Terrorists

Jason Leopold is a FOIA Terrorist. I tried to find where he was originally called FOIA Terrorist in place of the more classic muckraker. I only was able to find articles referring to him ironically as a FOIA Terrorist or about someone calling him a FOIA Terrorist. It’s an absurd term that, I expect, he wears with pride and for the enjoyment of its absurdity.

It also indicates that terrorist as a term is evolving from referring to criminals who do wanton violence in order to push (usually political) agendas into a common perjorative. It’s a better source, I think, than pulling from minorities (What a gay thing to do) or disabilities (Stop being such a retard).

After the 9/11 attacks, Terrorist (or the NATO phonetic alphabet designation Tango) became the common designation for the enemy in Afghanistan and Iraq.* It’s much the way that the enemy in Vietnam was Charlie (short for Victor Charlie or the Viet Cong).

Before that, a terrorist wasn’t a person but a method, a la the Reign of Terror. In WWI, rail guns were classified as weapons of terror. Rail guns (now called railway guns to differentiate them from magnetic accelerator weapons) were so big they had to be transported by train rather than road, and were only accurate enough to hit mid-city (but could do so from seventy miles away!) They’d hence be used to siege (and terrorize) civilian centers, since shooting at a military hard-point wasn’t very effective.

That’s terrorism.

Then in WWII, the Luftwaffe accidentally dropped a bomb in a British neighborhood (so the story goes) and Churchill took great offense and decided that meant it was open season on civilian targets. The allies bombed German towns, and the Germans responded with an ongoing campaign on London now known as The Blitz. Later on the Germans would invent the V1 buzz bomb and the V2 Ballistic Missile with which to pound the UK. When the allied war machine got going, we responded with firebombing Hamburg and Dresden because, man, those Gerries really pissed us off.

That’s also terrorism.

In reflection of history terrorism is a category of awful things done by angry people, not because humans are awful people who find irresistable the sweet succor of other people’s misery but we get scared and desperate easily, and in the overwhelming crisis of war, we’re inclined to overreact without considering long term consequences, or the welfare of those who survive. Ergo, the contemporary CIA drone strike program in Afghanistan** and Pakistan. Both of those programs are terrorism as well.

But that’s a problem now. We don’t like to acknowledge when our side engages in horrible acts that might be considered terrorism. In our embarrassment we make apologies or justifications or toy with semantics. But as a result the word loses its meaning.

So now terrorism has become disassociated with actual acts of terror. Hence, we hear the media and the public call the kid with the clock a terrorist because he’s a brown Muslim boy and that’s what we’ve been trained to fear. And we pretend that the gunman who massacred a health clinic — definitely a terrorist — is not because he’s white and Christian and those are supposed to be safe. We don’t like to think about Timothy McVeigh or Ted Kaczynski or Scott Roeder very much.

Still, the US is still in military conflicts against organizations that engage in terrorist action. We should endeavor to reserve the word terrorist to not organizations that endorse terrorism (which would include the US, including US sanctioned guerrilla forces and drone strikes) but specific terrorist units (e.g. CIA predator drones).

Since we apparently need a pejorative and enemy designation, I recommend zombie. The military calling them Zulus according to the NATO phonetic alphabet might present some unfortunate implications, so I’d suggest simply Zeds.

A convenient feature about zombies is that there’s no behavior expectation. A solder looks at a tango and expects to see a militarized soldier with a gun or a bomb acting nervous or aggressive. Not a child nor a woman in a burqa. Zombies don’t have that implication. A little girl carrying a balloon or a grandmother with a walker can still be targets, since the zombie designation indicates they’re infected with disease, or irradiated reanimated cadavers or walking mojo golems or malicious parasite hosts. A soldier might look at a little boy designated tango and think I don’t see the grenade. I don’t think the kid is hostile. Zombie suggests that the tyke needs to be neutralized for his own good.

Thus Ahmed Mohamed isn’t a terrorist for making a clock but a zombie for bringing a clock to class or aside from bringing a clock to class. We don’t like him, ergo he’s a zombie. He’s a zombie because we don’t like him.

Robert Lewis Dear shot up a clinic but wasn’t a zombie. On his own non-zombie volition he determined that the clinic’s abortion services were untenable and he had to respond by (criminally) massacring its occupants. Being a zombie may be despicable to some, but it is not a crime. Shooting people, while not despicable to those who like to see abortion providers shot up, is a crime after all.

As for Jason Leopold, calling him a FOIA Zombie would suggest that the poor journalist has lost his mind (and his agency) and is making FOIA requests against his own volition, Instead he is compelled to engage the US legal system to force accountability on US government agencies by any of the usual zombie-related causes: disease, radiation, magic, parasites.

* The enemy in Operation Iraqi Freedom were still designated tangos even through the US was not going after terrorist organizations at all. Instead, the United States armed forces objective was to capture and to usurp (regime change) a puppet-dictator-gone-rogue. Still, over 75% of US troops in Iraq thought we were there to get back for 9/11 despite that neither Hussein nor Iraq had anything to do with the 9/11 attacks.

** Curiously the drone strike theater in Afghanistan doesn’t have its own Wikipedia page right now despite its ~500-sortie-a-year schedule. It may be too hard to confirm through trusted sources since details of the program surface typically via investigative reports and op-eds.

Image According to the internet, one of the early Apple (one) computers. (My first one was an Apple II plus. It had 64K!) Note the swanky briefcase enclosure.

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