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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
It has been clear for years that the US government and mass media's
application of the word "terrorism" is highly subjective. If the US kills
civilians in drone attacks it is, according to the White House, not terrorism;
it's self-defense. If a white male gun enthusiast kills three Muslim students,
it's not terrorism; it's a dispute
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The examples of how violent acts committed by nation-states or white males are
not terrorism are virtually endless. That doesn't just apply to the United
States, of course. It is the prerogative of white eurocentric culture to
attribute violent acts - even on a large scale - of members of the dominant
classes to individual pathology rather than "terrorism." BuzzFlash at Truthout
is hardly the first site to point out that Anders Behring Breivik, who killed 77
children and adults in Norway in 2011, is generally described as an extremist,
radical or mass murderer, but not a terrorist. On the other hand, the term is
often used automatically when a Muslim commits an act of violence.
Breivik's acts, however, actually mirror those of the killers in Paris and
Copenhagen, who were immediately branded as terrorists because of their Islamic
association. According to an article on the Australian
Broadcasting Company (ABC) website, "At the time of the massacre, Breivik
said his actions were 'cruel but necessary' to save Europe from Islam and
multiculturalism." In short, he had an agenda to "terrorize" Norway and Europe
based on his notions of Aryan supremacy. Yet, no government, to our knowledge,
warned its citizens of the terrorist threat of Aryan supremacists after
Breivik's carnage, even though he slaughtered nearly 80 people - mostly children
at a camp on an island.
This double standard about who is labeled a terrorist and who is not is
indicative of the malleable use of the term by Western nations in order to
manipulate public opinion.
The wielding of the word "terrorism" as a government tool to instill fear in the
public in order to achieve military, economic and empire-based objectives was
discussed yesterday in a BuzzFlash
That strategy of bypassing reason to stir up a primal fear doesn't only apply to
violent acts committed by non-Western people; it also applies to political
dissidents. Within the US, for example, persons advocating nonviolently for
animal rights are now officially terrorists by law if they trespass, destroy any
property or negatively impact the profits of companies making money off of
abusing animals. No act of violence need occur for an advocate for animals to be
transformed, by federal law, into a "terrorist," according to a
recent article in The Guardian:
Two animal rights activists who have served prison terms for releasing mink and
foxes from fur farms in the US midwest are facing federal charges that could see
them sentenced to a further 10 years and branded for life as terrorists.
The two activists, Kevin Johnson, 27, and Tyler Lang, 25, will appear in a
federal district court in Chicago on Thursday to plead
for the federal charges to be dismissed. Lawyers for the defendants will
argue that the counts, brought under an obscure 2006 law, are an inappropriate
use of the concept of terrorism that threatens to stop free speech across the
animal rights movement.
The hearing marks the first time that the law, the Animal Enterprise Terrorism
Act (AETA), will be legally challenged as a violation of the US constitution.
Congress passed the AETA eight years ago under heavy lobbying from the
pharmaceutical, fur and farming industries. Under its terms, anyone who damages
the property or the profit line of an animal business and who uses "interstate
commerce" such as a cellphone or the internet to carry out the action can be
convicted of terrorism even though no violence is involved.
This law - AETA - epitomizes the meaninglessness of the government and mass
media's use of the word terrorism. Remember all those militia members who were
ready to fire on federal agents and the police to keep them from arresting the
racist, deadbeat Cliven Bundy? Did the White House or the head of the FBI call
these armed white men "terrorists"? No, the federal and local police forces
backed down. If the gun guys ready to fire on law enforcement agents had been
Muslim, there would likely have been hysterical alarm over a massive "terrorist"
threat, and the militia members would have been militarily attacked. If they had
been animal rights activists – whose aim is to free animals, not shoot people -
they would also have been likely to be branded "terrorists." As for Bundy, a
2014 Associated Press headline says it all about his stance as a terrorist:
"Cliven Bundy: God Told Me To Fight 'Civil War' Against Feds."
The word "terrorism" is itself a public relations weapon. Who gets branded a
terrorist and who doesn't is a decision made within a political and cultural
context. And in the case of animal rights activists, it's also a question of
profit and loss.