Tuesday, January 05, 2016

The Oregon Anti-Government Extremists Are Not Terrorists. And That Has Nothing To Do With Race.


   Ok, here's the deal. Well, here's part of the deal: there's not that much difference between certain sectors of academia and certain types of activists. This is pretty clear in places like "women's studies" and "gender studies." But it's also clear in more respectable parts of the academy like sociology and literary criticism. Many academicians see their ultimate goal as effecting social change--where 'change,' of course, means movement to the left. And these activist academicians long ago adopted a kind of semi-coherent cant, and a set of intellectual tactics. These tactics include a set of corrupt, semi-literary "interpretive" approaches that seem to permit all manner of interpretive license...so long as the whole process ultimately issues in conclusions that are politically correct. And the effort to "discover" that just about any given thing is racial/racist is perhaps their most favored and familiar trope. (Ugh. I don't even like to use 'trope' anymore since it's become part of the cant... But 'meme' is probably even worse...)
   Mark Kleiman erroneously called the...whatever they are...terrorists, but had corrected himself by the time I noticed he'd done it. (Way to go, Mark!) Kevin Drum also incidentally noted that they aren't terrorists. Foolishness like Ross's just muddies the waters. There are real issues here--most prominently: what to do and how to think about the Oregon...whatever-they-ares. Then there's the pervasive tic of the left--trying to make everything about race. That needs to be combated, of course, but all it does is distract and confuse in the case of the occupiers-of-the-wildlife-refuge. It goes without saying that some things about about race, and some things are racist. And some things are unobviously racial/racist. And it's important to think about those things and react to them accordingly. But that's not made any easier by the habitual tendency of certain sectors of the left--including the academic left--to pronounce everything racial/racist, often on the flimsiest pretext. And then there's the quasi-terminological question are these guys terrorists?...to which the answer is: no. The Ross piece just gratuitously creates confusion. I don't know--but I predict--that the usual suspects (e.g. Salon) will be full of similar, though less-well executed, essays.
   Finally, Ross's thought-experiments just aren't much good. It matters that these guys are taking over the headquarters of a wildlife refuge in BFE. That's very different than taking over a federal building in a city. It also matters that they're not rampaging through a city destroying property, etc. It doesn't matter that some people on "social media" are calling them terrorists. "Social media" is/are full of idiots.
   There's nothing wrong with raising the kinds of questions that Ross raises...though they ought to be dismissed pretty readily, and I'm not sure they're important/plausible enough to be featured in the Post.


Blogger tehr0x0r said...

I've got to disagree on this one, they are an armed force, that is occupying Federal land, with a statement that they will not leave until the government releases two individuals who were lawfully convicted of a crime and give up title to land they lawfully own. How is this any different than a group of guys calmly walking into an empty bank with guns and demanding money.

I'm not sure why it matters that this is a remote bit of land rather than a city building, occupation of Federal land under force or threat of force, in order to bring about a change to lawful actions by the government seems like terrorism to me.

9:40 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

We might not actually disagree, t-r0x... I meant: that doesn't matter for the question "are they terrorists?" Though I also think that there's a difference in the two cases in so far as how pressing they are and how they can be handled. If a group takes over a building in the middle of Portland, that's one thing. They really can't be ignored. These guys...the authorities can just wait them out.

I do agree that there's a sense in which these guys fall under common definitions of terrorism, but I think that's just a weakness of the definitions. Allied strategic bombing in WWII falls under those definitions, too, and--though I have an inclination to think it wasn't morally permissible--I don't think it should be categorized as terrorism.

These guys are making it clear that they don't want to use force, and won't use it unless they are attacked, they have no interest in harming or even frightening civilians... I just don't think that's close enough to paradigm cases of terrorism to count. I could be persuaded on this though.

9:38 AM  
Blogger The Mystic said...

Though I'm sympathetic to the idea that they shouldn't be described as "terrorists" given the distinct lack of terrorizing going on, I do think it's kinda weird to give them this one:

"These guys are making it clear that they don't want to use force, and won't use it unless they are attacked,"

They have occupied federal property in violation of relevant laws and they refuse to leave. They've even caused school system shutdowns. They don't get to be the ones being attacked any longer - they are the aggressors. They don't get to be described as people who don't want to use force - they brought guns to land they do not own and they refuse to leave. The fact that no one has opposed them with force or provided an opportunity for them to make use of their weapons doesn't mean they aren't the aggressors.

So we might not call them terrorists, per se, since they aren't trying to terrorize, but they are some form of militant agitators or somesuch at a minimum. The point we're sort of dancing around seems to be that a good definition for terrorism is something like "the use of intimidation or other tactics with the goal of gaining political power or control through fear-based coercion". These guys aren't really doing that as much as they are illegally protesting with the threat of violence against anyone who would attempt to disrupt their illegal protest.

So they're beyond protestors on account of their militant side, but they're short of terrorists on account of their basically peaceful appeals to citizens and the local community to support them.

Militant agitators is the best I got.

3:09 PM  
Anonymous Will said...

I do not think they fit the idea of "terrorist" in a way that doesn't increase the slide to making it ever easier to have people labeled as "terrorists". This is to say, elements of the left concerned about the state position on terrorism and its effect on people and groups they deem oppressed should think twice about throwing the term loosely at these people. It will come back around...

In a way this has happened to the Hammonds. In their trial they were tried and convicted by means of laws that perhaps did not fit the crime. As we've pieced together it appears that the matches used in the fire were categorized as an "explosive" which then backtracked into the 1996 Antiterrorism acts minimum sentencing for such. So in a way they are paying the price for the white heat of paranoia thrown on terrorism, generally from the right.

You read and can find plenty on the Hammonds. One story they've done no wrong. The next they've threatened the lives of not just BLM agents but the children of BLM agents. Someone took a BLM excavator, drove it over 5 miles of new fence, and sank it in a marsh. I've read some of their neighbor ranchers don't like them and think they've made things for everyone around there more difficult with the BLM. But my guess is the BLM were probably behaving as bullies as well and woe to anyone that winds up on the grudge list of someone with the backing of the US government. It's here where perhaps you can see the course of the statutes chosen in their trial and the link back to the 1996 Antiterrorism laws.

So we find ourselves in this spot. Like in a whole long list of recent events of civil unrest where you have clashes between citizens and government. Ferguson MO (and I live near STL) was operating as a quasi fascist police state contrary to MO state law, federal law, and the 4th amendment. In the face of this people get angry and some of them choose to violate the law, the better law. In short, they become criminals. So it is here we find that contradiction. These occupiers have made a bad choice and will pay a price for it.

There is a lot of difference between East Central Oregon and say Ferguson or Baltimore. In a city setting you have a lot of people nearby that can come to the point of conflict. Some to just see, others to peacefully protest, and others to commit crimes and stir up the mob. In EC Oregon? There's almost no one there. So while there are similarities, there are vast differences in the geography. And it makes a difference.

11:10 PM  
Blogger Pete Mack said...

I think c'mon usage has it right. Yeehawd, Y'all Qaeda, and my favorite, Vanilla ISIS.

12:03 AM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

'Vanilla ISIS' is pretty damn funny

7:35 AM  

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