Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Semantics of Terror

The arsonist who terrorized Los Angeles last week in a string of more than 50 firebombings is not actually being called a terrorist by the media or the police.  His nationality (German) does jibe with the Homeland Security definition of terrorist.  He is not an Islamic jihadist. He is not an Al Qaeda sympathizer. No matter that whole neighborhoods were literally terror-stricken for days on end, not knowing if they and their property would be incinerated while they slept.  Officials preferred to say the L.A. citizenry were "unnerved", only later deigning to upgrade the emotion to "terrorized." The suspect was characterized by the media as pale and befuddled and weak -- obviously it was mental illness, not politics, that caused his rampage.  He is a white European.  He was arrested not by Homeland Security, not by the FBI, but by a deputized volunteer. He had not been on a national terrorism watch list, even though he'd publicly railed against the United States in a courthouse just before he began his rampage. The judge set bail at $2.85 million.

On New Years Day, five New York City buildings were firebombed in quick succession.  They included a mosque, a Hindu temple and a Spanish bodega.  A suspect was quickly arrested, and authorities hastened to characterize the attacks as "personal, not political" -- even though the alleged bomber had issued a blanket anti-Muslim manifesto. Muslims can qualify as bias crime victims, apparently, but are not permitted to be on the receiving end of terrorism. That seems to be a privilege restricted to true-blue Americans: preferably white and middle class.  The suspect, a New Yorker, has not been renditioned to Gitmo.  He is, however, undergoing a psychiatric evaluation at Bellevue.

In order to qualify as a terrorist, you have to be the marginal loner who has been sitting around in your apartment for months with some matches, Christmas lights and a few dollars' worth of Home Depot hardware.  You may even have been initially rejected as a suspect by the FBI. But if Mayor Bloomberg needs some attention, he has his private military thugs make an arrest so he can brag about thwarting a major terrorist attack. Jose Pimentel, the arrestee, (who never actually succeeded in harming persons or property) was deemed a terrorist because while he was stoned on pot, he expressed resentment to an informant about American troops in Afghanistan and sympathy toward Al Qaeda.  His prior criminal record consisted of one charge involving a stolen credit card. He was not sent to Bellevue for psychiatric examination. He is, however,  being held without bail pending trial ( and who knows, maybe even indefinite detention without trial -- he certainly qualifies under the new NDAA signed by the president). 


Anne Lavoie said...

No one is considered a real terrorist until the 1% (aka 'The Economy') feels threatened, affecting their economic certainty of making and keeping their money.

As with their having to pay taxes, it scares the bejeebers out of them!

Kat said...

C'mon Karen- every terrorist needs some help from the FBI or at least their local PD. Did Mr. Burkhart in LA get any help? No? Well then, he does not get to be a terrorist.

Denis Neville said...

In order to qualify as a terrorist...

George Orwell explains:

“Actions are held to be good or bad, not on their own merits, but according to who does them, and there is almost no kind of outrage - torture, the use of hostages, forced labour, mass deportations, imprisonment without trial, forgery, assassination, the bombing of civilians - which does not change its moral colour when it is committed by ‘our’ side. . . . The nationalist not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, but he has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them.” - George Orwell, Notes on Nationalism

Joe Gideon said...

This is absolutely brilliant. You're the first person I've read who's pointed this out, and you are right on the money. Great job.

BTW, I'm a big fan of your blog, and was wondering if you could address an issue that's been troubling me. Have you noticed how much Mitt Romney's logo looks like a bent-over ass? Now that I've seen it that way, it's impossible for me to un-see it. Please, someone needs to do something to make this go away. Thank you.