Back to previous post: Song of the South at Worldcon

Go to Making Light's front page.

Forward to next post: Open Thread 187 (Worldcon Edition)

Subscribe (via RSS) to this post's comment thread. (What does this mean? Here's a quick introduction.)

August 25, 2013

Different worlds, same game
Posted by Patrick at 08:25 AM * 41 comments

New York Times,Egypt Widens Crackdown and Meaning of ‘Islamist.’

Bruce Schneier, “Mission Creep: When Everything Is Terrorism.

First, establish that Badguyism is the ultimate, transcendent evil, the thing that trumps all arguments for restraint and justifies any amount of force.

Then start redefining everybody you don’t like as a Badguyist. Dissidents. Malcontents. Layabouts. Litterers.

Where does this stop? I don’t see it stopping.

Comments on Different worlds, same game:
#2 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2013, 09:54 AM:

"Are you now, or have you ever been, a member of the [...] party?"

#3 ::: Girl Detective ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2013, 10:00 AM:

Collective bargaining = workplace terrorism

#4 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2013, 10:47 AM:

People who say robots aren't real are probably robots.

#5 ::: praisegod barebones ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2013, 10:50 AM:

One way in which it can (theoretically) stop is if a large number of people self-consciously adopt the 'Bad Guy' label. That's what happened in Turkey this summer, when the Prime Minister dismissed protestors as 'just a bunch of çapulcu (roughly speaking - 'hooligans'), only to find a large number of people proudly identifying themselves as such over the next couple of months. But I guess I can't see much chance of a large and prestigious group of English-speakers choosing to identify themselves as 'terrorists'. (I suspect that the picture is much more complicated wrt 'Islamist' in Egypt, not least because there are a substantial number of self-identifying Islamists who aren't MB but belong to a rival political grouping.)

#6 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2013, 11:38 AM:

When you are the partner of a journalist, you are committing terrorism by changing planes in London.

#7 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2013, 12:00 PM:

praisegod barebones @5: Are we all Spartacus yet?

#8 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2013, 12:13 PM:

Yes, we are all literally terrorists now.

(Speaking of words whose meaning has been broadening.)

#9 ::: David M. Perry (@Lollardfish) ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2013, 12:43 PM:

It doesn't stop, but specifics can be stopped and fought. Just because it's a moving target doesn't mean we can't work on one or another of them - Communists, Islamists, Homosexuals (see Russia), etc.

#10 ::: The Raven ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2013, 01:45 PM:

As far as I can see, revolution, military defeat, or exhaustion. Come to that, I think exhaustion is setting in.

But it's going to be a rough ride getting there!

#11 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2013, 02:36 PM:

I am quite prepared to describe myself as an Anarchist, in the tradition of such as Proudhon, Kropotkin, and even Bakunin. Any political movement which can survive the attentions of Hitler, Stalin, and Francisco Franco (all of whom are still dead) cannot be ignored.

The development of Anarchism feeds into the more general rise of organised labour, which is something that terrified the powerful of the USA. There are strong echoes of the Palmer Raids in what is happening now.

Britain had a Labour Prime Minister by 1923, the illegitimate child of a Scots household servant.

Clement Atlee, the next man to be a Labour Prime Minister, wrote: Charity is a cold grey loveless thing. If a rich man wants to help the poor, he should pay his taxes gladly, not dole out money at a whim.

British politics is different.

#12 ::: Chris ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2013, 07:01 PM:

"Enemies of the State."

The words change, but the tune remains the same.

#13 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2013, 07:52 PM:

I suspect it will only stop when the Owners find that the enforcers of the War on Badguyism have become so indiscriminately pestiferous that they appear to have forgotten who they work for, who Owns them. At which point the choke-chain will be yanked hard. Or a new and orthogonal Badguyism will be defined that does not menace the Owners.

#14 ::: Rick York ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2013, 08:16 PM:

Even at 69, I continue to be stunned at the US government's persistent and willful ignorance of the history of places we decide to invade. Afghanistan is the classic case in point; 2 millenia of would be conquerors failing. But, we're smarter/tougher/more powerful than any of them. Right?

#15 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2013, 11:08 PM:

Charles Stross @ 13: "I suspect it will only stop when the Owners find that the enforcers of the War on Badguyism have become so indiscriminately pestiferous that they appear to have forgotten who they work for, who Owns them."

I rather think the breaking point will come when the Powers That Be find that the War on Badguyism has so riled the proles that it is more trouble than it is worth. You may take this as either sign of my touching faith in the power of collective action, or sign of my cynical conviction that the War on Badguyism will ever substantially inconvenience anyone who really matters.

#16 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2013, 12:52 AM:

And in some news from the state of Oregon, a court of appeals has spanked the feds for taking a tax fraud case and dressing it up as terrorism: .
Government prosecutors withheld "significant impeachment evidence" by not telling the trial court that one of its key witnesses had been paid by the FBI, the appeals court found.
The panel also concluded that FBI agents, who obtained a search warrant from a U.S. magistrate for Seda's home and the charity's office, "went well beyond" the limitations imposed by the order when they searched Seda's computer hard drives.
"The appeal illustrates the fine line between the government's use of relevant evidence to document motive for a cover-up and its use of inflammatory, unrelated evidence about Osama Bin-Laden and terrorist activity that prejudices the jury," McKeown wrote.

#17 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2013, 02:17 AM:

Our best hope may lie in the fact that governments are not monolithic. What finally brought McCarthy down was going after Bad Guys in the Army, which had its own notions of how to root out Bad Guys. The SS, the SD, and the Gestqpo spent a lot of time in circular firing squad mode. And even divine beings don't have clearance to know how often the FBI and the CIA have stepped on each other trying to find enemy agents in each other's agencies (John Jesus Angleton is proof that just because they're out to get you doesn't mean you're not paranoid).

#18 ::: Bruce Cohen, Gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2013, 02:21 AM:

My last comment is in the gnomic towers. My guess is either bad spacing because I'm typing on the software keyboard, or excessive Godwination. There's some leftover T-bone steak and a bottle of Obsidian Stout if the duty gnome is feeling peckish.

#19 ::: Bruce Cohen Gnome Friend ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2013, 02:23 AM:

Well, that's annoying. My comment reporting that my previous comment was gnomed, has been gnomed. I'm beginning to feel like a Lisp function.

[Your URL reads "http://Http://...." which is going to get gnomeed every time. -- JDM]

#20 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2013, 04:35 AM:

Heresiarch @15: I'm afraid I take your position to be a touching display of faith in the intelligence of the Owners.

#21 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2013, 05:27 AM:

One of the rules of British politics seems to be that you talk about starting a war on a Bank Holiday Weekend.

#22 ::: Seth Gordon ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2013, 08:13 AM:

Rick@14: The party line, of course, is that the US wasn’t trying to conquer Afghanistan... just trying to help their government, which was friendly to us, fight a mutual enemy.

Of course, the Soviets thought they were doing the same thing in 1979, right?

#23 ::: Theophylact ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2013, 09:42 AM:

That's what the British thought they were doing in 1838.

#24 ::: David Wald ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2013, 11:21 AM:

Obligatory Daily Show reference on Afghanistan from 2009.

(Summary for those out of the range of streaming: Afghanistan is the video game level that no one has yet beaten. You might not get anything out of going to war there, but you could get on the high score board.)

#25 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2013, 11:49 AM:

#21 ::: David Wald

I'd come up with a variant of the joke at the end: anyone who's worried about Chinese dominance should be trying to convince the Chinese that Afghanistan is really western Tibet.

#26 ::: Miramon ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2013, 11:58 AM:

> Where does this stop? I don’t see it stopping.

I agree. However, this is nothing new. This has been going on since the most ancient records of politics and war that we have.

Divisive hateful propaganda is SOP for motivating support for an unpopular regime, policy, or war, and false accusations of "ism" are one of the simplest and most effective means.

#27 ::: David M. Perry (@Lollardfish) ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2013, 12:12 PM:

Coming soon: Cartels.

You know, because Communist doesn't work any more and Terrorist is losing its punch.

#28 ::: Gerald Fnord ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2013, 03:20 PM:

I don't see it ever stopping for humans-as-we-are*. Even when a category has a very obvious koinos kosmos referent or set of them---e.g., at war, on the ground, the 'enemy' are the ones intentionally and repeatedly shooting at you---a category can become so useful in its proper sphere that the temptation to heedlessly use it elsewhere is great, likely by believing that 'its proper sphere' includes anything with which we're concerned. So, famously, every opponent becomes an instance of 'enemy' and any conflict a 'war'.

I think that if this is the case for categories with 'real' referents, it is so but worse for categories at base referring to mental constructs---such categorisations are at least resistant, and sometimes seemingly impervious, to falsification via observation.

And I think it likely that contention over the mental map is both an expression of deeper territorial imperatives and feeds back into them---eventually enough people with enough power decide that the Angolan guerrillas were 'terrorists damaging Chevron's property' rather than 'anti-Marxist freedom-fighters', and the question of who will own actual territory in Angola gets an answer different to what it might otherwise had been.

*I am inherently sceptical of trans-humanism...but then I look at humanity, including within, and tend toward thinking that it were worth a shot faute de mieux...but there's a bootstrapping issue there of the sort that Calvinism gets around by invoking 'grace'.

#29 ::: Clifton ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2013, 04:05 PM:

Re #14, 19-22: In the realm of black humor, I've got a "World Championship" chart somewhere or other - I can't remember where I found it - with many of the world's wars throughout history listed in the form of a tournament play-offs chart.

The final game, yet to be scheduled, will pit Vietnam against Afghanistan for the world championship; U.S. and Russia will eventually have to compete for 3rd place.

#30 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2013, 05:31 PM:

Charlie Stross @ 17: "I'm afraid I take your position to be a touching display of faith in the intelligence of the Owners."

Fair point, though perhaps my touching faith is in the ability of riled proles to clearly articulate their displeasure.

#31 ::: heresiarch, gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2013, 05:45 PM:


#32 ::: Bruce Cohen -Gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2013, 06:25 PM:

Late Yesterday I had 3 comments in succession gnomed.

#33 ::: Henry Troup ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2013, 08:39 PM:

Nancy Lebovitz @#22
That is absolutely brilliant. I shall quote that whenever apropos. I've been recounting the history of the graveyard of empires in sundry places. But I hadn't thought of who might be the next in line.

#34 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2013, 11:22 PM:

i found a link for the bracket chart.

#35 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2013, 12:29 AM:

Spy magazine had some very fine moments.

#36 ::: Clifton ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2013, 02:55 AM:

Thanks! Spy Magazine, of course... which certainly seems on-topic.

#37 ::: Doug ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2013, 04:55 AM:

One of the treats of that Spy chart is the bracket of "Poland vs Poland 992-1939 (OT)".

#38 ::: Cally Soukup ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2013, 05:40 PM:

Bruce Cohen: Your gnomed post has been rescued. It's at 17. You had some problem with your namefield URL.

#39 ::: janeyolen ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2013, 04:25 PM:

Well, I have now taken down the name of everyone commenting on this as you are all clearly bad guys, bad hats, bastards, and bats, any of which automatically puts you on the list.

Me included, alas. Unless, of course, I am undercover.


#40 ::: Raka ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2013, 06:01 PM:

janeyolen @39: Being undercover protects you from being on the list yourself? You evidently inhabit a finer class of dystopia than the ones I'm acquainted with.

#41 ::: Girl Detective ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2013, 10:30 AM:

Oh my god, I was *kidding*

Reality seems to be always two steps ahead of satire these days

"Education Secretary Rod Paige said Monday that the National Education Association, one of the nation's largest labor unions, was like ''a terrorist organization'' because of the way it was resisting many provisions of a school improvement law pushed through Congress by President Bush in 2001."

Welcome to Making Light's comment section. The moderators are Avram Grumer, Teresa & Patrick Nielsen Hayden, and Abi Sutherland. Abi is the moderator most frequently onsite. She's also the kindest. Teresa is the theoretician. Are you feeling lucky?

Comments containing more than seven URLs will be held for approval. If you want to comment on a thread that's been closed, please post to the most recent "Open Thread" discussion.

You can subscribe (via RSS) to this particular comment thread. (If this option is baffling, here's a quick introduction.)

Post a comment.
(Real e-mail addresses and URLs only, please.)

HTML Tags:
<strong>Strong</strong> = Strong
<em>Emphasized</em> = Emphasized
<a href="">Linked text</a> = Linked text

Spelling reference:
Tolkien. Minuscule. Gandhi. Millennium. Delany. Embarrassment. Publishers Weekly. Occurrence. Asimov. Weird. Connoisseur. Accommodate. Hierarchy. Deity. Etiquette. Pharaoh. Teresa. Its. Macdonald. Nielsen Hayden. It's. Fluorosphere. Barack. More here.

(You must preview before posting.)

Dire legal notice
Making Light copyright 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 by Patrick & Teresa Nielsen Hayden. All rights reserved.