Wednesday, May 16, 2007

No Comfort Zone, Please

Great OpEd piece by Thomas Friedman in the NYTimes (I'd link, but it's currently a subscriber-only feature. Will update, if possible). In it, he compares the weeding out of possible Democrats in the Department of Justice that has led to the current Senate Hearings with Alberto "Who Am I?" Gonzales, with the White House's failed attempts to avoid a similar weeding out of Baathists which has led to Sunni unrest in Iraq.

So, I'm reading, and agreeing, and enjoying the clever compare/contrast when I read this bit:

Democrats need to be careful, though, that they don't let their rage with the hypocrisy of Mr. Bush make them totally crazy, and blind them to the fact that they - we - still need a credible plan to deal with the very real threat to open societies posed by Islamist terrorism. [emphasis mine - TBO]

For the love of Mike.

All right, General Populace, quiz time: Q: Before 9/11, who was responsible for the biggest terrorist event to take place on US soil? A: Timothy McVeigh, a UStian with ties to a UStian militia.

Listen, I grok what Friedman is saying, but, in typical UStian over-reactive fashion, the language used indicates that the populace should only look for this threat from this one corner of the world. As if only these people would be crazy enough to resort to terrorism.

Granted, these are the vestiges of the culture of fear we've been living under for the majority of the last decade, and hopefully, we're seeing the last of it, but, if history's anything to go by, it ain't likely.

Please allow me to reiterate: Terrorism is a fact of life. The human race has been dealing with it since the dawn of time (remember, the man Jesus could be classified as such). Do we have to like it? No. Should we do as much as possible to be prepared? Hell yes, within reason.

The sooner we embrace the notion, however, the sooner we can lead normal lives without perpetual fear, and the less likely our emotions could be swayed into doing something foolish, like the current war.*

S'a'right? S'a'right.

*Or, hell, anything the current administration has gotten away with in the name of "protecting our nation's interests."
[Edited to add: Apparently, Friedman is a hack. I had no idea; I just took the piece being commented on as a compare/contrast at face value. Hi ho.--tbo]


At 10:50 PM, Blogger JJisafool said...

Oh, good, thanks for that edit. Because I was gonna say similar. Friedman isn't what I would call a "hack" but he is a total fuckwad. Though occasionally prescient. His World is Flat book is deep and worthwhile. His columns are piles of jacked-off onanism.

At 6:58 AM, Blogger JJisafool said...

Hold up. Just re-read this morning, and I'm just curious how Jesus would qualify as a terrorist.

Or is this just typical TBOtian hyperbole?

At 10:20 AM, Blogger the beige one said...

JJ, are you serious with this last bit? I'm not even the first to come up with that equation. People as high up as Wesley Clark have said the same thing (in a different context, I suppose it could be argued, but still).

Just because he couldn't blow up a camel at the time...

Dude held the Romans in contempt, held rallies against them and the Pharisees connection, and that little dust up at the market would at least land him in Abu Ghraib had he done it in modern day times...

At 10:59 AM, Blogger JJisafool said...

Pretty loose definition of a terrorist. Would Ghandi qualify? Or you?

BTW, by dust up at the market, are you referring to throwing the moneylenders out of the temple? Or some incident that escapes my memory?

And since when is Abu Ghraib about terrorists? You finally fall for the admin line on Iraq=terror?

Sorry, man. I realize this post is a reaction to someone you later realized just loves to create reactions, but you're playing a little fast and loose with terms here. I dislike seeing terrorism made a casual term much the same way I hate to see rape or racism used the same way. I could give a shit what Wes Clark says - if you are willing to include Jesus, generally a adherent of non-violent resistance, among terrorists, the term doesn't mean anything (in which case I don't know why I'm responding as there's nothing to disagree with and nothing said).

What, is all resistance to power terrorism?

You've actually got me kind of fired up (but only just kind of not really), not because I feel a need to defend Jesus, but because you're being, in my eyes, reactionary and not pressing yourself to be clear or precise much at all. 'Course, who says you have to be? Just gets my goat is all.

Anyway, would love to hear you define terrorism for me. Would likely clear this all up.

At 12:43 PM, Blogger JJisafool said...

That Wesley Clark comment was sitting wrong with me, so when Liv whined me into a Wiggles video, I went looking.

I believe you were referring to Ramsey Clark, former Attorney General, not Wesley Clark.

And the quote was:
"The Christian Church overwhelmingly -- there are exceptions -- who choose to call Mohammed a terrorist. They could call Jesus a terrorist too. I mean, he was pretty tough on money lenders a time or two."

So, he wasn't himself saying Jesus was a terrorist, but that by the logic that leads Christians to call Mohammed a terrorist then Jesus could be considered one, too.

Don't think you or I would characterize Mohammed as a terrorist, or am I wrong on that?

Methinks you heard what you wanted from the original Friedman article, that he was voicing a consensus, and that your issues with the Christian church (many of which are clearly justified, by all means) led you to hear the Clark thing the way you expected as well.

I'm sure you're getting pissed at me in your cubicle right now, but I'm just engaging what you throw out there. Feel free to tell me to fuck off, and off I will fuck.

I'll still be right, but I'll be fucked right off.

At 1:19 PM, Blogger the beige one said...

actually, I'm caring very little, and I'm letting my original post stand. (Now you'll tell me you're disappointed.)

Mayhaps I'll engage further in the "What is terrorism?" discussion, but, for that, you'll have to wait.

You wanna engage right away? Go visit Deni's site and take a look at what he has wrought.

At 2:13 PM, Blogger JJisafool said...

Why should I be disappointed? It's not my willful ignorance.

At 2:19 PM, Blogger the beige one said...

"jesus was a terrorist" = willful ignorance?

Dear god, man; switch to decaf.

Okay, JJ, take that out of the blog, do you still have a problem with my post?

If so, there really isn't much I can say to you on this.

At 3:57 PM, Blogger JJisafool said...

Nope, not much o' none. Other than taking Friedman too seriously, but you figured that already.

Cantankerous? Moi?

I resemble that remark.

At 4:36 PM, Blogger the beige one said...

but I'm just engaging what you throw out there.

Let's be clear, you're engaging minutae. You're engaging stuff that is tertiary to the main point of the blogpost.

Methinks you heard what you wanted from the original Friedman article, that he was voicing a consensus, and that your issues with the Christian church (many of which are clearly justified, by all means) led you to hear the Clark thing the way you expected as well.

And let me tell you, there's nothing that tickles me more than when you magically come up with "my" motivation for writing something. It seriously cracks me up when it isn't pissing me off. In this instance it's the former.

The reason for my writing this is plainly stated in the entry itself. I'd be writing this if Friedman had said "still need a credible plan to deal with the very real threat to open societies posed by Australian terrorism," regardless of whether he's a jack off or not.

Get it? Ya ken?

And, I'm sorry, but wasn't Abu Ghraib used as a detention camp for political prisoners (I don't think that's the phrase I want) both by the Hussein and the US regimes?

Ramsey/Wesley, whatever, y'all look alike to me; I did buttress that statement by saying that the context was different.

However, I know that the notion of the man Jesus as terrorist has been around longer than my initial statement. Maybe I should extrapolate it in the same way it was done for me when I first heard it:

To the Romans, Jesus was a terrorist. And I'd be willing to make similar statements about the British Empire and Ghandi. Besides, the current administration's definition of terrorist is anything that's a "threat to national security," (just as "bring the kids back home" = "terrorist sympathizer" currently); under that definition, Jesus, Ghandy, MLKJr., etc. would all be considered terrorists.

Which leads me to: What, is all resistance to power terrorism?

It is to those in power.

At 4:39 PM, Blogger the beige one said...

Other than taking Friedman too seriously, but you figured that already.

The bit I took to heart is a thought that has been stated by many on the right and done so in all seriousness, faith and belief in its veracity...

At 8:34 AM, Blogger JJisafool said...

Is your core point, or at least one of them, that terrorism is a fact of life? You did reiterate that after all.

So, to get any meaning out of that, I need to know what you mean by terrorism, a process complicated, for me, by the Jesus is a terrorist line.

You may want to use the Admin's wide open definition for terrorist. Your prerogative. The risk being you'll sound as smart as them.

And now I'll leave your underpants alone. Seems you may rather prefer we just listen, anyway.

At 11:55 AM, Blogger the beige one said...

I'm sure you believe that there is nothing condescending about your last message.

You may want to use the Admin's wide open definition for terrorist.

And again, you take what is essentially a tossed off comment and conflate it so you can "help [me] strengthen [my] argument"; i.e. take pot shots. I guess a solution would be not to toss off any more comments; or to hone it down so that I'm like Eddie Izzard in their precision.

1) I don't have the time, as I'm not doing this for a living; 2) it's a friggin' blog...more importantly, it's my friggin' blog. It ain't called Missives from the Fool for a goddamn reason. And until that happens, half-baked tossed off comments is where it's at.

What I care about is the text that surrounds it, and as long as I'm good with that, well, then I can live.

I'm just curious as to why you couldn't just ask "how do you define terrorism?" if that's what you were after.

More pertinent stuff to come.

At 5:07 PM, Blogger the beige one said...

My definition of terrorism can best be described thusly:

What, is all resistance to power terrorism?

It is to those in power.

To expound further: Acts of Terrorism are usually desperate acts by the disenfranshised done in an attempt to extract change from the system.

These acts can be peaceful or violent in nature.

In this light, saying "Jesus was a terrorist" is not a derogatory slam, as you assume it to be, but a different view of what he was about.

Perhaps you object to my using a religious figure in this manner, but man, the guy, assuming he existed (I say he did, but we still only have these stories as proof)...the guy was a guy, a friggin' human being. If I can say that Napoleon was a short dude who compensated for a small penis, or that Billy Shakes is an overblown hack, what makes the man Jesus untouchable?

(and yes, this does include Nichiren Daishonin, who was considered a terrorist (my definition) threat to Japan in his time.)

Based on your earlier comment, I know you don't like the inclusion of "peaceful and violent" activities in my definition of terrorism, but there it is. I believe that the drive to take these different tactics are borne from the same instinct; namely, a perceived injustice.

It so happens that one is infinitely deadlier than the other.

Please do not confuse this with a justification for certain actions. Deadly force is still abhorrent.

What makes a person/people choose a peaceful or violent approach is one that's both personal or cultural in its basis.

To come back to 9/11, Osama bin Laden had a reason to focus his attack on the US, and it wasn't just to "kill the infidels," though, from his perspective, it was probably an added bonus.

It was related to the decade and a half of regular bombing of the Iraqi people (as in at least once a week) the US was responsible for in the aftermath of Gulf War I. In his eyes, the US thought it wasn't enough that the UN embargo had decimated a population of Muslims; here they came to kill a (more than a) few more Muslims to add atop it in an effort to depose Saddam Hussein.

Yes, Hussein was a secularist, and OBL should've been happy to let the US do this, but this perspective ignores the fact that the Muslims in power in the Middle East prefer to take care of their own business without outside meddling. Least of all by people they deem to be "infidels." Infidels who were killing innocent Muslims in the process.

At 5:09 PM, Blogger the beige one said...

PS - I can't believe I was riled up enough to miss an opportinity to say "Rushkoff! Media Virus!" in relation to the Clark quote.

At 5:35 PM, Blogger JJisafool said...

I now understand. I may not agree, but I understand.

I would not include peaceful activities in "terrorism." It seems necessary to use violence against collateral targets as a means of achieving political aims by inspiring fear to be considered terrorism.

I'd be more likely to use "revolutionary" to describe what you say. A revolutionary that strikes at civilians would become a terrorist.

I'm not sure what the implications of your or my definitions are exactly. Seems like the confusion between the two are where the spindoctors make hay. Implying the negative aspects of my definition while applying the label with the rationale of your definition.

Either definition could hold up. Pitting them against each other is where the power's at.

That is one of the reasons I try to struggle for clarity of terms, not just between folks like us but in the greater discourse. So fuckers like the admin can't use the semantics to their own ends.

But, anyway, I'm getting you now.

That, $4, and apologies to the barista for your asshole friend will get you a cup of coffee.


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