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Mon Jul 4, 2016, 04:49 PM


Why I am in favor of (a modest amount of) terrorism and assassination

Last edited Wed Jul 6, 2016, 06:18 PM - Edit history (1)

The title is intentionally provocative, but honest. I'll ask you to agree.

I was surprised to find myself reaching the conclusion that we need to embrace some of those acts. Here's how.

Ask a simple question: how would we prevent all wrong acts, what would it actually take for keeping them from happening?

Some of them can be and are prevented when we're lucky. Someone learns of the plan and informs authorities, a mistake is made - that's already in place and already prevents man. What about the rest?

Let's say you decided to buy a rifle, and drive next to your local elementary school, and while the kids are in the yard, start shooting them. What would it take to prevent you from being able to do that?

There would be you not being able to buy any gun. That is neither realistically going to happen, and would have its own issues. Oh, and there are the hundreds of millions of guns in our society. And there are knives.

There is the idea of keeping all people so isolated you never have access to strangers to harm them. Not those kids at school, or as they walk home. Not at the shopping mall. Not on the public streets. Basically impossible, and that would be tyranny.

It'd be nice if we could catch you in advance - thought crime - but not always possible. No guarantee you posted your plan on social media.

In short, there is no way to prevent the act. Only to try to make it a bit harder, to try to catch you better.

And we need to recognize that: that there is no cure for totally preventing all such acts that isn't much worse than the problem it fixes - and likely not possible at all.

What we CAN do and IS done, is take advantage of the issue to push things some people want that are bad ideas they normally can't do.

This is Rahm Emanuel's "never let a crisis go to waste", this is Naomi Klein's Shock Doctrine - 9/11, therefore do this.

9/11 gave license - not to actually prevent any terrorism, but to start a war with Iraq, to massively increase our spending on the security establishment and reduce civil rights, all in the name of safety.

Arguing for things on the basis that they're anti-communist during the cold war, or anti-terrorist today, is a huge license to do almost anything, including a lot of bad ideas. Rights are defeated by the argument.

So, take a minute and think about the sort of things that even begin to plausibly claim they'd prevent any of these acts, how much freedom would have to be lost for measures that might prevent lone wolves and small groups from conspiring to commit an act.

And when you think about it, you realize you would get horrible costs in money and freedoms and authoritarianism and corruption, but you wouldn't prevent the acts, other than a few trophy claims to justify the expenses.

I oppose the individual acts as much or more than others. Each act is a horror and a great wrong. What I'm saying to embrace about them is to recognize than when a terrible act happens, it means that we have the best possible situation regarding public policy, in that there is the freedom that they can happen, as there has to be, to avoid disastrous impacts of huge, oppressive efforts in the name of preventing them.

If we could get rid of the desire of anyone to commit an act of terrorism, that would be great. But we can't.

And so we have to accept some will happen, and rejoice that we haven't made worse choices in the name of preventing them. That that is the normal state of affairs, and should be.

We need to make the issue of terrorism not a license for demagogues to use to get power, and to pass harmful policies because opposing terrorism trumps other things like civil rights.

We need to take the power of the issue away from its being used for those power grabs and agendas for profiting from the issue.

We need to start getting better at challenging any claims by someone demanding to something in the name of terrorism, whether it's really a good idea, really worth the cost - questions that are so little asked now.

And we need to be able to better criticize and condemn the misuse of the issue for corrupt agendas, not just among progressives who already understand the problem and do so, but among the more general public, who too often accept the 'anything for security' claim.

We need to desensitize the public to a modest level of terrorism, so that it's not an overly powerful weapon for people who will use it for bad purposes. Some terrorism is unavoidable, if we are to have freedom.

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