Posted by: JDM..... | August 22, 2014

Government on guard against extremism.….

might I suggest they look in the mirror?…..

When the Attorney General of the United States made a visible point of grabbing some airtime from the Ferguson, MO flare-up, I was reminded of something I was thinking about just a couple of months ago when he announced that he was going to reconvene the Domestic Terrorism Executive Committee, a tentacle of the Dept. of Justice brought to life in response to the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. The function was put on the shelf following the events of “9/11” when international circumstances took precedence.

I have a problem with this concept, and am still withholding any fist-pumping or symbolic bellowing of “HOO-rahs” until AG Eric Holder and his handlers answer some tough questions. Good luck; “terrorism” is neither a new word nor a modern concept, and it seems to be one of those “silly putty” items in the lexicon that take on the shape of whatever context they happen to land in. Just what the hell is a “terrorist”, anyway? From the perspective of King George III, George Washington must surely have been a “terrorist”. Nelson Mandela was called a “terrorist”. Et Cetera.

The point is, you can jump back and forth across that moat indefinitely without discovering a stable definition that works on both sides. I’ve heard it said that “terrorism” is kind of a broad brush, mostly used by governments and other authorities to cast an air of doubt and negativity over those who oppose them. Heck, most of us learned how to exert power by discounting the other guy before we got out of Kindergarten.

***

Getting back to the DTEC

First of all, I can’t help but wonder precisely how this “ Domestic Terrorism Executive Committee” will definedomestic terrorist” to begin with. If one looks at that question in the context of 1995, when Timothy Mcveigh set off a truckload of explosives in front of the Oklahoma City federal building, who could object?

On the other hand, if one looks at it in the context of the early nineteen fifties when Sen. Joseph McCarthy went on a binge of assuming everyone was a “subversive” until proven innocent, the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) blacklisted some of our most creative citizens because they didn’t march in step, and the Subversive Activities Control Board (SACB) sniffed out suspected Communist sympathizers hiding in every nook and cranny, anybody with a gram of common sense would object very loudly. Regardless of the answers to these questions, I’m stingy with my approval in such matters. The NSA scandal didn’t help to soften that stance, and I think we have good reason to be concerned that the Bill of Rights might, once again, be facing challengers who cause us to teeter on the brink of totalitarianism in the name of “National Security”.

And, as is almost always the scenario, the more dangerous enemy may be the very one whose mission it is to protect us from the enemy. Reminds me of “Pogo” cartoonist Walt Kelly, who created an iconic poster back in 1970 saying essentially the same thing.

These are times when fear shrinks the intellect and eccentricity of any kind may be construed as a threat, reminiscent of the Cold War years. Holding views that don’t harmonize with the Approved View of the Moment should not be defined as extremism. “Terrorism” can be painted with a broad brush, and we need to recognize the differences between organized campaigns to cause death and destruction, people of strongly contrarian beliefs, and rogue players of questionable sanity. In a society of 318 million people, how many acts of alleged “terrorism” constitute an epidemic or “threat” to our safety warranting a task force with such innate potential for abuse? Answer: When the breadth and scope of authority and secrecy increase, it’s because the count was too low and the stats need padding.

Vigilance is, in itself, “common sense”, of course, but focused government task forces and committees can be highly motivated to find something. If not counterbalanced with oversight to ensure they don’t find more than is actually there, the combination of passion and power is at least as great a threat as the ones they are supposedly convened to ferret out.

Any time a government takes it upon itself to police, as it were, the activities of fringe ideologies, all ideologies become subject to scrutiny.

There is no question about whether or not government is putting the hard-sell on policing the people, and redefining associated activities as “protecting” them.

When AG Holder announced the revival of the DTEC back in June, news articles cited Heidi Beirich of the Southern Poverty Law Center, who claims to be an expert on terrorism and stated that “more people have been killed in the U.S. by ‘right-wing-extremists’ since September 11, 2001 than by al Qaeda-inspired militants.”

That’s a bit scary, not so much the substance of her allegation, but the fact:

  • That she made such an outrageous claim

  • That she pre-condemned a huge number of people based on politics and implied association because they score to an unspecified degree to the “conservative” side of an imaginary “centerline”.

  • That Holder seems to think along similar lines

  • And, the fact that people with real power believe such tripe

While I don’t question that Beirich has earned “expert” designation in certain areas, the numbers being tossed around sound more like figures thrown in for effect rather than ones tendered to provide any useful information. I’m a statistics skeptic, and though I don’t consider myself to be an “expert” in my fields of interest, I do have many years of hands on, front line experience in the behavioral sciences which provided me with a certain understanding of what makes people tick, and I think I know tunnel vision when I see it. I don’t know where she got her numbers, or what filters she applied, but I understand about 3,000 innocent people were slain on September 11, 2001, after which the architects of the horror did what any sociopaths do after a hit….they laid low for a couple of years.  If a “right wing extremist” ran over her neighbor’s dog in the interim, it probably qualified for the non-al Qaeda tally.  Pre-scripted epiphanies work like that.

There is bound to be disagreement and misunderstanding regarding what the “War on Terrorism” is all about because there are so many factors affecting the definition of “terrorism”. On a personal level, the concept of “terrorism” brings to mind the events of that dark date, September 11, 2001. I think of organized activity designed to harm the United States, to destroy, disrupt, or kill innocent people on a large scale. In the “legal sense”, to the extent that I understand it, and evidently from the government perspective as well, “terrorism” may refer to the ideological forces behind an act as much as to the act itself.

In my layman’s opinion, that is dangerous; that is unconstitutional; that is un-American.

Incidents of an extreme nature are not difficult to condemn as terrorism, but the lack of a commonly understood definition that doesn’t change with the political weather, leaves a lot of room for undocumented expansion of the net being cast.

The A.C.L.U. has expressed concerns because of the Attorney General’s stated intention to keep tabs on “anti-government animus and racial intolerance.” Oh, that helps clarify things! Well, at least I know that I am probably under somebody’s microscope because I openly admit that I think my beloved country is being mis-administered by idiots and worse. I defy anyone to prove me guilty of “racial intolerance”, though. In fact, even anthropologists can’t agree about “race”. It’s another of those “silly putty” words. What ever happened to the “Irish race”, anyway…..? Those who strain every word and action through a filter that divides people into piles according to skin color and a handful of other real or imagined physical characteristics are the primary CAUSE of cultural tension today, not the solution. Shut up. Please.

By the same token, what might be considered terrorist at one time may not be so defined in another. History has demonstrated that, under stress, a society tends to narrow its path of approved ideologies and activities, and to expand the roster of those deemed enemies of the state, which creates opportunities for excess and abuse.

In thinking of the political, ideological, and economic environments of today from both international and domestic perspectives, the American people, and their elected representatives at all levels, must be equally vigilant for potential threats against our physical and economic safety, and of potential government excesses committed in that effort.

***

While looking for a workable definition of terrorist or terrorism, I meandered through the ideas of many authors, journalists, and self-styled pundits, and most seemed to see “terrorism” as:

  • Acts of violence or the threat of violence;

  • Actions that are designed to create fear and alarm;

  • Actions intended to coerce their target into taking certain paths;

  • Motives include political objectives;

  • Actions may be those of a group or of an individual.

The not so funny funny thing is, both terrorism and counterterrorism can be described accordingly, depending upon perspective.

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