] My favorite surreal moment in this bit of national criminal insanity was when an acquaintance of mine, a lifelong civil libertarian and peace activist, argued in favor of threatening to nuke Mecca in response to any large-scale terrorist attack against us.

#42 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2009, 10:20 AM:

Serge:

The point is, inflamatory rhetoric is like terrorism--it's a tactic, not a side of a conflict or an ideology. It's used by lots of different people, for both good and bad causes[1].

And I assure you, plenty of right wingers are/were convinced that their inflamatory rhetoric was justified, in exactly the same way you are.

[1] Of course, when we like the terrorists and their cause, they become freedom fighters. And when we hate someone, we're not using inflamatory rhetoric, we're simply telling it like it is--those jackbooted thugs/blame-America-first traitors simply don't like hearing the truth.

#43 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2009, 10:35 AM:

Micah #31:

It's worth noting that they think violence is effective for their goals. Those may not be the ones they proclaim, or goals that would be sensible given their alleged position. Often, those goals involve internal power struggles within a movement or country, and the need to be seen to have accomplished something.

#44 ::: Micah ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2009, 11:50 AM:

albatross @43:

It shouldn't amuse me so, but I always laugh when Bin Laden takes credit for something (which he may have actually instigated) and it's explained as Al-Qaeda needing to stay relevant. I start thinking of the terrorists like a bunch of Hollywood stars, trying to drum up press for their latest movies.

#45 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2009, 11:57 AM:

albatross, #42 especially:

The thing is, you can talk all day about how everyone has their own viewpoint, and they see us the same way we see them. But there really is such a thing as material, objective reality. Reality is not impressed by rhetoric or false equivalences -- and it always gets the last word.

When we were criticizing Shrub, we were responding to his real actions -- which not only were largely public and mostly verifiable, but they had real effects, especially on us. In contrast, the current right-wing criticisms of Obama are a mixture of outright lies, and boogie-woogie scare stories about "what he's going to do". More, most of the scare stories are at least implausible, and mostly impossible -- not only with respect to his well-established politics and purposes, but also in terms of how politics and law enforcement work in America.

In short, I reject the false equivalence of "their rhetoric" with "our rhetoric". One side here is flat out lying, with the specific intent of inciting rebellion against the American government and bloodshed against the American people. The other side is attempting to work within the system to improve America's strategic position, the welfare of its people, and its future in a world that's much bigger than we are.

#46 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2009, 11:58 AM:

albatross: Michael Reagan said Howard Dean needed to be hanged. Rush Limbaugh said all, but a couple; to keep on college campuses as curiosities, liberals needed to be killed.

Ann Coulter says a few liberal need to be killed to show the rest of us we can be. She also says the only way to speak to us is with baseball bats.

O'Reilly, Beck, Malkin, regularly call us traitors (as do Savage, Coulter, Reagan, Limbaugh).

O'Reilly said he'd love to, "get my hands on Tiller," and then back-pedaled to "wink and nod" territory, with, "Oh, well I can't really do that, that would be vigilantism"

They have set the stage. If advertising works, then so to one must assume a steady monologue of hate and eliminationary rhetoric must have some effect.

And I don't see the equivalent sorts of highly paid, widely seen/heard/read (because I left out the print media pundits, like Goldberg) types saying the same sorts of thing.

ALF and ELF are terrorist groups, but they are outside the mainstream. The white-power/anti-abortion, etc. types are inside the mainstream. The whackjobs like Coulter and Reagan are embraced by the powerful (One gets paid hundreds of thousands of dollars a year to rant, the other gets to share the stage at Republican events. I want to say Reagan was at the Convention).

When the actually carry out the things the talking heads are screaming for, then they are, "repudiated", but the encouraging words don't stop.

#47 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2009, 12:05 PM:

Yeah, they say "will no one rid me of this troublesome abortion doctor/liberal/whatever," but then they throw the killers under the first bus.

#48 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2009, 01:06 PM:

heresiarch @32:
Violence is actually quite an effective way of capturing political power--you just don't end up with a particularly stable country, or with clean hands.

From my son's Cows in Action* books, a relevant exchane:

"You have to realize that fighting isn't the answer to everything."
"Yes it is!"
"What's the answer to 2 + 2, then?"
"Fighting!"

-----
* Time-traveling uplifted hyperintelligent secret agent cattle. No, really.

#49 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2009, 01:16 PM:

abi @ 48... Time-traveling uplifted hyperintelligent secret agent cattle

Doctor Moo?

#50 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2009, 01:20 PM:

Serge @48:
Doctor Moo?

Not yet, but the Ter-moo-nator came after their ancestors at one point. It's a merciless robotic bull.

#51 ::: Michael I ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2009, 01:31 PM:

heresiarch@37

Argentina (1976) and Chile (1973) were military coups. Russia was a power struggle WITHIN the political elite (if you're referring to Yeltsin's use of force against political opponents in Parliament) and Yeltsin was ALREADY president when this took place.

Someone who is ALREADY in control of an important part of the military can certainly use that control to seize full power. Military coups do take place. Social protest movements, however, in general are more likely to succeed if they are basically nonviolent.

(China is outside the time window, as the Communists took power in 1949. Vietnam is also outside the time window. The Viet Minh took control of North Vietnam in 1954. The conquest of South Vietnam in 1975 was basically a more or less standard military conquest.)

#52 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2009, 07:11 PM:

albatross @ 39: "I haven't listened to much right wing talk radio or watched much right wing TV in some time now[1], so maybe I've missed it."

To add to Terry's list, a pastor praying for God to strike Obama down.

@ 42: "The point is, inflamatory rhetoric is like terrorism--it's a tactic, not a side of a conflict or an ideology. It's used by lots of different people, for both good and bad causes[1]."

There's a qualitative difference between inflammatory rhetoric and eliminationist rhetoric. Inflammatory rhetoric is indeed used by both sides, but out and out eliminationist rhetoric really only comes from the right. If you need more evidence, then I suggest doing a search for "eliminationism" on Orcinus.

abi @ 48: *snrk* I'm lucky my tea water was still in the pot boiling when I read that. Otherwise, you'd owe me a new laptop. Well, an old laptop.

(Sounds like an awesome series.)

Michael I @ 51: "Argentina (1976) and Chile (1973) were military coups. Russia was a power struggle WITHIN the political elite (if you're referring to Yeltsin's use of force against political opponents in Parliament) and Yeltsin was ALREADY president when this took place."

Minority: check. Radical: check. Used violence to acheive political ends: check. If you think my definition is a poor one then please, criticize it! Ignoring it isn't very productive though.

"(China is outside the time window, as the Communists took power in 1949. Vietnam is also outside the time window. The Viet Minh took control of North Vietnam in 1954. The conquest of South Vietnam in 1975 was basically a more or less standard military conquest.)"

I have this terrible habit, which is that I use "the last fifty years" as a synonym for "from the end of WWII until now." So yes, you're right: The communists won China in 1949, and the Viet Cong Vietnam in 1954. But fifty years is a purely arbitrary number--the examples are no less valid simply because they fall beyond that range.

(Oh, and Israel.)

#53 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2009, 07:24 PM:

We can define terrorism as premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents.

Or we could define it as the unlawful use of force and violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.

Your choice.

#54 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2009, 07:45 PM:

Vile white supremacist talk show host Hal Turner arrested for threatening judges:

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/31532924/ns/us_news-crime_and_courts/

#55 ::: will shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2009, 08:10 PM:

heresiarch @ 37, I've learned Wikipedia is even more useful than I thought:

CIA activities in Argentina - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

CIA activities in Indonesia - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

CIA activities in Chile - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

and a non-Wikipedia bonus page:CIA Acknowledges Ties to Pinochet’s Repression

@ 52: Yeah, I think Israel counts as a case of domestic violence being successful.

#56 ::: Mark ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2009, 08:12 PM:

Jim @ 53, I vaguely recall from distant days at Brandeis a refinement of your second definition; a professor asserted that "classical" terrorism was specifically intended to goad the government to overreact, i.e., to bring on an unsupportable reign of terror in response to the terrorists' provocations, against which the general populace would rise up in protest and force the change the terrorists actually desired in the first place. Any use of violence to try to leverage change more directly, he considered a more debased sense of the term.

I've been knocking my brains around for the past hour trying to remember whom he cited for the premise. Quick Googling suggests the now-accepted contrast between "classical" terrorism and "modern" terrorism is that classical targeted the power hierarchy directly and modern targets indiscriminately.

#57 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2009, 08:52 PM:

heresiarch @ 52:
The trouble with your definition ("use of violence by a radical minority to achieve political ends") is that it's different from -- to begin with, substantially broader than -- what Micah was originally talking about, which was (nonstate) terrorism.

Micah's argument, as I understood it, was that the use of "violent protest" by groups not part of the power structure was not as effective as nonviolent protest movements.

The triumph of the Chinese communists in 1949 and the Viet Minh in 1954 (or, to pick an example from the last 50 years, the Sandinistas in 1979) were the result of sustained guerilla warfare, not terrorism. In the case of China and Vietnam, final triumph came from full-scale conventional military warfare.

Military coups are the results of groups who already have military power -- frequently, those in direct charge of the military itself. Again, it's not the same thing as terrorism.

Your definition would apply equally well to the conquests of Genghis Khan, or the First Crusade, or the Arab conquests of the 7th Century.

Now, I think there probably are some examples of more-or-less classical terrorist groups actually succeeding in their aims -- the birth of Israel is one, and so is the suppression of black voting in the post-Civil-War American South by the KKK and other groups [*]

[*] The earliest use of the term "terrorism" that I've come across is a report by General Phil Sheridan condemning such actions in the late 1860s.

#58 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2009, 09:00 PM:

Oops -- hit "post" before I was quite finished. So the last paragraph of my previous post ought to be:

Now, I think there probably are some examples of more-or-less classical terrorist groups actually succeeding in their aims -- the birth of Israel is one, and so is the suppression of black voting in the post-Civil-War American South by the KKK and similar groups [*]. But the overall success rate of terrorist groups is quite low.

[*] The earliest use of the term "terrorism" that I've come across is a report by General Phil Sheridan condemning such actions in the late 1860s.

#59 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2009, 09:39 PM:

Terry Karney, #23, Miss Manners had an answer for that kind of guy, too.

#60 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2009, 02:35 AM:

James D. Macdonald @ 53: "We can define terrorism as premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents."

Why just subnational groups or clandestine agents? I feel that the defining characteristic of terrorism is the "terror" part of it, and there's nothing about terror that means it can't be wielded by state-backed groups or recognized groups just as easily. More easily, really.

"Or we could define it as the unlawful use of force and violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives."

The question of lawfulness is a tricky one, especially when talking in the context of revolution. What was illegal can become legal quite quickly once one's allies are in power. For the same reason, differentiating between state and non-state actors is often difficult: if both sides claim legitimacy, who is committing terrorism against whom?

Other than that, I think this definition is pretty sound.

Peter Erwin @ 57: "The trouble with your definition ("use of violence by a radical minority to achieve political ends") is that it's different from -- to begin with, substantially broader than -- what Micah was originally talking about, which was (nonstate) terrorism."

Yes. I am trying to situate terrorism within a larger framework than "classical" terrorists. Attaching endless tags like non-state, non-military, etc. to terrorism doesn't clarify the issue, it blurs it. "People who lack the training to employ violence or the money and support to purchase tools of violence don't often succeed in using violence to achieve their goals" isn't a very useful observation.

"Military coups are the results of groups who already have military power -- frequently, those in direct charge of the military itself. Again, it's not the same thing as terrorism."

The military is typically not part of the political power structure. When they exercise their potential for violence in a political capacity it is clearly a violation of the society's political norms, and it is clearly violence and fear of violence that is driving it. Again, I reject your definition of terrorism.

If you are a radical minority, you have only two ways of acheiving power. The first is to spread your views around as widely as possible and try to grow your minority into a majority. The second is to seize power by force. Niether of these techniques has a particularly high chance of success--this is the fate of a radical minority. Between the two, though, force has by far the better track record. You'll notice the lack of teacher-led coups, or accountant-led coups throughout history--it's the segment of society with a facility with violence that tends to get its way a disproportionately large percentage of the time. Any claim that wishes to portray violence as an ineffective path to political power must attach such a litany of exceptions and limitations that it rapidly becomes ridiculous. If one wishes to seize power, developing a capacity for violence seems like a natural choice.

#61 ::: Randolph ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2009, 06:35 AM:

I think this type of violence is an expression of rage from people who feel helpless and victimized, who are without empathy, and are willing to use violence. There is generally a group dynamic; this is seldom the act of an unsupported individual. "Fear" and "hatred" seem to me inadequate to describe the motivations. Even for people who have a genuine well-founded grievance, such violence is in general counterproductive.

#62 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2009, 07:34 AM:

I don't like any definition of terrorism that leaves out the wanton destruction of Dresden.

#63 ::: Michael I ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2009, 07:44 AM:

heresiarch@60

In those sorts of countries where military coups occur the military IS typically part of the political power structure.

IF you already control the military or a substantial portion thereof (and if attitudes within the military are favorable toward the use of military force to gain power), THEN violence is often a successful way of gaining political power. No one is disputing this.

If you do not ALREADY control a substantial portion of the military, then violence is generally not a successful way of gaining power.

#64 ::: Tim Hall ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2009, 07:57 AM:

The trouble with terrorism is it's such an emotionally-charged word that almost everyone tends to indulge in ideological gerrymandering depending on which groups they want to include or exclude.

You could argue that if the purpose of terrorism is to cause fear and disruption for political ends, then John Reid (the British Home Secretary who started the War of Liquids) is a terrorist.

#65 ::: Torrilin ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2009, 08:50 AM:

I don't like any definition of terrorism that leaves out the wanton destruction of Dresden.

I don't *like* it either. But I would generally class the Dresden fire-bombings as a war crime. Trying to use one word to cover all the violent evil that people do to each other ends up leaving the word very non-specific, which does not promote communication.

That does not make Dresden less terrifying. War crimes in a lot of ways are just as bad as terrorist acts, because humans need for their governments to be as neutral as possible and as consistent as possible... it is an ideal that government rarely lives up to. A government that can commit a war crime is not being neutral, consistent, proportionate or anything at all that has to do with reasoned and measured thought based upon reality. It is very sensible to be scared by this.

It seems logical to me that many of the personality traits and human behavior problems that lead to terrorism also can lead to war crimes. But working within a system that is viewed as legitimate is very different from working outside the system in a way that is publicly treated as illegitimate or extralegal. The things a legitimate member of a government can do (such as Obama's decision to continue certain Bush policies that I believe are war crimes) have power and authority in a way that a Klan rally downtown does not. President Obama has minions on a scale beyond anything a Klan Wizard does, and his minions have tools and equipment that is beyond the means of almost every country on the planet. A Klan Wizard cannot viably plan and execute an invasion of Nigeria to engage in "ethnic cleansing" and incidentally capture a major source of oil production.

#66 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2009, 09:36 AM:

Terry #46:

Fair enough. As I said, I don't follow this kind of media much. One nitpick, though--I don't think white supremacists/white nationalists/whatnot are in any sense in the mainstream of conservative or Republican thought. I've seen no evidence for that, and a fair bit against it.

One question that comes to mind here is who we consider mainstream. Conservative rabble rousers and liberal ones seem to me to be distributed differently--with conservative rabble rousers largely doing talk radio or appearing on Fox News. Who would you consider to be similar on the left? The ones I can think of off the top of my head are Al Franken, Michael Moore, Jon Stewart, Al Sharpton, and Jesse Jackson. Who else? Would you include the political skits and such on SNL? They played a part in the election, and definitely were skewed in one direction despite some efforts at balance. That was also my direction, and I didn't object (and also, much of the lampooning of Palin was genuinely very funny), but it wasn't hard at all to see the skew. Would you include spokesmen for the NAACP and La Raza? Left-leaning academics?

One thing that makes me wary of an exercise in finding damning quotes by your political enemies is that confirmation bias makes it *really* easy to only remember the offensive stuff said by people on the other side, while silently excusing or discarding the offensive stuff said by your side. Thus, Ann Coulter is a mainstream spokesman for the right, but Al Sharpton is just some loudmouth the media puts on TV from time to time. (Note: This isn't a statement that the two are equivalent, it's a statement that it's easy to fool yourself into seeing what you expect to see, especially where you have strong feelings one way vs. the other.)

But honestly, I have very little interest in watching/reading/listening to rabble rousing dumb commentary in order to get a sense of how much eliminationist or nasty inflamatory rhetoric is being used, so all I can do is to note the risk of misleading yourself through confirmation bias. (And my biases aren't yours, but I have a pretty damned low opinion of the Right in this country right now.)

#67 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2009, 09:44 AM:

Among the other fuzzy parts of a terrorism definition, it's worth noting that terrorist groups/movements have a wide range of relationships with governments. Off the top of my head:

a. Some are in active conflict with all or nearly all governments. (Think of Al Qaida.)

b. Some are quietly supported by government A to harm government B. (Think of the Afghan fighters during the Soviet invasion.)

c. Some are quietly supported by government A to deniably do bad things with the territory controlled by government A. (Think of death squads in Latin America, or the Klan and state governments in the South.)

d. Some are de facto local governments not recognized as states. (Think Hamas and Hezbolah and previously, the Tamil Tigers.)

I think one category that shouldn't be included in the definition of terrorism is where the terror is explicitly done by a government. In that case, it's evil and awful, but it's somehow different from terrorism. (Among other things, there's a clear chain of command and people to hold responsible. Fighting the Klan and fighting Jim Crow laws are different sorts of things.)

#68 ::: Kelly McCullough ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2009, 10:15 AM:

Albatross @ 66 I think that you may be incorrect on who and who is not a voice of mainstream Republican thought.

Rush Limbaugh, whose racist comments about Obama are many and easily googlable, was recently picked as the voice of the Republican party by the largest group of people willing to say the party has any spokesperson. Pat Buchanan just invited Peter Brimelow, editor of white supremacist site VDARE dot com to speak at the upcoming conference for Buchanan's group, the American Cause. Remember that Buchanan was a senior adviser to American presidents Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, and Ronald Reagan. CPAC has had Coulter as a featured speaker.

These people are not just hateful talking heads blatherering in the wilderness. They are repeatedly given a prominent role by significant portions of the Republican party.

#69 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2009, 12:00 PM:

#58 Peter Erwin

The terrorist acts by the Stern Gang etc. were actually roundly condemned by most of the Jews in the Levant. The blowing up of the King David Hotel was an incident that is in a gray area--it was the headquarters of the British leadership who were allowing Islamic terrorists to rather freely commit atrocities against Jews, and denying Jews access to weapons and munitions for self-defense--that it, the view exists that the King David Hotel was a legitimate military target, and there were phonecalls made announcing that there was going to be an attack... which as the Internet and TV etc. did not exist at the time to widely disseminate warnings to the public, didn;t get to the public because the recipients of the phonecalls for whatever reasons did not pass the warnings on to anyone else.

The terrorism on the part of Jews, was in response to decades of atrocities committed against Jews in not only Europe, but to the native Jews in the Middle East--massacres in the regions around the Jordan River, massacres in what today is Iraq, etc., etc, etc., dating back to the late 1880s and 1890s--there was a general uprising of Nationalism all over the world, and the victims included hundreds of thousands of Armenians, thousands of Jews (the mass atrocities in National Socialist Germany and the territories it occupied, were a generation later), and other groups who were not the ones in political and social control in the regions of rising nationalism.

Amin al-Husayn/Husseini/Hussein, older generation relative of Saddam Hussein and in whose household Saddam Hussein in part was raised, was the single most responsible person for the continuing messes in the Middle East. The British appointed him Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, and he proceeded to create bigger bloodbaths and incite more intolterance and hatred than he was already promoting and promulgating, not only against Jews, but also againsthis Muslim social and political opposition....

A small percentage of the future Israelis only turned to terrorism after the slaughter without attempts at intervention by any non-Jewish institutions, and without any country in the world except China allowing open immigration to refugees trying to flee, of millions of Jews in Europe and Asia.

#70 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2009, 12:40 PM:

Albatross #66: Who would you consider to be similar on the left? The ones I can think of off the top of my head are Al Franken, Michael Moore, Jon Stewart, Al Sharpton, and Jesse Jackson.

Another false equivalence, as none of those are suggesting or supporting violent attacks on their enemies. Get back to me when Al SharphairSharpton starts asking his audience why nobody's killed off, e.g., Bernie Madoff.

#71 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2009, 01:32 PM:

#70 David Harmon

Bingo!

A thug is a thug is a thug. There are people across the spectrum, who are thugs and/or bullies, who claim veneers of Belief to go out and perpetrate atrocities claiming their Belief as authorization. These days the fashion is that the arch-so-called-conservatives provide thug-friendliness and "moral" support. All those sites and people who were in effect putting virtual bounties on murdering MDs who performed abortions where other MDs had ceased to do so under terrorist treats, who claimed "I'm an ENTERTAINER" when talking about killing people whose politics and values they are intolerant of...

I admit to saving that there are certain people in the USA whose head belong up on pikestaffs on display for their roles in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi, for the abrogration of the US Constutution and Bill of Rights, for election fraud and interference, for appointing false judges and extremist proselytizing intolerant bigots to "lead" the US military and inculcate military academy cadets with the same bigoted intolerant atrocity-excusing and rape and murder-promoting "values"....

My views the influences are that the people I think deserving of the pikestaffs, stepped far over the line of what's allowed and respected by the Constitution and Bill of Rights, and had themselves committed acts of domestic and foreign terrorism and abuse, committed acts of terrorist and abuse against whistle-blowers, and prevented any meaningful and open and honest discussion, investigation, and redress.

I wants those tyrants trembling and retribution visited upon them... the hundreds of thousands dead from the unjust war and abusive and wasteful of lives and livelihoods and rights misadminstration of Iraq, can't be undone/made up for in any truly commensurate-redress fashion--the dead are -dead-, the antiquities and archaeological treasures and sites despoiled irretrievably--torched archives, looted ruins; lives and businesses wrecked--so-called Islamic law and modesty codes and separate and unequal segration imposed throwing women out of jobs and self-determination and into purdah and men murdered for things as trivial as shaving or even merely trimming their beards; the explosion of sectarian violence; the murder of non-Muslims with stores selling any alcoholic beverages... shattered lived being provided monetary damages, does not make up for death and abuse, it;s palliative, but NOT equal.

Murdering MDs who remove malformed fetuses from women in high-risk pregnancies, or who perform abortions to women otherwise consider e.g. suicide as "solution" regarding complications caused by the pregnancy, is a 3rd party external absolutist valuation that the "life" of a parasitic entity inside a female, is morally and ethically superior and more important than providing healthcare to the public, than the lives and well-being and sanity of those trying to obtain abortion services, and than of the fabric of a society which respects the judgment and values and lives of individuals, for self-determination and decisions about health and reproduction.

The bullies and the Daddy Knows Not Just Best, but Absolutely, patriarchical crowd and their shills, are vile... (Elaine Donnelly, Michelle Malkin, Beverly LaHaye, Ann Coulter essentially are quislings.... hypocrites of the most extreme sort, who go about highly paid and applauded for telling other women to do as they say, not as they do, and spreading the word of how superior males are and how women belong in purdah. Cheney etc. are merely mostly-consistent Evil... who will make exceptions for their person convenience. (regarding hypocrisy, see e.g.t he web page, "The Only Moral Abortion Is my Abortion" --women who go from picking clinics saying all MDs who perform abortions are murderers and should be executed, to requesting an abortion for themselves or family members, from the exact same people they advocat murdering; and then they go BACK to the picket line calling for the death penalty to the same people who provided (or in some cases refused to..) the abortions they demanded...

#72 ::: will shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2009, 02:44 PM:

Paula, when it comes to terrorism and torture, I don't think it's useful to talk of "gray areas." You might be interested in Norman Finkelstein's Palestine: The Truth About 1948.

Brit Tzedek v'Shalom has this about the conflict: "Most Palestinians believe that the 1947 United Nations partition establishing Israel was inherently unjust, giving 55% of the land to the Jews who then constituted only 33% of the population – and that, moreover, those numbers were achieved illegitimately through years of illegal immigration. The Palestinian narrative contends that the refugees were coerced into leaving, or forced off of, their ancestral lands. They cite a number of massacres (most famously Deir Yassin), which created widespread panic among the Palestinians and led many to flee – with the clear expectation that they would be able to return after the fighting was over."

You may want to believe the terrorist acts of the Stern Gang were "roundly condemned", but Palestinians still do not have a right to return, and Yitzhak Shamir was well rewarded for his role in atrocities, including the assassination of Count Folke Bernadotte.

#73 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2009, 03:27 PM:

#72 Will

There were at least as many Jews from Yemen, Iraq, Iran, Tunisia, Syria, Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, Libya, etc., who were refugees from persecution and pogroms and atrocities who moved to Israel, than Muslims who evacuated what today is Israel, and were denied resettlement as immigrants to Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Iraq, Iran, etc. Kuwait was t he only country in the region which allows those who left what became Israel, to become citizens.

What the descendants of people who were lied to who ACCEPTED those lies, and were kept as a permanent underclass to exploit to be shock troops believe, has less credibility than the claims of extremist descendants of slaves of every non-slave descendant in the countries they were enslaved owe them for being the descendants of slaves.

Why don't they demand reparations and citizenship from Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and the other members of the Arab League who encouraged their ancestors to decamp and then told them, "We grant you begrudged resident alien status, and will use you as shock troops" status??!

As for the claims that there were never Jews in Jerusalem in ancient times, the absurdity level is impressive regarding that. It's rather akin to the situaton of Brazil having dumped tons of dirt ontop of a Roman wreck in a harbor on the coast of Brazil because the existence and the initial excavation of it, go against the official view of history in Brazil regarding no contact between Europe and Asia across the Atlantic to Brazil before Columbus and the Spanish and Portugese colonization....

I'm the descendant of people who got the hell out of Europe before it became impossible for Jews to leave... my mother's relatives who stayed presumably were among the six million murdered during the German occupation, while everyone over the age of 12 from my father's paternal family supposedly appreantly wiped out between the German policies, the atrocities that were endemic against Jews in Russia pre-WWII, and Stalin's policies that starved millions of people in Ukraine and elsewhere in Soviet Russia and Ukraine, to death.

There -was- a Zionist branch of my mother's family, but in the wake of an earthquake in Jerusalem around a century ago, they were never heard from again.... that's a reminder that it's not only other humans that terminate people's lives prematurely....

I don't seen anyone offering -me- a "right of return" to Bialystok or Ukraine or Austria-Hungary... at least half my ancestors left eastern/central Europe due to persecution and severe discrimination, up to and including the threat of being casually skewered by Cossacks, being pillaged and atrocities committed against them with impunity by e.g. the son of the local head of the police and his buddies (my grandfather and one of his older brothers were home on leave from the Russian Army more than a century ago, from the 40 years' mandatory service imposed on Jewish males in the very Christian-promoting Russian Army. Someone told them that the fellow and his buddies were coming to the village my grandfather was from, intending on major vandalism etc. Instead my grandfather and his brother ambushed the would-be attackers, severely injuring and/or killing two of them. They went home, their mother handed them a sack of gold coins, told them to run for their lives, and they fled clear across Europe and the Atlantic all the way to Montreal, the brother becoming a Canadian citizen, my grandfather deciding it was too cold and moving south to Boston.)

(For that matter, there's a book about some of the Jewish partisans who hid in the woods during WWII and after the war, some of them were in a plot to murder a number of surviving interned Nazis--which some of the conspirators decided to not go through with, apparently, and outed the plot--more than that the writer couldn't find out, his older relatives included at least one of the partisans, and it was something they were not willing to discuss any further beyond allowing that there had been a plot, it was outed, there were hard feelings, and that was as much as they'd say. Part of the book mentioned the fate of more than a few Jews who attempted to return to their pre-war homes in Eastern Europe--some of them were massacred, as opposed to individually persecuted and murdered for the temerity to try to take up lives where they had come from. Others didn't want any part of any part of Europe anymore, they wanted a place where Jews weren't minorities facing persecution and abuse....

The Levant under the Ottoman Empire was underpopulated and economically kept backward. Jews were taxed at higher rates tham Muslims; the Jewish communities around Jerusalem especially, for more than a thousand years, had been supported financially by worldwide finanicy contributions by other Jews... a tradition that goes back even farther than that. If you want documentation about the thousand years ago, look in A Mediterranean Sociey by S. D. Goiten, which cites primary sources -- letters and manuscripts from the Cairo Geniza, where a thousand years of written material was dumped haphazardly into two rooms in the upper part of a very old synagogue in Fustat (Old Cairo) and the cache discovered by the western world a century ago....

#74 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2009, 04:04 PM:

Which, while fascinating, has little to do with domestic terrorism in the USA.

#75 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2009, 04:16 PM:

Domestic Terrorism.
The kid's name really was Bobby Buntrock?
Oh my.

#76 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2009, 04:26 PM:

Was there anyone following this thread who was saying to themselves "Say, what I really want to read is a bunch of dueling multi-paragraph messages on Israel versus Palestine"? Because, you know, the internet doesn't have enough people getting bug-eyed with rage and flaming one another over that particular topic.

I can see how it initially came up, I can see why Paula felt compelled to reply, I can see the logic of Will's comments, and I can see what prompted Paula to weigh in at even more forbidding length.

I can also see that I don't want to read any more of this, certainly not in this particular key.

Bottom line: Nobody's at fault -- but the outbreak of Israel-vs-Palestine food-fighting stops right here. Attempts to get the last word will be looked upon with grave disfavor.

#77 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2009, 05:33 PM:

PNH #76: Thank you!

#78 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2009, 05:48 PM:

Ah, the relevance to domestic terrorism is that every time it comes up, the discussion gets hijacked off to something toxic.... I can't think of what the term for that sort of thing is--it goes beyond red herrings, those are merely derailing. Veering off into the toxic waste/that area in Russian where the nuclear waste went critical and the whole region is a radioactive aversion area (or the vicinity of what-was-the-name-of-the-lae-where-the-reactor-had-the-meltdown?) doesn't derail the discussion, it nukes it/starts a virtual WWIII!

#79 ::: Fishwood Loach ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2009, 05:56 PM:

@57:

The origin of the word "terrorism" is the French "Reign of Terror" during the revolution.

That terror, of course, was explicitly state-terror.

"...pour encourage' les autres..."

#80 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2009, 06:17 PM:

A terrorist is a freedom fighter with a sub-par public relations budget.

#81 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2009, 06:53 PM:

#80 Earl
There are different axes of terrorism and different collections of reasons and memes.

Some of them are pure unadulterated thugs, looking for something that gives them a usable excuse for committing murder, mayhem, bullying, and being generally abusive.

Some of them are True Believers in a cause who view any means as acceptable to achieve their goals.

Some of them are idealists who tried other means and found them ineffective.

Some are people with martyr complexes, who want their lives to mean something and to have their deaths at least make a point to the world, if they were frustrated in life at having not achieved what they consider worthwhile goals/lasting fame/basis for post-death rewards otherwise.

Some are swept up in cultural bandwagons or value sets, a relative of mob violence.

Some have been inculcated from birth; others by the likes of Fux screed/mouthpieces, hatemonger radio; others by feelings of inadequacy or marginalization, and terrorist activities give them a feeling of power and entitlement--or of getting revenge and retribution, or of emotion-dumping on a class they've objectified into targets for villifying, etc.

Finally, terrorists don't see a cost/benefit equation that gives the downside as outweighing the benefits/empowerment/enjoyment/damage-to-the-targets gained/down. They especially don't see/don't expect that they're going to get squelched, humiliated, made into a laughingstock, and brushed off.... terrorists want attention and want to overthrow the existing set of values and protocols in place, or at least, replace the people in control with their own selves. They consider the status quo objectionable and not something which will put them and their values and egos in charge and properly valued and paid due deference and tribute to....

Anyway, there are different axes of goals, intentions, and reasons why terrorism occur... the carnage may look the same, but the paths involved, often differ drastically, particularly between those who regard torture and homicide as tools justified by achieving the goals, those who don't care what the goal or objective is but how merely want opportunity/authorizaton/approval to pernicious commit murder and mayhem; and those looking for approbation and validation and respect from other people.

The crop of domestic terrorists in theUSA seem compromised of a mixture of
o True Believers engaging in a combination of sensationalist acts for media attention and murderous acts to terminate practices they object to--a combination of publicity and of consequences so dire that it is an extreme, lethal form of heckler's veto which shuts down any theater and threatens to kill the audience if a particular play gets staged
o People looking for validation who find in the Cause something that gets other people to pay attention to them
o Supporters who overlook murderous acts because it fits their values and goals, and who regard opponents/the opposition as -wrong- and "the wages of sin are death!"

#82 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2009, 07:34 PM:

I think that, to be terrorism, the target(s) must be civilians/non-combatants and the perpetrators cannot be uniformed members of anyone's armed forces acting through their chain of command.

#83 ::: will shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2009, 08:05 PM:

I just went looking for "leftist terrorism." A Conservapedia page come up high in the rankings. Its definition of leftist terrorism is, well, naive, but I thought this is useful:

In describing domestic terrorism before the House Resources Committee on February 12, 2002, James F. Jarboe, Domestic Terrorism Section Chief of the FBI's Counterterrorism Division, stated: "Domestic terrorism is the unlawful use, or threatened use, of violence by a group or individual based and operating entirely within the United States (or its territories) without foreign direction, committed against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives. During the past decade we have witnessed dramatic changes in the nature of the terrorist threat. In the 1990s, right-wing extremism overtook left-wing terrorism as the most dangerous domestic terrorist threat to the country. During the past several years, special interest extremism, as characterized by the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) and the Earth Liberation Front (ELF), has emerged as a serious terrorist threat. Generally, extremist groups engage in much activity that is protected by constitutional guarantees of free speech and assembly. Law enforcement becomes involved when the volatile talk of these groups transgresses into unlawful action. The FBI estimates that the ALF/ELF have committed more than 600 criminal acts in the United States since 1996, resulting in damages in excess of 43 million dollars."

#84 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2009, 09:30 PM:

Michael I @ 63: "If you do not ALREADY control a substantial portion of the military, then violence is generally not a successful way of gaining power."

Again: Vietnam, China--hell, the Revolutionary US. There are plenty of examples of people deciding that they want political power, THEN developing a military capacity, and then winning political power.

albatross @ 66: "One nitpick, though--I don't think white supremacists/white nationalists/whatnot are in any sense in the mainstream of conservative or Republican thought. I've seen no evidence for that, and a fair bit against it."

This post at Pandagon contains links to numerous incidents where high-ranking Republicans sent racist images or messages because they thought they were funny. These include watermelons on the Whitehouse lawn, references to Michelle Obama being related to an escaped gorilla, and other assorted racist lols. Then we have Marcus Epstein, whom we've already discussed; the preeminence of Rush Limbaugh (whose racism is really quite undeniable), Michelle "Japanese Internment was Awesome!" Malkin--while I doubt a majority of Republicans ascribe to specific white power ideologies, they are certainly quite comfortable with a shockingly high level of blatant racism within their own circles.

"One thing that makes me wary of an exercise in finding damning quotes by your political enemies is that confirmation bias makes it *really* easy to only remember the offensive stuff said by people on the other side, while silently excusing or discarding the offensive stuff said by your side."

I hear your point, and if you have any examples of over-the-top rhetoric from the left, I'd be happy to take another look at it. As a purely hypothetical point though, I'm less sympathetic.

#85 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: June 26, 2009, 02:14 AM:

albatross: Where is the equivalent in the content of the rabble-rousing?

Jon Stewart, so far as I know, hasn't said conservatives need to be eliminated. He certainly hasn't made calling them traitors, and describing the best ways of killing them a mainstay of his routines.

He also doesn't make only Republicans/conservatives, the focus of his content.

Find me a Michael Moore book which has, as the title, an exhortation to beat conservatives with clubs. Then find me such a book which made the NYT Bestseller List.

Then we can talk about parity of rhetoric/mainstream.

#86 ::: coffeedryad ::: (view all by) ::: June 26, 2009, 02:25 AM:

If I understand correctly, modern terrorism was more or less invented by some folks I otherwise quite admire: the early-C20th Spanish anarchists, particularly the Catalan independence movement. Their phrase for it was "propaganda by the deed", and as I understand it, it was meant as a sort of violent consciousness-raiser: "These guys are so bad they need to be blown up, and we can do it!" The Spanish terrorists didn't get much legitimate political power for themselves, but they did end up making the government much more willing to negotiate with the peaceful types on their side - similar to Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr.

#87 ::: Torrilin ::: (view all by) ::: June 26, 2009, 06:44 AM:

I think that, to be terrorism, the target(s) must be civilians/non-combatants and the perpetrators cannot be uniformed members of anyone's armed forces acting through their chain of command.

And if the perps are armed forces against civilian targets, I'd generally call it genocide or a war crime.

There aren't super-hard lines here, because if you're on the receiving end, it's going to be terrifying. In a war zone, things are confusing so you don't necessarily know that the strange men who came 'round your house and threatened you, or the ones who bombed your kid's school are your country's troops, the other country's troops or "just" local gang members grabbing a chance. And even after the "war is over", things can remain unsettled for a long time... after the US Civil War it probably took a good 5-10 years for some white folks to feel "safe" again. If you were black... very different pattern of "safe".

#88 ::: Michael I ::: (view all by) ::: June 26, 2009, 08:27 AM:

heresiarch@84

Of course there are examples of someone building up a military organization from scratch and successfully using it to gain power. No one is disputing that. However, under most real-life circumstances violence is not the optimal strategy for gaining power unless you already control key portions of the existing military organization.

#89 ::: Tony Zbaraschuk ::: (view all by) ::: June 26, 2009, 08:50 AM:

I was thinking primarily of ALF, but also of older episodes. I admit the older episodes are perhaps less relevant to current affairs ;)

(Not entirely unrelated, mind you. One's own group is not immune from the temptation to do things which are evil, and it is useful to remember this from time to time.)

#90 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: June 26, 2009, 12:35 PM:

coffeedryad: The Spanish Nationalists were repeating some of the things done in the "guerilla" against Napolean. Yes, most of what they did was aimed at the soldiery, but when they decided someone had been collaborating, they were just as severe with civilians; in the attempt to keep others from doing the same.

The tactic, in various guises, is really old.

Tony Zbaraschuk: I don't think ALF/ELF, etc, were discounted: where I disagree is the value of bringing a fringe element, which has no seat at the table of the liberal mainstream (or even progressive backwaters of note, like this one) and implying that not talking about them in the same breath as folks like Roeder, Bunn, Rudolph, etc, is wrong.

Because the Rudolphs of the world are being encouraged, and fêted, by the mainstream right. The talking heads getting nightly airtime are praising them (or engaging in wink and nod encouragement). The Jon Stewarts, Kieth Olbermans and Rachel Maddows of The Left aren't doing equivalent mainstreaming of them, so it's not fair to say we ought to be giving them equal weight to the perpetrators who seem to come from the right.

#91 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: June 26, 2009, 04:17 PM:

coffeedryad: also, the phrase "propaganda by the deed" goes back at least to the late-19th-century Russian and Russian-American anarchists; whether the attentat was good policy was a matter of significant debate within the movement. (The man who killed President McKinley seems to have been prompted by this idea, though he'd had no significant contact with any (other) anarchists before firing the gun.)

#92 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: June 26, 2009, 04:38 PM:

Terry, in the context of Spain there's a big difference between "Catalan nationalists" and "Spanish Nationalists".

I don't think a Catalan would like being mistaken for a bunch of Fascist oathbreakers.

#93 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: June 26, 2009, 04:38 PM:

Terry, in the context of Spain there's a big difference between "Catalan nationalists" and "Spanish Nationalists".

I don't think a Catalan would like being mistaken for a bunch of Fascist oathbreakers.

#94 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: June 26, 2009, 09:24 PM:

Dave: Your right, I was rushing, and confused Catalan Nationalism with the Spanish Civil War (too much Orwell, I suppose).

The rest, however, stands.

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