Join 3,363 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)

Tags:

Welcome to North Carolina
March 7, 2006 7:40 AM   Subscribe

"I just hit several people with a vehicle," he told the dispatcher. "I don't have any weapons or anything on me; you can come and arrest me now." Mohammed Reza Taheri-azar punishes 9 Chapel Hill students for the actions of the United States government. "People all over the world are being killed in war and now it is the people in the United States turn to be killed."
posted by The Jesse Helms (117 comments total)

 
come on, he's clearly a nutcase. if this is terrorism, then Hinckley was a terrorist, too -- the Jodie Foster Brigades or something. he's a nut, deal with it.
posted by matteo at 7:46 AM on March 7, 2006


"He was pretty devout," Van Atta recalled. "It was as if he had just found religion," Van Atta said. Taheri-azar had studied the Quran, the Muslim holy book, and knew it well. "He was really at peace with himself when I talked with him last."

Clearly a nut.
posted by sfts2 at 7:50 AM on March 7, 2006


"We don't want terrorism here, and we're not going to stand for that where we live and where we go to school," said Kris Wampler, a student at UNC and member of the College Republicans, which helped organize the rally.

Yeah. Like all those college campuses and towns that are ambivalent about wanting terrorism in the neighborhood. That's just a taste of what we're going to hear about this once David Horowitz gets his hands on it.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 7:51 AM on March 7, 2006


No, no. Clearly this is a trend. The hitherto comparatively dormant "evil gene" in all Arabic peoples has been activated, and may Jesus have mercy on us all. This is just the beginning. White Christians must stand up and preemptively imprison all Arabs and Muslims; or would you rather wait for a mushroom cloud?
posted by squirrel at 7:52 AM on March 7, 2006


I'm really glad matteo's comment is at the top of the thread. That doesn't mean it's going to sink for anybody, but at least it's there.
posted by S.C. at 7:52 AM on March 7, 2006


Among the books lined up against the wall on the floor were the Quran, books by Nelson Mandela and Cornel West...

Does this mean we get to start calling Cornel West nasty names again? Because that was awesome.
posted by nebulawindphone at 7:54 AM on March 7, 2006


Yes, squirrel, I'm sure that's exactly what the Jesse Helms was insinuating with this post. But now, you've used irony to expose his Islamophobic agenda. Well done!
posted by slatternus at 7:55 AM on March 7, 2006


Not to nit-pick, especially because I know it was sarcasm, squirrel, but the kid was Iranian-American. Not Arabic; Aryan.
posted by Pollomacho at 7:56 AM on March 7, 2006


How many terrorist points does he lose for (1) failing to kill anybody (2) including himself?

If this guy is a terrorist, he is damn incompetent.
posted by qvantamon at 7:56 AM on March 7, 2006


Looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, flies into buildings like a duck...
posted by squirrel at 7:57 AM on March 7, 2006


matteo: You meant "Jodie Foster's Army."
posted by keswick at 7:58 AM on March 7, 2006


still and, just to state the obvious... it's kind of awful. Maybe I need thicker desensitization armour.
posted by setpounds at 7:58 AM on March 7, 2006


White Christians must stand up and preemptively imprison all Arabs and Muslims; or would you rather wait for a mushroom cloud?

Oh, I guess black and asian Christians don't care about terrorism?
posted by Tablecrumbs at 7:58 AM on March 7, 2006


come on, he's clearly a nutcase. if this is terrorism, then Hinckley was a terrorist, too

Slight edit:

come on, Allah's clearly a nutcase. if this is religion, then Hinckley was a prophet, too
posted by skallas at 8:00 AM on March 7, 2006


Sorry, I like my terrorists blonde and rich.
posted by mountainmambo at 8:01 AM on March 7, 2006


This will probably become quite prevalent, and I'm surprised it doesn't happen more often already. As long as America keeps treating the symptoms, this thing will keep happening. Now, we can all sit back and wait for some senator to pass the "University Campus Loitering Area Protection Act" requiring guardrails around all common areas and valet parking for all muslims. That'll fix it.
posted by jon_kill at 8:02 AM on March 7, 2006


Aside from all of the ridiculous pretexts ascribed to his character by himself or the media, the point stands: The kid didn't kill anybody. What a fucking idiotic failure, in all capacities. I'm sure the people who are desperate enough to blow themselves to pieces have a lot of respect for someone who can't even be bothered to get out of his SUV to do his dirty work. What a fucking tool.
posted by prostyle at 8:02 AM on March 7, 2006


What a surreal event that was. I was walking through the Pit on my way to physics when it happened. Even before he gunned his engine, I noticed the SUV and was wondering what the hell the dude was doing driving around Lenoir (cafeteria)...just figured he was a maintenance guy or something.

It was scary as shit, but luckily, the nine people only had minor injuries, and no one had to stay in the hospital or anything. Which is surprising, considering how fast he was going. It could have been really, really bad, though...he couldn't have picked a more crowded area. Which was the point, of course.

His timing was very weird; there was a cartoon of Mohammed in the Daily Tar Heel on February 9, in reaction to the whole Danish thing, which elicited a lot of debate on campus. The debate was still going on when Taheri-azar made his move, although I believe he has claimed the cartoon was not a motivation.
posted by feathermeat at 8:05 AM on March 7, 2006


I'm actually quite impressed that the name of that President of yours hasn't already come up in this thread yet.
posted by slatternus at 8:09 AM on March 7, 2006


What a maroon. Couldn't he have driven over to Fox News headquarters or something before running people down? Does he think that a university is going to be a hotbed of pro-Bush opinion?
posted by rxrfrx at 8:12 AM on March 7, 2006


Slatternus: are you talking about Bowles (president of UNC system), Moeser (chancellor of UNC-CH), or George W.?
posted by feathermeat at 8:13 AM on March 7, 2006


I'm actually quite impressed that the name of that President of yours hasn't already come up in this thread yet.

We feel he lowers the tone.

On preview: Does he think that a university is going to be a hotbed of pro-Bush opinion?

DAMMIT.
posted by 235w103 at 8:14 AM on March 7, 2006


I'm actually quite impressed that the name of that President of yours hasn't already come up in this thread yet.
posted by slatternus at 8:09 AM PST on March 7


Charleston Heston?
posted by Balisong at 8:15 AM on March 7, 2006


It seems likely that the Taheri-azar is mentally unstable, but it's unfortunate that such individuals can find meaning or significance in violence done under (what is claimed to be) religious pretext. I'm for incorporating public service into the set of prescribed jihadi behaviors -- that way all those mentally unstable youths looking for guidance from the divine can become part of something larger than themselves by sweeping up all those Taco Bell wrappers and Bud Light cans. Imagine! Working one's way to 72 virgins a cigarette butt at a time!
posted by Wash Jones at 8:18 AM on March 7, 2006


Nut.
posted by selfmedicating at 8:18 AM on March 7, 2006


My God how couldn't they see the warning signals!

All those hours in the SUV simulator.

*He wanted to learn to drive, but he did not want to learn how to stop.*
posted by three blind mice at 8:20 AM on March 7, 2006


This is what we've come to. A guy slips a camshaft in his frontal lobe and every wimpy FoxNews type starts crying and moaning about "terrorism" as if it was the "liberals" who want to mollycoddle scary Muslims who drive weapons of mass destruc . . . er, SUVs, into patios. When did we become a nation of wimps, scared of every shadow? This is pure theater.

But this explains why the same paranoid types can't wrap their heads around the Dubai ports deal being simply "good for business." Live by the fake image of the scary Muslim, die by it too. Too ridiculous. Next thing you know, they'll be calling him a "homicide bomber." Bunch. Of. P*ssies.

Oh well. At least screaming about how this was "terrorism" fills the hours the news channels choose to spend not mentioning the real story. One of these days, someone with a Muslim-sounding name will abduct and kill a pretty young white woman and then some schoolteacher will say it's Bush's fault, and all the plastic people will have a simultaneous orgasm on live TV . Synergy.

Can we at least argue about whether this is a "hate crime?"
posted by fourcheesemac at 8:20 AM on March 7, 2006


Wash Jones, charity/service is already a pillar of Islam.
posted by rxrfrx at 8:21 AM on March 7, 2006


“...it is the people of the United States turn to be killed”

Yeah, we’re already on that ourselves.

That washington post piece was pretty shallow. I’m curious how many psychopaths mask their actions like this. Perhaps it’s just displaced aggression.
This doesn’t have the “propaganda by deed” feel to it though. Seems like he just drove into a bunch of kids and is trying to connect it to some larger nebulous concept he’s not even clear about.

It is cute how the newsobserver notes the books in his collection “Nelson Mandela and Cornel West” among them.
I wonder what websites he visted? What movies did he watch? You think he liked “Low Down Dirty Shame”?

Maybe it’s a bad photo, but he does look like a nut.
posted by Smedleyman at 8:24 AM on March 7, 2006


What, no bell towers at UNC-CH?
posted by fleacircus at 8:24 AM on March 7, 2006


Three blind mice, that was perfect.
posted by davejay at 8:25 AM on March 7, 2006


There are problems with calling this guy a nutcase and not a terrorist. One is his own statement of motive, delivered in what seems to me to be the voice of a sane person. Another is the fact that he's evidently sane in all other respects outside of this one incident. Finally, do any terrorists easily fall into the 'sane' category? I don't know that sane people blow themselves up or fly planes into buildings.

William James would likely tell you insanity doesn't disqualify religious fervor or terrorism, because there are infinite options when it comes to losing one's mind. What's important is why Taheri-azar went crazy in the jihadist manner.
posted by Nahum Tate at 8:26 AM on March 7, 2006


This happened less than a block from where I work; several of my co-workers were in the area or saw it happen. It could have been much, much worse if he'd picked a warmer day or waited a few more minutes for the lunch crowd to really assemble. Despite what the vocal campus Republicans might think, I'm fairly certain this guy is a lone nut, as others have said. Frankly, yesterday's 'rally' sounds to me like a sad attempt at grabbing some disaster-fame.
posted by statolith at 8:26 AM on March 7, 2006


I don't know that sane people blow themselves up or fly planes into buildings.

Well, you would expect fewer extant samples there.
posted by sonofsamiam at 8:33 AM on March 7, 2006


Maybe he was just looking for an Iranian farmers' market.

Nah, he's too young.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 8:34 AM on March 7, 2006


Maybe he was just looking for an Iranian farmers' market


ahahahahah winner
posted by rxrfrx at 8:36 AM on March 7, 2006


Allah works in mysterious ways. I don't think the body count was high enough for a true martyr.
posted by JJ86 at 8:38 AM on March 7, 2006


There are problems with calling this guy a nutcase and not a terrorist. One is his own statement of motive . . .

Ah, so David Koresh was really a man of God. And John Hinckley was in love with Jodie Foster.

what seems to me to be the voice of a sane person.

You can diagnose mental illness from someone's voice? COOL. That's right. Wackos usually just splutter and rant incoherently. Easy to pick them out.
posted by fourcheesemac at 8:46 AM on March 7, 2006


“One is his own statement of motive, delivered in what seems to me to be the voice of a sane person.” - posted by Nahum Tate

I am a terrorist too. How must I go about proving it?

“Finally, do any terrorists easily fall into the 'sane' category?”

Yep. It’s propaganda by deed. Calling a terrorist insane completely surrenders the method to him. This is not to say there aren’t insane people who are employed by terrorists. Nor is this to say that there aren’t insane folks pretending to be terrorists - case in point, this guy.
But - for starters - we don’t let terrorists off with the insanity defense. Secondly, there is typically a method behind the seeming madness.
I’d call Ted Kaczynski a terrorist, but not Patty Hurst. McVeigh I’d put on the border, but inbound him closer to terrorist.
The malicious intent here isn’t much greater than first degree murder. Attempting to drive over someone isn’t the peacetime equivalent of a war crime.

If you want to take a relativist view of the term, I’ll cede the argument from that point to you, but part of the problem there becomes: what crime then isn’t terrorism?
Since the state is involved no matter what the crime, it can be very subjective and dictated by the state.

It’s become a very watered down term unfortunately.
Before you kill anyone you should probably state your non-ideological intent first so as not to be labeled a terrorist.
*smirk*
But I like Major S. M. Grass’ definition: propaganda by deed - specifically violent deed. Of course that was 1989, things have sooo totally changed since 9/11.

From Grass’ report:
“...Albert Parry alleges that "most political terrorists have not been normal."He goes on to say, "not all political terrorists are insane or mentally disturbed, but most are." Although most people would tend to believe terrorist are mentally unstable, there seems to be no evidence to support this case. The mentally unstable person is not able to function properly within a group and therefore would be a detriment to the organization...”

Just food for thought.
posted by Smedleyman at 8:49 AM on March 7, 2006


it's obvious to me that he didn't attend dawud al-earnhart's school of terrorist driving
posted by pyramid termite at 8:51 AM on March 7, 2006


The hitherto comparatively dormant 'evil gene' in all Arabic peoples has been activated

I blame Donald Pleasence. Only Charles Bronson can save us now.

"The woods are lovely, dark and deep
But I have promises to keep
And miles to go before I sleep.
And miles to go before I sleep."
posted by kirkaracha at 8:53 AM on March 7, 2006


No fanatic like a convert.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 9:01 AM on March 7, 2006


What's important is why Taheri-azar went crazy in the jihadist manner.

Definately. That's a very valid question. I find fourcheesemac's response to be unconvincing at the least. To me David Koresh was a man of god. He was religious, far more religious than most, devoted his life to his religion, and eventually died for it. Arguably, killed by an overzealous quasi-military arm of the goverment instead of arrested while outside the compound. If a man calls himself religious than it is not your place to suddenly scream "hes crazy" when he does something wrong. If the religion contributed or caused this then its a legitimate concern to ask what the hell is going on? If this is the fruits of extremist religion, which I think it is, then lets admit it.

I find the Ted Bundy comparasion to be very off the mark. Bundy's motives were nonsensical. There was no motive. No goal. No logic to it. He was a sociopathic rapist and murderer, going about his business murdering people randomly for no cause. Mohammed Reza has a cause, a political direction, and the religious ideal of martyrism. There's logic and thought here. This is no sociopath randomly killing over a span of years, but a deliberate act for political and religious reasons.
posted by skallas at 9:02 AM on March 7, 2006


Does he think that a university is going to be a hotbed of pro-Bush opinion?

i work on the unc-ch campus and it is indeed a hotbed of pro-bush opinion. just check this out.
posted by 3.2.3 at 9:07 AM on March 7, 2006


When someone gets religion - ANY religion, it should be treated as a public health emergency, and police dressed in uniforms designed by Jean Paul Gauthier should be dispatched on personal hoversleds to bring them in for treatment.
posted by slatternus at 9:11 AM on March 7, 2006


If Smedleyman is calling you on the phone, Bush wants to know why.
posted by squirrel at 9:13 AM on March 7, 2006


nuts can still be terrorists, which this one just made himself. here's hoping that the response to this somewhat resembles justice and wisdom, rather than just becoming a further excuse to rob us of more of our civil liberties.
posted by shmegegge at 9:16 AM on March 7, 2006


In a jihadist manner? Or did he latch on to jihadist rationalizations for his own murderous impulses? I am not saying terrorism doesn't exist, just that calling everything terrorism reduces the distinction to meaninglessness.

And as for Bundy, skallas writes: Bundy's motives were nonsensical. There was no motive. No goal. No logic to it. He was a sociopath . . .

Precisely my alternative hypothesis for Taheri-Azar's conduct. The point of invoking Bundy was to point out that people can appear and sound perfectly sane and rational and still be insane, not to compare the crimes per se.

I'm not arguing about the justification for taking out Koresh and his followers (I agree that it was an abuse of power). I'm simply pointing out that many insane people offer perfectly valid rationalizations for their crimes, sourcing some major body of political or religious philosophy. The mere fact that Taheri-Azar claims a jihadist motive does not make him a jihadist in any meaningful sense. Our media's (and government's) need for examples of scary Muslim terrorists operating within the borders of the US makes him a terrorist. In an alternate universe, he's a nutjob with delusions of grandeur.
posted by fourcheesemac at 9:16 AM on March 7, 2006


I don't think he's a nutcase or a terrorist--he was angry and lashed out. It wasn't a really planned thing at all, and what he did was wrong, but it's in no way like Hinckley or McVeigh, nor like Iraqi insurgents or Al Qaeda. We're going to see more of this.

And i'd like to ask why when there were so many attacks on Muslims and Sikhs and stuff post 9/11 (people actually died then because of the attacks on pppl with turbans, etc), people didn't characterize those people like they are doing this guy? Why is everyone so quick to peg him as either a nutcase or a terrorist? Why isn't he just someone who got angry and acted? This country is full of angry people who lash out and act (check our daily murder rates)--they're not at all pegged this way.
posted by amberglow at 9:28 AM on March 7, 2006


People who violently disagree with you != nutjob
posted by sfts2 at 9:37 AM on March 7, 2006


As another UNC student who was around on Friday (but did not witness the event), my observation is that most students do not consider it terrorism. I hope it stays that way.

On preview, the campus definitely is way more conservative than people believe it to be.
posted by malaprohibita at 9:42 AM on March 7, 2006


Finally, maybe, we can have SUV's listed as WMD's.
posted by leftcoastbob at 9:46 AM on March 7, 2006


And i'd like to ask why when there were so many attacks on Muslims and Sikhs and stuff post 9/11 (people actually died then because of the attacks on pppl with turbans, etc), people didn't characterize those people like they are doing this guy?

There were? I honestly don't remember anything of the sort, not on any scale worth noticing anyway. I don't doubt that some Muslims in this country weren't treated very nicely immediately following 9-11, but I don't recall there being anything like a park full of Muslims having to run and dodge runaway SUVs.

As another UNC student who was around on Friday (but did not witness the event), my observation is that most students do not consider it terrorism.

Yea, it's interesting where that line should be drawn. What if the guy had filled his truck with barrels of gasoline and drove into the middle of the "crowded area" and blew the truck up, injuring (but not killing) 9 students?
posted by Witty at 9:49 AM on March 7, 2006


Does this mean we get to start calling Cornel West nasty names again?

What, like worst rapper ever?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 9:55 AM on March 7, 2006


What type of oil did he put in his Jeep?
posted by iamck at 9:58 AM on March 7, 2006


The way I see it, if Taheri-Azar had been Anglo-Saxon there would be a lot less people calling it an act of terrorism.
posted by malaprohibita at 9:58 AM on March 7, 2006


{sigh} Listen, I know everyone likes to blame hatred and fear of Muslims and racist white people and FOX News for everything around here, but the kid made very clear statements as to why he did what he did. Had your Anglo-Saxon example claimed jihadist reasons for trying to run down as many students as possible, then your statement would likely be wrong. So save it.
posted by Witty at 10:02 AM on March 7, 2006



There were? I honestly don't remember anything of the sort, not on any scale worth noticing anyway. I don't doubt that some Muslims in this country weren't treated very nicely immediately following 9-11, but I don't recall there being anything like a park full of Muslims having to run and dodge runaway SUVs.


That's saying something too--one guy does this and we all hear about it, but people were killed and attacked all over as payback for 9/11 , and we don't? ...-On the afternoon of Saturday, 2001-SEP-15, a gunman killed the 49 year old owner of a gas station in Mesa, AZ. He was a Sikh. His family believes that he was killed because he "looked Middle Eastern." Additional shots were fired at a Lebanese clerk and at the home of an Afghan family.
-On the evening of Saturday, 2001-SEP-15, a gunman killed a Pakistani Muslim store owner in Dallas, TX.
-Adel Karas, 48, an Egyptian-American grocer was shot and killed near his International Market store in San Gabriel, CA. He was a Copt -- neither Muslim nor Arab. No money was taken. Police are investigating the murder as a possible hate crime.
-A man drove his car through the front entrance of Parma Mosque in Cleveland OH.
-Also on Saturday, a Christian of Egyptian origin was shot dead in California. ...

posted by amberglow at 10:04 AM on March 7, 2006


UNC-CH seems to have a bit of a problem with crazy students trying to kill people. When did Wendell Williamson walk down a Franklin-Street-area cross street shooting people with his rifle?
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:07 AM on March 7, 2006


come on, he's clearly a nutcase.

Why? What's so irrational about his actions and statements? If he feels that his primary loyalty is to the Muslim world, why wouldn't he be extremely angry at what's been happening in Iraq?

The interesting thing about this guy is that he grew up in the US. According to Wikipedia, the London bombers grew up in the UK, too.

According to Benjamin and Simon's latest book, the scary thing about the Madrid bombings is that although they may have been inspired by al-Qaeda, they were locally planned.

The answer isn't to preemptively round people up (or to wiretap people indiscriminately), it's to tighten security in general. Increase security in vulnerable areas (key infrastructure, crowds).

The way I see it, if Taheri-Azar had been Anglo-Saxon there would be a lot less people calling it an act of terrorism.

Fair point. A similar case might be Andrew McCrae, who shot and killed a cop in California for political reasons.
posted by russilwvong at 10:07 AM on March 7, 2006


amberglow - OK, but that's my point. Not to undermine the tragedy in each of these crimes, but you're still talking about very isolated incidents against one person here, one person there. Crimes like that happen every day. You can't expect every murder and violent crime against somebody to be national news.
posted by Witty at 10:09 AM on March 7, 2006


I will grant that race is but one slice of the pie in this case, but my point was (and I should have spelled it out, it seems) that even if the "very clear statements" remained the same, an Anglo-Saxon would still be less likely to be labled "terrorist." I immediately think of the kid who flew his single engine plane into a building in Tampa a few years ago and expressed his support for bin Laden. The terrorist label certainly didn't stick to him.

On preview, see also russilwvong's post above me for another example.
posted by malaprohibita at 10:09 AM on March 7, 2006


I think that the term "insane" doesn't fit here any more than does the term "terrorist." I suspect that he considers himself a martyr and plans to put the U.S. government on trial in his own trial.
posted by leftcoastbob at 10:13 AM on March 7, 2006


Those "isolated incidents" happened all over the country and were directly tied to a giant national event that had just happened. They were also directly addressed by the President when he visited a mosque.

Think about this event now--why are we all hearing about this--who wants us to label him as a terrorist and ratchet up the fear?
posted by amberglow at 10:13 AM on March 7, 2006


The terrorist label certainly didn't stick to him.

Maybe becuase the kid was 15 years old. 15 year old kids don't know shit.

From your article:

Authorities have no information to support any connection between Bishop and any terror organization, Holder said. "At this point, there is no reason to suggest anyone else was involved."

Bishop had few friends, Holder said. "He was very much a loner. From his actions, we can assume he was a troubled young man."


russilwvong's example isn't the same thing either. No matter what a killer's intention is, no matter the race or creed, one guy killing another guy will never be labeled as terrorism. I'm not saying that the UNC crime definitely was terrorism, but I can see why some people would say that it is.
posted by Witty at 10:16 AM on March 7, 2006


...who wants us to label him as a terrorist and ratchet up the fear?

The Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, College Republicans and Americans for an Informed Democracy.
posted by malaprohibita at 10:17 AM on March 7, 2006


Mohammed Reza has a cause, a political direction, and the religious ideal of martyrism. There's logic and thought here. This is no sociopath randomly killing over a span of years, but a deliberate act for political and religious reasons.

Fair point. A similar case might be Andrew McCrae, who shot and killed a cop in California for political reasons.


Was the Ted Kaczynski crazy? How about Eric Rudolph?
posted by Pollomacho at 10:24 AM on March 7, 2006


Authorities have no information to support any connection between Bishop and any terror organization, Holder said.

These days, with the ongoing progress of technology, you don't need an organization behind you. McVeigh didn't have an organization, either.

No matter what a killer's intention is, no matter the race or creed, one guy killing another guy will never be labeled as terrorism.

I disagree. To me, the key question is motivation.

Think about this event now--why are we all hearing about this--who wants us to label him as a terrorist and ratchet up the fear?

So you're saying The Jesse Helms is really GEORGE W. BUSH?!!

Seriously, I've only heard about this through MetaFilter.

At the time of the 2003 incident in Santa Monica, when an elderly man drove into a crowd (killing ten people), I recall some discussion on the Internet of a car potentially being used as a terrorist weapon, but I can't find it now.

Was Ted Kaczynski crazy? How about Eric Rudolph?

More good examples. I don't know enough about them to say.

In general, it's easier to dismiss a loner as insane. When you've got people working together to commit a terrorist act, it's harder to dismiss them as crazy.
posted by russilwvong at 10:32 AM on March 7, 2006


"He was very much a loner. From his actions, we can assume he was a troubled young man."

But the same thing can be said about Taheri-Azar.... And while Taheri-Azar did not commit suicide and was able to express the fact that he wanted to kill, I believe it's perfectly reasonable to conclude that Bishop--by crashing his plane into a building--could have wanted to commit murder as well.
posted by malaprohibita at 10:35 AM on March 7, 2006


“If this is the fruits of extremist religion, which I think it is, then lets admit it.”

Scientology?

Could we then point to the Klan or some white separatist killing someone as the fruit of extremist religion?

Contextually I mean. From a “define terrorist” perspective.

From a limited perspective - yes the “X” wing of Islamic thought is nutty /extreme /etc.
So - ok, Islam drove him crazy - what’s the practical application on our part?
Yes, you have indvidual actors, but I see no way to use counterterrorist techniques to stop that.
Static defenses such as more security in crowd areas raise not only civil liberty concerns, but questions of effectiveness and efficient use of resources.

And calling this ‘terrorism’ lends power to the act.

---
“Why isn't he just someone who got angry and acted?”

Bada bing!

Hinckley wasn’t a terrorist tho’

/I use the “peacetime equivalent of a war crime” thumbnail definition of terrorism. But language is flux. Perhaps we can call that asymmetric warfare and kicking a cop in the balls shouting “Jihad!” as terrorism. Or posting stickers on your bike. Whatever.

Why didn’t he pass the time with a game of solitaire?
Mohammed Reza Taheri-azar is the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful human being I've ever known in my life.
Paintings of Orozco. Modern French Theater. The... Jurisprudential Factor of Mafia Administration. Diseases of Horses and novels of Joyce Cary and... Ethnic Choices of the Arabs. Things like that.

Anyone seen the queen of diamonds?
posted by Smedleyman at 10:38 AM on March 7, 2006


These days, with the ongoing progress of technology, you don't need an organization behind you.

Fine, fine. The fact remains, the kid was a troubled 15-year old high school freshman. He can bark about AQ all he wants, it doesn't mean squat.

I disagree. To me, the key question is motivation.

So then, you're saying that the believe the UNC incident to be an act of terrorism?
posted by Witty at 10:40 AM on March 7, 2006


...you're saying that you believe...
posted by Witty at 10:42 AM on March 7, 2006


Could we then point to the Klan or some white separatist killing someone as the fruit of extremist religion?

Contextually I mean. From a “define terrorist” perspective.

Try the Christian Identity people, and all their Neo-Nazi/White Power/whatever offshoots, for just one group.

Eric Rudolph also belonged to something, and they say the people who hid him for so long did as well.

If this is how it's going to be--that every Muslim or Arab who does anything is going to be called a terrorist, we're in big trouble. Obversely, maybe we should start calling terrorists terrorists--like Rudolph and McVeigh and many others.
posted by amberglow at 10:52 AM on March 7, 2006


Maybe we should just call killing people murder.

If saying "Jihad" as you kill someone is another offense entirely, that's thoughtcrime in my book.

Witty said he thinks a 15 yr. old cannot be a real jihadist, but he could see how someone might think this guy is. That's fine, but it's no way to write policy.
posted by sonofsamiam at 10:56 AM on March 7, 2006


Obversely, maybe we should start calling terrorists terrorists--like Rudolph and McVeigh and many others.

Certainly worth a thought.

If this is how it's going to be--that every Muslim or Arab who does anything is going to be called a terrorist, we're in big trouble.

Have there been other examples of Muslims "doing something" and wrongly labeled a terrorist because of it? Sorry to keep asking for examples, but just saying that it's something might be true about something that hasn't really happened yet, doesn't mean it is true or will be later.

Witty said he thinks a 15 yr. old cannot be a real jihadist, but he could see how someone might think this guy is.

No, I didn't say that... I just don't think that particular little boy that flew his plane into a building in Tampa was a jihadist or in any way affiliated with AQ. His act may have been terroristic in nature, especially coming the wake of 9-11, but wasn't a "terrorist attack" by it's strictest definition. If anything, it was suicide with a flare, with a dash of copycat behavior.
posted by Witty at 11:07 AM on March 7, 2006


Didn't mean to mischaracterize you, sorry.
posted by sonofsamiam at 11:14 AM on March 7, 2006


Have there been other examples of Muslims "doing something" and wrongly labeled a terrorist because of it? Sorry to keep asking for examples, but just saying that it's something might be true about something that hasn't really happened yet, doesn't mean it is true or will be later.

Muslims don't even have to do something for it to happen--it happens daily, Witty, all over the media and airwaves. It's been going on for decades now:..."from congressional candidates to syndicated columnists. [They] have portrayed Islam as 'murderous' and Palestinians as 'lower than pond scum' or 'ragheads,' 'pieces of sh-t' and 'turds.' ... And it happens each time there's any news concerning anyone Arab or Muslim. The list would be far too long to gather and link to--it happens daily, from Congress on down to regular people.
posted by amberglow at 11:14 AM on March 7, 2006


Well, I think we're on differnet wavelengths here (no surprise there really). I mean, you've provided a link to a list of hate crimes against Islam and Muslims. I'm not doubting that these things happen. But I don't see how that answers the question as to whether or not one could rightly label the SUV incident an act of terrorism or not. You were claiming that it's potentially unfair to call this terrorism just because the perpetrator was a Muslim, claims to be a jihadist and acted out as a matter of revenge against Americans. Then you basically said that every time a Muslim does anything, our society jumps up and calls it terrorism. I just really don't know what you're talking about.

Yes, the is a population of people that hate Muslims and have no problem saying so. But they don't speak for anyone but themselves. So I just see any evidence of what you're claiming to be a general trend.
posted by Witty at 11:25 AM on March 7, 2006


His act may have been terroristic in nature, especially coming the wake of 9-11, but wasn't a "terrorist attack" by it's strictest definition. If anything, it was suicide with a flare, with a dash of copycat behavior.

Heh... what interesting distinctions you make. I don't understand how you can ascribe such qualities to either event as you have done. According to you, flying a personal plane into a building is "terroristic in nature" but is not a "terrorist attack" by some supposed "strictest definition"? What does that even mean?

In comparison we have this person, who (assumedly on a relative whim) drives his SUV into pedestrian traffic and vilifies his actions (after the fact) within the larger context of jihad - and he's a dyed in the wool terrorist? If he was serious as those he claims to support, you'd be damn sure A) he wouldn't be alive to rot in jail for the next few decades under terrorism charges and B) people would be dead.

Based on his own screeds he has failed miserably, so lets not let him take the easy way out and label it domestic terrorism - all the while frothing up our citizenry in pointless debates such as this.
posted by prostyle at 11:29 AM on March 7, 2006


--you're saying that the believe the UNC incident to be an act of terrorism?

It's pretty early yet, so we don't have all the details. If he planned the attack (if it wasn't just a whim), and he intended to kill people (not just inflict minor injuries), then yes, I'd call it terrorism.

maybe we should start calling terrorists terrorists--like Rudolph and McVeigh and many others.

Agreed. I think everyone agrees McVeigh was a terrorist.

For a good definition of terrorism, see the book "Terror", by Conor Gearty. Gearty argues for a restrictive definition of terrorism, requiring all of the following:

(1) violent subversion
(2) extreme violence (murder or maiming)
(3) lack of discrimination in targets
(4) political intent
(5) communication to a broader audience

He notes that "terrorism" tends to be used in a much more loose way, as an insult towards one's political opponents.
posted by russilwvong at 11:34 AM on March 7, 2006


He plans to represent himself, with the help of Allah.

That is actually kind of smart. There is an axiom of law saying that he who represents himself in court will save himself 450$ an hour in legal fees.

"I'm thankful you're here to give me this trial and to learn more about the will of Allah," he told the judge in court.

I'm sure Allah is rejoicing to the fact that his spokesman on earth is a homocidal nutcase.

"People all over the world are being killed in war and now it is the people in the United States['] turn to be killed."

That is going to go down reeeeaally well with the jury.
So, do they have the death penalty in North Carollina?
posted by sour cream at 11:49 AM on March 7, 2006


... what interesting distinctions you make. I don't understand how you can ascribe such qualities to either event as you have done. According to you, flying a personal plane into a building is "terroristic in nature" but is not a "terrorist attack" by some supposed "strictest definition"? What does that even mean?

OK, 9-11 was obviously a long-term planned attack, supported and funded by a terrorist organization. A little boy fying a plane into a building, when it was known that he was a "troubled kid" who just happened to say that he was a "fan" of AQ... well, I think those two things are easily separated. Had 9-11 never happened, we wouldn't even have given terrorism a second thought (if even a first) when speaking of the incident in Tampa.

Which is why, I'm not convinced one could definitely call the SUV incident an act of terrorism either (even though you seem to think I do). I don't really care what we call it. But I do see why some people have no problem labeling it as such. Like I said, had the car exploded and killed people, then it would have been no different than any other car bombing attack seen all over the world... which would certainly change the opinions of people on the fence as to what to call it.

I guess for me, an act of terrorism by my definition, has to be one that is planned on some level and directly supported or sanctioned by an organized radical group of people. One guy acting alone, for me, just isn't a terrorist... he's a murderer. If there's no one left to claim responsibility, then it's just a random act of one man's instability.
posted by Witty at 11:50 AM on March 7, 2006


“Have there been other examples of Muslims "doing something" and wrongly labeled a terrorist because of it?”

Indeed. Examples above of people who were not Muslims nor “doing something” but looked like Muslims and were harshly treated. The guy picked up by the CIA in Poland maybe? Mosques = terrorist recruiting grounds post 9/11 meme maybe?
The Yemeni community in Lackawana and the whole ‘fifth column’ thing?
Lynne Stewart - although she was white.
Mohammed Yousry perhaps?
Folks on the CIA torture planes maybe. Khalid El-Masri? (say - whatever happened to him anyway?) Some of the 14,000 odd people held without charge or trial in Iraq, maybe one of them is innocent. Some of the folks at Gitmo...some were released - by definition they were wrongly labeled and treated like terrorists. Plenty more examples if you go fish.

“So I just see any evidence of what you're claiming to be a general trend.” -posted by Witty

All this stuff is not on the fringe. It’s being discussed in, like, Time magazine.
Certainly there’s been some agitprop by the Arab league, whatever. And misreporting, sensationalizing, etc. But it can’t all be that. And the term gets smudged as it gets bandied about.
I certainly agree with you (and russilwvong ) however that there has to be a broader agenda and acts at work to be a terrorist.
posted by Smedleyman at 12:12 PM on March 7, 2006


I'm not convinced one could definitely call the SUV incident an act of terrorism either (even though you seem to think I do).

Indeed I was confused, thank you for expanding your definition.
posted by prostyle at 12:15 PM on March 7, 2006


So, do they have the death penalty in North Carollina?

Yes, but what does that have to do with this case?
posted by NoMich at 12:20 PM on March 7, 2006


There is no objective meaning of the word "terrorist." To some, it's a tactic of war (legitimate or not). To others, it's a state of mind when committing acts of violence. To others, it depends on a particular kind of ideological and practical infrastructure (planning, "cells," etc.) The very point of those of those of us who are laughing at the rush to brand this guy a "terrorist" is precisely that the meaning of the word has become the political flag to capture here, having been invested with mystical significance as a justification for the current administration's claims to legitimacy as it defies long-standing international and domestic conventions that would otherwise limit its power.

This depends on the cultivation of fear among average Americans, and the administration has made the cultivation of such fear its primary political strategy since 9/11, used it to evade accountability for lies, incompetence, and venality on a breathtaking scale, and lately watched the tactic fail to override the obvious evidence that the administration can't do anything right, or tell the truth about the simplest things. Reality bites, if you're a republican these days, with the solace that your party still has the means of state power (and violence), along with all three branches of government, firmly in its grip. But Our Fearless Leader(s) -- with their flight suits and "dead or alive" rhetoric and tough-guy posing -- can longer pretend to be competently protecting us from the dangers they have led us all to fear so much we're willing to kiss our civil rights and our international reputation and the lives of our soldiers and uncounted civilians (including our own, on the Gulf Coast especially) goodbye. The only alternative legitimation strategy the right has, short of simply saying "because we can get away with this," is to point to all the scary things George Bush protects us from, and the key symbol of that has been the Muslim/Arab Terrorist (and to Bush, they're all Arabs, even though this particular guy is Persian, I believe; Heck, he even just called the Pakistanis Arabs. This president believes his own propaganda, which makes him a very useful idiot.).

Therefore, whenever possible, they would assimilate any threat to American happiness to the category of things they are protecting us from. Primus inter pares, that means "terrorism," because after all, why else fight a "war on terror?" (note, not even on "terrorism!") And why else would they get away with such breathtaking lies and screwups, or with *terrorizing* so many people in the name of preventing "terror?" And this especially significant coming right after the ship of state very nearly keeled over thanks to the contradictions between act and word here (the Dubai ports deal, in which Bush shows more passionate interest in defending his Arab business partners than in being ideologically consistent with the anxieties he has stoked in his political pseudo-base -- not his real base of billionaires, who all love the deal). Indeed, Bush has a problem now in that his two primary "bases" will come increasingly into conflict as 2008 approaches. The abortion issue and the terrorism issue and the immigration issue and the sheer competence issue all converge and things look mighty choppy in republican land these days.

That is why the entire issue of this cat being a "terrorist" is even a subject for heated discussion in the media and the blogosphere. What's at stake is the ideological truth, not the objective truth. And ideologically, if the average American is seriously scared enough of psycho (Muslim) grad students driving SUVs into crowds, we're really even more screwed up than I thought we were. This is the classic "isolated incident," unless you can point to a wave of similar attacks. It obviously isn't sponsored by any "terrorist" organization, and was executed so amateurly that it's embarrassing even to Bush's remaining fans to have to debate whether it was "terrorism" or not. If this is the best they can do, in other words, it's almost laugh out loud funny. They can't hold the message together.

Of course, the party in power knows all of this, and that's what concerns me. Some of us can at least imagine them looking at, say, a Presidential Daily Briefing saying "Al Quadea determined to attack within the US" and ignoring it. It served them all too well in their larger ambitions to do so, which is the lie that justified the Iraq war, now widely exposed as a lie since the war has made the global risk picture for the US so much worse, to any reasonable observer. I am sure there are real terrorists. They blew up buildings on 9/11, and before that in Oklahoma City and Atlanta (so I ask the classic liberal question, which is why we don't go after White Nationalist terror organizations with the same fervor as Muslim ones). I don't doubt some of them -- more than might have otherwise -- are busy plotting against us, inflamed further by cartoons of the Prophet as a bomber and pictures of naked, scared men with wires attached to their genitals and limbless children in Fallujah. Terror cuts both ways. But to dignify this little SUV incident as "terrorism"and then to watch the backlash, which consists mostly of laughter among people I read and know, just shows desperation on the right.

Remember the color-coded alerts? We had one almost once a month in the year before the 2004 presidential election. I don't believe there's been a national one since. How obvious can it be? What's in a word? Power. Unless this guy took orders from Kabul or has a bunch of friends planning to do the same thing (but get it right) in the next month, all I can do is giggle when people insist so stridently and furiously that he is a "terrorist." So is every violent criminal, by the same definition, who rationalizes his/her violence by reference to an ideological cause, be it Andrea Yates drowning her baby because God told her to, or some suicide bomber crossing the border from Gaza for her homeland and her faith. And so is the American interrogator forcing her prisoners into naked piles for home movies.

The power to control language is the power to control meaning. If "terror" gets away from these guys, as it does every time a story from Guantanmo or an image from Abu Ghraib makes the rounds, they have nothing but brute power to justify the exercise of brute power in which they are engaged. Then we'll see whether Muslims have any monopoly on "terror." Personally, these days I feel far more terrified of my own government (I'm an American) than I do of *any* Muslim extremist group or individual. And the deepest irony is that this state power I fear is practiced in the name of "spreading and preserving freedom." Orwell nailed it.
posted by fourcheesemac at 1:33 PM on March 7, 2006


I'm not a right-winger or a Bush supporter. In fact, I think Bush is quite possibly the worst President ever, outdoing even Harding; I can't believe you elected him twice. I'm not even American, I'm Canadian.

Nevertheless, I have a strong interest in terrorism. (Every day when I take the bus to work, I pass the motel where Ahmed Ressam stayed in 1999 on his way down to the US to blow up LAX.)

I would argue that the word terrorism does indeed have an objective meaning, as I outlined above, regardless of its misuse for political reasons. And again, if Taheri-Azar planned the attack (if it wasn't just a whim), and he intended to kill people (not just inflict minor injuries), then I think it's fair to call it terrorism.
posted by russilwvong at 2:52 PM on March 7, 2006


I see, fourcheesemac, so when Bush tells us we should be afraid of the Islamists, he's the real terrorist, in that he's using fear to control us.

So when you tell us that we should be afraid of Bush, doesn't that make you a terrorist too?

Way to control meaning, sport.
posted by techgnollogic at 3:08 PM on March 7, 2006


“Remember the color-coded alerts?”
- posted by fourcheesemac

There were no color-coded alerts, comrade. You must be misremembering. Doubleplus ungood.



“if Taheri-Azar planned the attack (if it wasn't just a whim), and he intended to kill people (not just inflict minor injuries), then I think it's fair to call it terrorism.” -posted by russilwvong

You just lost me there.
So...I should have been shooting at grad students driving SUVs through college campuses instead of trained warfighters trying to get their hands on dangerous weaponized chemicals or nuclear material, ok got it. Wilco.

I’m with your argument that terrorism has a certain meaning, but usage determines meaning.
Say: “Hey dude” in Nevada or Oklahoma and you won’t get punched out. 100+ years ago, that wasn’t true.
You recognize it’s political misuse, which is what fourcheesemac was saying - so where’s the argument?


“So when you tell us that we should be afraid of Bush, doesn't that make you a terrorist too?” - posted by techgnollogic

Controling meaning was one of the points.
I didn’t agree with all of them, but “the power to control language is the power to control meaning” is pretty concrete. There is no discourse in the country right now.

Forget it.

Everyone is a counterterrorist expert now.
/No offense meant to you personally techgnollogic, it’s a general statement.

Y’know, ‘cause of 9/11. We all know the techniques and principles of how to identify the profile of a terrorist, recognize their methodology, etc. etc. etc.

Clearly a lone man suddenly deciding that driving an SUV through a college campus is a classic terrorist act on the level of high profile hijacking, kidnappings or other more violent acts designed to get attention and make people think about it.
Indeed - by definition - look at all the attention he’s getting. He must be a terrorist.
And of course, we are all sure he is, because again, we’re all experts on exactly what terrorism is thanks to the feds.
posted by Smedleyman at 3:53 PM on March 7, 2006


The fact that his weapon of choice was an SUV makes me think he's as much a lazy suburban bastard as he is a shia fundamentalist.

What kind of Muslim peddles pork in a sub-shop? I'm telling the Imam.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 4:07 PM on March 7, 2006


His attack (or "attack", as some would say) was a rousing success.

I'm sure that a lot of wussy folks are going to bed scared tonight, afraid of the terrorists that could be anywhere... even in an SUV!

Personally, I think the public would be better served by a daily story about the dangers of unsafe driving. But I guess that's why I'm not a news director.
posted by I Love Tacos at 4:43 PM on March 7, 2006


techgnollogic: " . . . so when Bush tells us we should be afraid of the Islamists, he's the real terrorist, in that he's using fear to control us."

Yes. Well summarized, especially because nothing his administration has done has had the net effect of making the world safe from "Islamist" terror (the word "Islamist" is yet another right-wing dodge, actually, but that's another post). Instead, he's wrought an international climate in which we now do have to be afraid -- of being friendless and feared and hated by so many people that there is no hope of tamping it down. And on top of that, if this administration is so serious about terrorism, why haven't they found Osama, started a serious security effort at the ports, etc.? Virtually every serious expert on terrorism thinks we remain sitting ducks.

Which raises the interesting question of why there haven't been any significant acts of "Islamist" terrorism in the US since 9/11. The answer, obviously, is that "Osama" (if he even exists) needs Bush as much as Bush needs him. How else do you explain the sudden appearance of Osama on tape, after a year or more of silence, in the week before the election in 2004? And why no messages since from the Big Guy? It is in al Qaeda's interest to focus outside the US, and let Americans work themselves up into a lather while doing almost nothing serious to secure the country.

Your odds of getting killed by an SUV driven by a soccer-mom on your way home from work tonight are far higher than your odds of getting killed by a terrorist, certainly one driving an SUV on campus. What should I be afraid of again?

and again: So when you tell us that we should be afraid of Bush, doesn't that make you a terrorist too?

No, it makes me right. And it makes your debating tactics juvenile. The things to fear are the loss of liberty, the absence of competence, the failure of policy and vision, the venality and thievery of a one-party government, the undue influence of a flat-earth evangelical minority, and, oh, the complete collapse of America's standing in much of the civilized world, among allies we would absolutely need to win any "war on terror."

I'm not the only one saying this. Many hard headed, conservative, even right-wing security experts and foreign policy realists have been saying this for years, harkening back to Brent Scowcroft's original warning about this current war, and William Kristol's recent admission that Bush is simply not competent at executing even well-conceived policies, of which he has very few.

We've got a gang of idiots fronting for a gang of thieves in charge of the show. Fighting "terror" has almost nothing to do with their actual agenda, except as PR. Anyone who doesn't see that, at this point, is stupid or brainwashed. It's not a left/right issue anymore. It's a matter of whether you are in or out of the cult of personality that is Bush.

Now, to quote Our Luminous Sun King, "bring it on." It's such an absurd argument. Show me one thing this administration has done *right* in executing a major policy initiative, and be sure to explain the benefit to the average American thereof.

/blows across knuckles
posted by fourcheesemac at 4:54 PM on March 7, 2006


You just lost me there.
So...I should have been shooting at grad students driving SUVs through college campuses instead of trained warfighters trying to get their hands on dangerous weaponized chemicals or nuclear material, ok got it. Wilco.


The sad thing about terrorism, modern technology, and open societies is that there's a huge range of possible targets. Of course it makes sense to focus on the worst threats. But you need to think about the whole range of threats as well. McVeigh did pretty well with a few tons of fertilizer.

I'm guessing that as technology continues to advance, we're going to see more individual-entrepreneur, garage-type terrorism. High-powered laser pointers, radioactive Boy Scouts, computer-controlled sewage pumps.

Just because Bush uses terrorism as an all-purpose political tool doesn't mean that it doesn't exist.

Show me one thing this administration has done *right* in executing a major policy initiative--

I can think of exactly one example: brokering the 2004 peace deal in the south of Sudan. Tim Judah, writing in the New York Review of Books: "The southern agreement was pushed through in large part by the US, whose chief negotiator, John Danforth, was soon after appointed the US representative to the UN and then quit. If it is signed, then it will be not only a major, if rare, diplomatic triumph for the Bush administration but might dramatically affect the lives of millions of people for the better."
posted by russilwvong at 5:13 PM on March 7, 2006


I suppose the war in Afghanistan might be considered another example--although it was then undermined by the decision to go to war in Iraq instead of following through.
posted by russilwvong at 5:15 PM on March 7, 2006


This guy has been all over the local news for the last couple of days. His grooming and attire are impeccable. In fact it looks like he just got a haircut (and probably a manicure) and had a nice suit tailored for the occasion. His frog march demeanor, all radiant smiles, is better suited to oscar night than a one way trip to prison. But, then again, he is a psych major.
posted by Huplescat at 6:43 PM on March 7, 2006


Has Harvard given him an honorary doctorate yet?
posted by HTuttle at 7:24 PM on March 7, 2006


Has Harvard given him an honorary doctorate yet?

Why so angry HTuttle, did you forget to beat your wife today?
posted by I Love Tacos at 8:03 PM on March 7, 2006


No, they haven't. But the Bush administration gave this guy the top job in National Intelligence to this guy. Who's really honoring badness here?

Seriously, there is no reality-based defense for the neocon positions on the war, terrorism, or national security -- let alone any single aspect of domestic policy -- left to offer. The sputtering gusts are getting faster and hotter out of the usual suspects (namely, the vast majority of media talking puppets who rationalize everything Bush does as "presidential" in character if not intelligent in substance). So now the tactic is to invent an outrage (teacher compares Bush to HITLER! Master terrorist grad student could possibly in some weird right-wing universe be comparable on some level to some hypothetical left wing doctoral honoree whom I cannot name!). I am outraged! After all, Harvard doesn't represent conservative voices.

Right-wing, Evangelical, and Bush-doctrinaire views have plenty of advocates in the elite public sphere. The whine to the contrary is so 1994. Y'all got the power, and screwed it up and the US is reeling from it. The grownups, including some significant number of thoughtful conservatives and Harvard faculty members, need to be back in charge again.

The proper response to the implied question under debate, itself a derail of the FPP -- namely, whether the wack grad student with the SUV should be called a "terrorist" -- is not to snidely suggest that anyone who doesn't think he is a "terrorist" is therfore praising him for being honorable or brave. That's the same old "you're with us or against us" McArthyite trick. If you don't approve of the "war on terra," you're a terra-ist lover. The False Choice has become the substance of American politics. That's how they ground Kerry under the bootheel, why it didn't matter that a (de facto if not de jure) draft dodger beat a decorated Vietnam hero by impugning his military credentials and casting him as "indecisive." It was disgusting and cowardly and obscene to see.

Kharma is a bitch. Yes she is. And so is reality.
posted by fourcheesemac at 8:52 PM on March 7, 2006


Sorry, that last bold in the first paragraph was supposed to go to this article from School of the Americas Watch on Negroponte's life's work in its Honduran Red (as in blood red) Period. Don't know if he has any honorary doctorates, but he's not got the only pair of blood-stained hands on the controls of state at the moment. Some of those blood-stains are on the hands of professors and honorary doctorees too.
posted by fourcheesemac at 9:02 PM on March 7, 2006


I certainly understand the semantic argument going on here.
What I'm hearing from a number of people is that calling this guy a terrorist is bad because it gives power to Bush in his fight to enslave the minds of America.
I hate Bush as much as the next guy. More, even. But let's not let our ideological viewpoints cloud what's going on here.
If he was really premeditated, with the intent to use this act to get a political bully pulpit (which he appears to be doing) IMHO, this seems to be an act of terrorism.
I'm not sure this fellow's so different from Richard Reid, for example. They're both failures, as far as killing anyone goes.
Its absolutely the same thing as Ted Kaczynski.
He's defending himself in court like Zacarias Moussaoui.
Terrorism is a meme. A deadly one. And because it is essentially memetic, it isn't necessary to belong to a central organization. It's an ideology, not a group. It's like how you can be Christian without belonging to the Catholic Church (or any actual organized church, actually). You can be a terrorist without being a card carrying member of Al Queda. It just means you use terror (random killing of civilians, for example, in a way intended to frighten the populace) for ideological purposes.
And this guy appears to subscribe to an ideology.
That, of course, is the danger of the Al Queda meme. In College, people discover Marx, or Brecht, or Nietsche, and get mopey and nihilistic. You get into bin Laden, that's a little more serious, if you act on it.
Copycat terrorism is no less real than copycat school shootings.
I don't know what you do about it, and I certainly don't think that the Federal Government should have more control over all of us. But it doesn't mean we won't see more of this.
posted by MythMaker at 9:19 PM on March 7, 2006


Terrorism is a meme alright. The question is, who benefits most from its promulgation as such? And how is it promulgated? If we dignify this wacko by treating him as a terrorist, we inspire his perhaps more talented brethren.

This is to presume that, his conduct being as you describe it, MythMaker (very articulately, I might add) does not make him a terrorist prima facie. He could well be -- and seems to be -- in the grip of an overt psychosis. The "meme" of terrorism clearly flows through some detached minds that find it appealing, as the DC sniper case showed, or any of many other mass murderers who have claimed ideogical justification. Ted Kazcynski falls into this category -- a lone loony who would latch on to *any* ideological obsession as a cause and a justification to act out on a rage inside.

Unless "premeditated" means more than "I had a recurrent thought of driving into a bunch of people," I don't see it.

Or maybe he's cold sane. Could be. If so, he's not very smart. The evidence is to the contrary. Dude thought he was a Muslim superhero, but that doesn't make him the equivalent of Abu Nidal.

And here's another thought: by glorifying him as a "terrorist" do we not encourage more such conduct, since suicidal terrorism is often motivated by thoughts of posthumous fame and notoreity, according to many psychologists who have looked at it seriously? This is something I've never understood. Does it not play into the hands of terrorists to *act* terrorized by every little thing? And as I said above, how much more could we do to give even wacko marginal cases like this dude the memetic IV (memetic as in meme, not mimetic) -- here, here's exactly how to get to us and scare us! Daddy B, please save us from the meanie Arabs.

It's like "ethnic cleansing," which Milosevic coined (I believe?) to gloss "genocide," but which has now become an accepted synonym for "genocide" unmarked by the disgusting hypocrisy of its original formulation. It's worth paying attention to language with big, ideologically powerful concepts. The right knows this all too well, and they work to control the terms of debate. Pushing back means calling bullshit on the obsession with finding "terrorism" behind every tree because the administration keeps telling us we should be scared together.
posted by fourcheesemac at 9:52 PM on March 7, 2006



Mythmaker: In College, people discover Marx, or Brecht, or Nietsche, and get mopey and nihilistic. You get into bin Laden, that's a little more serious, if you act on it.

Or something like that. Just ribbing you MythMaker. You make good points.
posted by fourcheesemac at 9:58 PM on March 7, 2006


It's pretty early yet, so we don't have all the details.

Amen to that. Anyone still remember that "British cops shoot running terror suspect" thread? I really don't see how anyone can be certain of the guy's metnal state at all here, despite his words. He could be a lone angry terrorist, sure, he could be part of a larger cell that's just started its reign of terror, but he could also be a mentally ill guy who flipped out and then quickly jumped on the "I'm a Jihadist" thing to make sense of what he did. And I'd bet there are other options no one's considered yet. It's foolish to stake a claim and defend it at this point.

amberglow: one guy does this and we all hear about it, but people were killed and attacked all over as payback for 9/11 , and we don't?

Hmm. Each one of the examples you pulled was also national news, amberglow, so I'm not sure I see the point of that comparison. I mean, I see what you're getting at, but it doesn't seem that relevant.
posted by mediareport at 11:11 PM on March 7, 2006


No matter what a killer's intention is, no matter the race or creed, one guy killing another guy will never be labeled as terrorism.

It will be if the killed guy is a personage of some importance. Like the leader of a large and powerful First World nation, for example.
posted by moonbiter at 6:37 AM on March 8, 2006


I guess, maybe in today's world it would be. But I think a certain amount of randomness is needed in order to use the popular definition of terrorism. The assassination of a political figurehead is just that, an assassination.
posted by Witty at 7:35 AM on March 8, 2006


Well, wel, well.

They are just rounding up the three fellers who been burnin down churches in Alabama. Let's see if a debate ensues on whether these boys are "terrorists." Not only that, I just heard someone on CNN describe the motive for these burnings as, essentially, thrillseeking pranksterism. Even though the cops thought they "had a message to send." But they're not terrorists, or so I hear.
posted by fourcheesemac at 8:59 AM on March 8, 2006


“I'm not the only one saying this. Many hard headed, conservative, even right-wing security experts and foreign policy realists have been saying this for years...”

Hi there!

“The sad thing about terrorism, modern technology, and open societies is that there's a huge range of possible targets....Just because Bush uses terrorism as an all-purpose political tool doesn't mean that it doesn't exist.”
- russilwvong

Huh? Seriously, I’m having a hard time understanding you.
My proposition: Terrorism is “X” but is being used as “Y”
Your rebuttle reads to me as: Just because its “Y” doesn’t mean “X” doesn’t exist.

See the thing about terrorism, modern technology, and open societies is that it becomes even more crucial to accurately identify a thing or class of thing. If you were in the military - try calling a rifle or a pistol a “gun.”

In much the same way - I read the press punch up a robbery story by saying a robber was carrying a high caliber semi-automatic weapon. Well, there are a wide array of those. As it happens a 1911 colt .45 fits into that category, so “handgun” works just as well. No one’s denying that an armed robbery took place - but comparing that armed robbery to an assault using paramilatary nomenclature is misleading.
Same schtick here.
I agree with fourcheesemac on some particulars, disagree with others.

For me the semantic issue is weighted as a matter of resource priority.

Or did we want to call SEAL 6 on this guy?
Cause I’d just send out a black and white. I doubt I’d even waste local resources by giving a SWAT sharpshooter some overtime.

In the same way, spending time and energy focused on this guy not only plays right into his hands, it’s a waste of time.

“Terrorism is a meme.”

And what is the best way to prevent the enemy from gaining attention? Of prosecuting propaganda by deed?
Reid - on the border of terrorist and joke. If successful he would have killed a bunch of people in a high profile manner. Supposedly he was backed by Al-Qaeda. I’d inbound him closer to joke.
Kazcynski too. But I’d put him closer to terrorist - based on methodology. But he also fit the profile of the disaffected older white men who tend to be bomber types.
He didn’t get a lot of press until the end. Do you think the agents trying to stop him were in favor of giving him press while they were trying to find him? Or not? The NYT thing is a judgement call I’d rather not armchair quarterback. They caught him. But if they didn’t...

“It will be if the killed guy is a personage of some importance”

Typically that’s called assassination. The person carrying it out can be a terrorist, but the act itself doesn’t make one a terrorist. Usually assassination is part of a larger strategy, but if it’s a message kind of thing, perhaps. Depends on all the particulars involved. But one lone nut isn’t going to do it. Was Oswald a terrorist? He - apparently - had communist leanings. Plenty of folks have tried to kill Popes - some were terrorists, some weren’t. But those who were, were typically connected to a terrorist group before the act.
posted by Smedleyman at 9:26 AM on March 8, 2006


Smedleyman, you realize that your positions make you a "terrorist sympathizer" to many on the right, yes? Like our friend HTuttle, above. Either you support the theater of hysteria about "terrorism" or you are an enemy of your country. I'm not exaggerating the views of the Hannitys and O'Reillys and other useful idiots here, who keep the dimwits and especially the scaredy-cats in line behind the administration's much more cynical agenda. The people I know who went most hard-right after 9/11 are people who already had a paranoid streak to them, and a need to feel sure that everything could be normal that responds to the faux-tough-guy neo-con rhetoric. George Lakoff really nails this -- the control of image and language as the nearly sole content of politics in these strange times. Tom Franks does as well, in his way. It's really a kind of milennarianism, similar to (and continued from) the Y2K era. People are drawn to cults and simplistic and authoritarian "solutions" when the world becomes more dangerous, changeable, and complex and "others" are more proximate in psychological space (so really, this has a great deal to do with globalization, which is the broad point Tom Friedman gets right, though he's an idiot savant about it). This explains Islamic fanaticism quite as much as the evangelical and wingnut variants in the US. And it explains why it is unsurprising that a young American Muslim would, in the grip of a psychotic break, be drawn dialectically to commit an act of pseudo-terrorism. When the choices are black and white, some people are going to choose black. And some people are quicker to give up on mixing a shade of gray. They aren't up for it. Problem is, one man's black is another woman's white. There are no good guys running things on any side of the grand standoffs here.

The intelligent approach to counter-terror policy and strategy, as smart people have said for generations, is to co-opt your enemy's appeal, and minimize the force of his psychological operations. Retaliation has to be either total, which is often if not always impossible when your enemy has no state and operates within civilian infrastructures, or it has to be highly competent and selective, and it can't compromise the core values presented as the antidote to the state of terror, at least not so obviously as the US "war on terror" has done (linking Guantanamo, the Patriot Act, and Iraq under the flag of a response to 9/11 . . . ).

This would be the one, appropriate and reasonable rationalization for moving forward with, let's say, the Dubai Ports Deal. But it is a rationalization the Bush administration cannot even utter without sparking a revolt among the "terrorized" base on the right, as he is finding out just today. A house full of representatives, in both parties, is about to go toe-to-toe with the president over this. Denny freaking Hastert is turning on the boss. Frist is terrified about enforcing discipline on the house when the shootdown comes to the Senate, knowing his own presidential ambitions are on the line. It's delightful to watch, but the reasons for it are ugly.

The administration is about to position itself as "against Us," in their own terms. Us don't like that -- a t least those of Us who believed (in) the administration up to this point. Of course, to me, that's "Them." But I welcome the chance to invite Them over to the sunny side of Reality Street. Actually, it's kinda Gray over here. But that's what happens when you abandon Black and White.

You cannot serve two masters. A bit of wisdom from our Dear Leader's favorite philosopher.
posted by fourcheesemac at 10:04 AM on March 8, 2006


Huh? Seriously, I’m having a hard time understanding you.
My proposition: Terrorism is “X” but is being used as “Y”
Your rebuttal reads to me as: Just because its “Y” doesn’t mean “X” doesn’t exist.


My last sentence was more in response to fourcheesemac.

For me the semantic issue is weighted as a matter of resource priority.

Sure, that makes sense. I see your point, namely that this kind of attack is too trivial to be called terrorism. I doubt that college students anywhere are going to be terrorized by this incident.
posted by russilwvong at 11:06 AM on March 8, 2006


Tightly defining "terrorism" is all well and good, if everyone respects the definition. If the term is used as a political token, it is pointless to debate the semantics without reference to the political context. The political context provides the field of connotative meaning for the term, rendering its denotation in rational discourse if not moot, than less than fully relevant. That is my primary point here. That is why I invoke the term "ethnic cleansing," to demonstrate that a term means what it is used to mean, not what it is supposed to mean or meant in some prior or originary context. This connotative field is as much a part of the term's semantics as the criteria of "intention to communicate" or "extreme violence of the act."

But of course, if we reclaim "terrorism," Bush still owns "evil" as a trademarked term of art. That is truly astonishing political theater.
posted by fourcheesemac at 11:38 AM on March 8, 2006


They just caught the guys who burnt all the churches down south--was that terrorism? are they terrorists?
posted by amberglow at 12:15 PM on March 8, 2006


amberglow: They just caught the guys who burnt all the churches down south

Excellent question . . .


Not yet, according to the media. But frankly, those guys are a lot more terrifying to me than SUV-guy.
posted by fourcheesemac at 1:03 PM on March 8, 2006


They just caught the guys who burnt all the churches down south--was that terrorism? are they terrorists?

Using Gearty's definition, no. Gearty's definition requires intent to kill or maim, not property damage alone. (By the way, the Alabama arsonists made the news in Canada; the UNC incident didn't.)

The political context provides the field of connotative meaning for the term, rendering its denotation in rational discourse if not moot, then less than fully relevant.

Gearty discusses this at length in the book I've been referring to. It'd be nice to use a different term, with less highly charged connotations, but one doesn't appear to be available. Hence Gearty's attempt to reclaim the word "terrorism" by carefully and restrictively defining it.

To me, terrorism (by Gearty's definition) and the misuse of the word "terrorism" are two different subjects. One has to do with the conflict between al-Qaeda and its sympathizers and the West; the other has to do with the internal conflict between the Bush administration and its domestic opponents. I would guess that most people who post comments on MetaFilter (aside from a few true believers) would agree with your contention that the Bush administration is incredibly mendacious and incompetent.
posted by russilwvong at 1:52 PM on March 8, 2006


(By the way, the Alabama arsonists made the news in Canada; the UNC incident didn't.)

Really? Interesting, though I can understand why.
posted by malaprohibita at 2:00 PM on March 8, 2006


Just a point of fact: the Alabama church-burners are being talked about as committing a "practical joke that went to far." The word "terrorist" is never used in any media story I've seen,
posted by fourcheesemac at 10:49 PM on March 9, 2006


They just caught the guys who burnt all the churches down south--was that terrorism? are they terrorists?

If the churches didn't have people in them... meaning, there was no real attempt to randomly kill or injure people, then I wouldn't call it terrorism.
posted by Witty at 4:31 AM on March 13, 2006


i certainly would call it terrorism--Al Qaeda and Muslims don't own the word---you have non-state actors trying to inspire fear and terror thru their carefully targeted acts. No way is that many churches "a practical joke", but white boys (whose parents are GOP officeholders) get away with everything. The people who worshipped at those churches were targeted, and they were afraid--many small churches in the south were.
posted by amberglow at 9:38 AM on March 13, 2006


« Older Dana Reeves...  |  New Jersey Assemblyman Peter B... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments