02 Jan 2010

Glenn Greenwald Reminds Us That Terrorism Wasn’t Invented on 9/11

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Glenn Greenwald takes Jeffrey Weiss to task over perpetuating the stereotype that terrorism is a thing that Muslims do. Here’s what Weiss wrote that set off GG:

And we’re still left with a terrible problem for a free and multicultural society: Even though 99.999 percent of Muslims abhor attacks on innocent civilians on moral and theological grounds, 100 percent of attempted terrorist attacks on the U.S. (and, with the exception of the Basques in Spain, terrorists attacks on all Western nations) since the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing have been committed by people claiming to act in the name of Islam.

I must confess, even though I knew GG was getting ready to list a bunch of counterexamples, they weren’t popping into my head until he listed them for me. In other words, I have been successfully conditioned into only considering a bombing or shooting as “terrorism” if it’s carried out by Islamist radicals who hate the U.S. I’m not saying I consciously articulated it that way, but it’s the only explanation I have for why Weiss’ claims didn’t make me immediately think of:

* The IRA’s terrorist acts.

* The anthrax attacks on US soil that (at least “officially”) were carried out by a white guy.

* The bombings of abortion clinics / shooting abortionists on U.S. soil by Christians (I assume).

GG also lists terrorist acts committed by non-Muslims in other countries, but I’m not embarrassed that they didn’t occur to me.

Now part of what’s going on psychologically, I think, isn’t merely racism or being brainwashed by Fox News’ foreign policy agenda. No, I don’t feel worried about guys shooting abortionists, because I’m not an abortionist. I don’t get anxious about IRA terrorists, because I don’t plan on taking a bus in Ireland anytime soon. Etc. And I’m also not too worried about the political response to such crimes, because they will lead to things like spying on militia groups which is bad but not nearly as bad as federalizing airport security.

In contrast, I do worry about Muslim terrorists deciding to start sending suicide bombers into U.S. shopping malls. That really would completely alter my lifestyle, even if only a handful of people died and I didn’t know any of them. First of all it would justify all sorts of government power grabs, and second of all it would really be a bummer if you couldn’t go to the mall without worrying about getting blown up.

Note to new readers: I am hugely opposed to US foreign policy. The above might sound as if I’m wondering how “we can win the war on terror” when that’s not it at all. I am also not excusing or downplaying people who murder abortion doctors. I’m just trying to be honest with myself about why Weiss’ demonstrably and obviously false claims at first sounded OK to me.

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