06 March 2004

The definition of terrorism

Orcinus has another terrific post keeping a weather eye on domestic right-wing violence, and our leaders' failure to grapple thoughtfully or effectively with this — or any other — form of terrorism.

It's starting to become clear that, to the Bush administration -- and their corporate and media cohorts — the definition of a “terrorist” is “someone we don't like.”
I've described previously how the Bush administration's emphasis on the “war on terror” bears all the earmarks of a political marketing campaign, precisely because it exclusively focuses on Arab nations as the source of terrorism, and when dealing with its domestic aspect, is only concerned about Muslim extremists operating clandestinely here. The existence of far-right, white-supremacist domestic terrorism as a dual threat undercuts such a strategy.

On the way, he quotes from Robert Wright's landmark essay on the emergence of the general terrorist threat.

For the foreseeable future, smaller and smaller groups of intensely motivated people will have the ability to kill larger and larger numbers of people. They won't have to claim that they speak on behalf of a whole religion. They'll just have to be reasonably intelligent, modestly well-funded, and really pissed off. It may be hard to imagine a few radical environmentalists, or Montana militiamen, or French anti-globalization activists, or Basque separatists, or Unabomber-style Luddites, killing 100,000 people. Yet what makes this plausible is exactly what makes radical Islam such a formidable long-term threat: two enduring aspects of the evolution of technology.

Update: A word from me about a proper definition of terrorism.

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