The Definition Of Terrorism

Greenwald observes that the talking heads resisted calling yesterday's plane crash an act of terrorism:

All of this underscores, yet again, that Terrorism is simultaneously the single most meaningless and most manipulated word in the American political lexicon.  The term now has virtually nothing to do with the act itself and everything to do with the identity of the actor, especially his or her religious identity.

It has really come to mean:  "a Muslim who fights against or even expresses hostility towards the United States, Israel and their allies."  That's why all of this confusion and doubt arose yesterday over whether a person who perpetrated a classic act of Terrorism should, in fact, be called a Terrorist:  he's not a Muslim and isn't acting on behalf of standard Muslim grievances against the U.S. or Israel, and thus does not fit the "definition."  One might concede that perhaps there's some technical sense in which term might apply to Stack, but as Fox News emphasized:  it's not "terrorism in the larger sense that most of us are used to . . . terrorism in that capital T way."  We all know who commits terrorism in "that capital T way," and it's not people named Joseph Stack.

Amy Davidson makes related points. I'm still thinking this through. I have no doubt this act was meant to terrorize and when someone uses an airplane to crash into a federal building and kills people is is obviously terrorism. If he had yelled "Allah o Akbar!" instead of "Fuck the IRS!" would anyone be discussing this?

2006-2011 archives for The Daily Dish, featuring Andrew Sullivan

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