For as long as I remember, the word Terrorism has been thrown around lazily and inconsistently, but never so much as today. The problem began when the United States was looking for a catchy name for its next war, and decided to make it the Global War on Terror. As was pointed out at the time, terrorism is merely a tactic, not a recognisable group or ideology. But the name was short and snappy, and it stuck.
In the 80s and 90s, terrorism was pretty obvious to us in London. The IRA, and sometimes other Irish groups, were planting bombs regularly. While they occasionally hit what you might have called economic or military targets, primarily the targets were civilians. Pubs, shopping centres, train stations. The purpose of terrorism is to terrorise. In turn, a frightened population empowers its government and police, and accepts an erosion of democracy and free speech.
Terrorists rarely attack military targets, for a couple of reasons: first, while this may outrage civilians, it doesn’t terrorise them; it doesn’t make people think that they might become the next victim. Second, because military targets are difficult to hit without getting caught. Killing ten people in a pub is easier than killing one soldier on duty. An attack on a serving soldier isn’t terrorism: it’s warfare, of some form. Thus, the IRA was both a military and terrorist organisation – ditto Hamas. The insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan, while they attacked US and British military targets, were not terrorists. They were soldiers in a war.
Thus, America’s claim to be fighting terrorism overseas was (and is) nonsensical. Not all terrorists are individuals or small groups. State terrorism exists. America’s deliberate attacks on the press and civilians in Iraq and elsewhere were acts of terrorism. Israel is a consistent user of state terrorism, attacking civilians indiscriminately on an almost daily basis. America’s drone strikes are terrorist in nature. They deliberately target, not just “militants”, but any civilian who associates with them. This is designed to “send out a message” to locals every bit as much as the 9/11 and 7/7 attacks were.
Last week, two people killed an off-duty soldier in Woolwich, prompting a debate over (among other things) whether it was a terrorist attack or not. It seems like a grey area: the target was not a randomly selected civilian. However, the attackers’ use of media – by giving a statement to a nearby observer with a camera phone – was terrorist in nature. Knife murders aren’t especially uncommon in the UK, but the sight of the murderer talking casually to camera was what differentiated this one from others. This wasn’t the most brutal murder to have taken place in the UK recently – many murders must be similarly brutal. It was the video that made the public respond, and the casual way in which the killers just waited for the police to arrive, not the killing itself.
The response to the attack (or more accurately, to the video) has been shocking. There was a widespread response of “round them up” and “send them home”. There have been dozens of attacks by bigots against Muslims. The video seemed designed to arouse racist anger: a black man, talking to camera, with the blood of a white soldier on his hands. It has long become unacceptable to call for black people to be repatriated, but now “Muslims” are the proxy target for racists. Hatred of minorities is back in fashion.
As I’ve pointed out before, the fact that “terrorists” can only make small-scale attacks using household implements as weapons should be be of some comfort. It shows how weak and small these groups are. Instead, hysteria has gripped a large, moronic section of British society. The British government is using this moment of stupidity to introduce further censorship controls on the Internet, and sadly the public doesn’t seem to be objecting.
“They hate our freedoms”, Bush used to say. But no – our own governments hate our freedoms. The attacks are being used as an enabling mechanism to introduce draconian new laws. Government exploitation of a young soldier’s death (shamefully, with support from the Labour Party) to attack free speech is despicable; but British morons have failed to notice, so outraged they are that a Muslim, a black man, an IMMIGRANT, murdered “one of ours”.
Witness how a vicious knife murder of a 75 year old Pakistani in Birmingham is treated as an isolated event. In fact, this bears the hallmark of terrorism; any Asian is a valid target, because the attack will create terror in Asian communities. Witness how a young white man planning to bomb a school in Oregon is arrested, and nobody uses the T-word; now imagine the moronic, self-pitying response if he had been Muslim.
The doublethink gets even crazier. Killing millions overseas may be acceptable to most Americans, but in Massachusetts, writing a rap lyric is terrorism. Our leaders, as they work tirelessly to remove our rights of free expression, have turned poetry into terrorism, and terrorism into “collateral damage”.
If you haven’t read 1984, I’d recommend it. George Orwell understood how the masses, too easily, can be made to accept any position, however senseless it may be. If you believe that the Woolwich attack was horrific, you are a normal human being. If you believe that it justifies a clampdown on minorities, or even more restrictions on our rights to privacy and free speech, you may be a moron.