Calling a Terrorist Spade a Terrorist Spade

M2D Newsletter 11/2

Remember, Remember, the 2nd of November,

Today, fair subscriber, marks three days before Guy Fawkes day. You’ll forgive me for celebrating a little early, because that guy is a freaking legend, even if he was arrested in 1605 before carrying out a plan to blow up the House of Lords.

Legend status or not, one might call Guy’s plot an act of terrorism, defined as the use of political violence (or the threat of it) to create a broader psychological impact.Granted, my knowledge of Fawkes stems primarily from V for Vendetta, just like my knowledge of Passover stems entirely from Mariah Carey and Whitney Houstonreminding me to believe

…but it seems accurate to say Guy was a terrorist, just like it’s accurate to call Robert Bowers one.

It’s hard to put into words the grief I and many others feel about the attack in Pittsburgh, but I have no problem articulating my anger that more people aren’t calling Bowers a terrorist. His goal, to target Jews, and HIAS, a refugee resettlement agency, and by extension, Muslims, was a political one. And we all can attest to the psychological impact of Bowers’ crime. Yet, because since 9/11 the U.S. has focused on terrorism as a problem related to jihadis, of the 44 federal charges he was indicted on, not one was for terrorism.

Pardon my dystopian English, but that is some bül sheet. It seems you have to be a Muslim to be considered a terrorist, a standard that, aside from being discriminatory, has sheety practical ramifications. As Dan Byman, a fellow at the Brookings Institution pointed out on Monday, only a tiny slice of the FBI’s counterterrorism budget goes to investigating right-wing extremists. Downplaying the danger of such terrorism, the Trump administration has cut resources to address it, I’m guessing redistributing the funds to a marketing campaign reminding voters that Ivanka is a Jew so she knows it really sucks when hate crimes occur.

Byman notes that labeling Bowers and other right-wing extremists for what they are would mean more resources devoting to tracking domestic terrorists. Doing so would also push the government to act more quickly if, say, a suspected right-wing terrorist tried to acquire bomb-making materials or a gun. And by calling a terrorist spade a terrorist spade, Washington could press tech companies, those almighty beacons of free speech and innovation who evade government oversight, pay zero taxes, and can’t seem to stem the flow of misinformation they constantly propagate, to be more aggressive in targeting xenophobic accounts.

Sorry, couldn’t help myself. BTW if you’re new to the mailing list, that face is the face of my “friend” Jesse.

Because we live in an age of misrepresentation perpetuated from the top down, I say we resist from the bottom up by, for instance, not referring to people traveling through Central America as traveling in a “caravan,” a word with loaded implications; recognizing that the term ‘deterrence,” which comes from the language of crime prevention, belongs nowhere near asylum seekers legally seeking protection; classifying V for Vendetta as a biopic; and calling Bowers a terrorist.

Hopefully, one day soon, the government will follow suit and stop more terrorists before it’s too late. After all, who knows what miracles you can achieve when you believe somehow they will… label right-wing extremists for what they are.

Keep the faith,
Ben