It was a nice break. I didn’t realized how much I’d missed. I take a different view towards the news than most. I don’t rely on mainstream media. In fact, I don’t rely on anything. I listen to the Tom Woods show, which I recommend as the most essential podcast for those who love liberty. And, now I have Jason to listen to, whose show is much more geared towards current events. Besides that, I just let the news come to me. The news that is really important will find me. Everyone else is wrapped up in the news, and I get some from Jason, but I figure I will hear about it through family or friends or colleagues at work. It’s a strategy that wouldn’t work at all if everyone did it, but it can work for a few people. It’s sort of the reverse strategy of not getting certain immunizations and being protected by the fact that everyone else has been immunized. The things that are important find their way to my ears, but I’m not subjected to the trivial day to day that is headlined as breaking news.
The thing I want to discuss here is the heretofore-undefined term of terrorism. First, I’m obligated to, and I sincerely do, condemn the violence done at the Planned Parenthood in Colorado.
We have never done a very good job of defining terrorism. Up until the last couple of years, it was pretty easy to tell what it was. It was one of those things that just didn’t need a hard and fast definition, you just knew it when you saw it: hijacking a plane, or blowing up a courthouse. But, shooting 3 people to death?
I had this debate with a friend on Facebook following the shooting at South Carolina church. His view was that it was an act of terrorism, and my view was that it was murder.
The funny thing is how offended he was that I maintained that it was “only” murder. Murder is no small crime; it is still punishable by death in most states. Where capital punishment has been abolished, murder still holds the death penalty.
We are not talking here about a difference in outcomes for the people who commit these atrocities; they will either get the death penalty or not, based on the facts of their individual cases and the disposition of the jury who hears the case. The ramifications come on us as a people and towards our liberties, not immediately, but at some point in the future, I am afraid.
Consider we are fighting a “war on terror” and all those who give them aid and comfort. If you are in a pro-life club and one of the members goes out and shoots up an abortion clinic, does that make your club a terrorist cell? Does that, then, make you a terrorist?
Can you see the difference? If it is a multiple murder, then you and your group are not responsible; he acted alone and you are free to continue expressing yourself through non-violent means. If it is terrorism, I shudder to think what could happen. A dozen more lives may be ruined. This will have a chilling effect of free speech at the very least.
Let’s talk about a few markers of terrorism. Who is terrorism aimed at? All the terrorists attacks I can think of, both here and abroad before 2010 (I can’t remember when people started calling shootings terrorism, but we weren’t doing it before 2010), were aimed at “the powers that be.” There was some sort of message or retaliation. The victim wasn’t merely the people who were killed, but the governing body in some form or fashion. From the 1969 hijacking of YS-11 by the North Koreans to the OKC Bombing, to 9/11.
But motivation, I don’t think is enough. Motivation isn’t necessary to get a conviction in court and it is, in large, part irrelevant.
I put a lot more stock in the methods used and how the attack is carried out. Terrorist attacks are impersonal. When I said that to my friend he was hung up on that; that doesn’t mean that you know the names of the people you kill, but just that you know what people will be killed by your actions. McVeigh and Nichols killed 168 people, but didn’t look a single one of them in the eye. They knew there were nearly a thousand people in that building, but they didn’t know how many would be killed, or which of them would be killed. That is terrorism. It’s a world away from a mass shooting, where even though the shooter is killing as many people as he can, he still takes aim at each individual before pulling the trigger and ending their life.
A terrorist isn’t trying to kill particular individuals, but a shooter is. The shooter chooses who he kills even if his choices are made based on chance, based on who is closest or who is the easier target. A real terrorist just straps a bomb on or flies a plane into a building, not aiming at anyone in particular, but only aiming to kill as many as possible.
By this definition, it may still be possible to make the case that terrorism could be carried out with a firearm, if the individual were to acquire a fully automatic rifle and unload it at random.
But to take aim, is not an act of terrorism. The Planned Parenthood shooter killed three. At this rate how long will it be until a single murder is defined as an act of terrorism? Do you remember the murder of deputy Goforth in Cypress, Texas back in August? The gunman shot him out of the blue, with no warning and no provocation. The shooting has rattled law enforcement officers and put them on edge around the country. I’m afraid at this rate, an act like that will be considered terrorism very soon.
My point is, so long as there is a global war on terror, being part of a terror cell can single a person out for surveillance and possible indefinite detention at home, and death via drone abroad.
For those of us interested in advancing the cause of liberty, and even for those who might just like to preserve the amount of liberty we have left, we should think real hard about what we call terrorism, and what we might refer to as “mere” murder.
I might also add that we used to have a word for these acts, acts that are not terrorism but are violent beyond the scope of a single murder. May I reintroduce massacre to our vocabulary.