Thursday, April 18, 2013

What Color Is Your Terrorist?

Terrorism Issue Chart: Color Coded For Your Convenience
Dylan Byers of Politico writes:
For many journalists I've spoken with today, this ignorance is tortuous. The identification of the attacker(s) and the reasons for the attack will likely have enormous political (and potentially geoplitical) ramifications, which will vary greatly depending on whether the attacker(s) is domestic or foreign, acting alone or as part of an organization. We're standing on the verge of a very important national conversation about something, and we have no idea what it is.
Ace of Spades wisely decodes this:
Basically he wants to know if he's on Offense or Defense, or, as he puts it, "what sort of national conversation we'll be having," or something like that. (Safe link to The Other McCain.)
I think this is right--when we see the faces of the terrorists (and there are plenty of potential faces bouncing around the Internet) based on their skin color we will instantly decide we know who they are and why they did it. Once that happens there will be an immediate attempt to repudiate the actions by whichever side feels defensive and to pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey by whichever side feels vindicated.

There have been several "suspects" and images circulated. As far as I can tell, the current state of affairs is this:
  1. The police are looking for two people--suspects--but have not released images of them.
  2. They have identified the bombs (only two), their composition (pressure cookers using an Internet available recipe), and there has been no claims of support from abroad.
  3. That's about it--and it's precious little to speculate on.
What Do I Think?
Terrorists thinking usually has a goal that they wish to promote in one of two ways*. The goal of terror is to inspire otherwise inert people to support the terrorists either by recognizing them as a defacto government or by rallying them to take up arms against the terrorists oppressors. In the case of attacks on America by foreign agencies they are trying to make the sell to sympathizers in their own land who they hope will take up arms against either American forces or, prior to the Arab Spring, US-supported governments.

In the case of domestic terrorism the goal is either to bring attention to a cause the terrorists feel isn't getting enough attention or to provoke a "security response" by the state which will "prove them right" (that is: ordinary people don't think The State is evil enough but after the post-terror crack-down, boy will they). These rules have applied to IRA bombings (provoking a crack-down), abortion clinic bombings (drawing attention and rallying the faithful), and the 9/11 attacks (making America look weak to bolster support by overseas forces).

We tend to sort these causes--and these audiences--by skin color and then, after skin color, by presumed ideology. What's interesting about this is not "that we do it." We all know we do it--but the interesting question is: Why are we waiting to find out 'why'?

After all, if it turns out that the bombers were upset about the lack of attention to Kermit Gosnell will that make his crimes any less heinous? If they turn out to be Islamic, will it make the already-apocalyptic threat of Al-Q any more threatening (after all, who among us, would be surprised by another AQ terror attack)? If it turns out the bombers were upset about the lack of gun-control in America would that make gun control activist any less credible (if you answered "yes," and it turns out the bombers are pro-life will it make the pro-life movement less credible?).

If you think the individual actions of crazy people make a side "less credible" what are you doing to police your own--do you have a global reach to shut down crazies who act on your interests? No--you don't. Everyone in America save for a few demented fools (and remember, there are fans of the Aurora shooter) will decry this act.

Why are we all waiting to see what conversation to have? 

* There is also the goal of driving a specific foreign policy such as the release of prisoners or whatever. In recent times we have seen very little of that.

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