No True Scotsman

It was not surprising that the group recently arrested and charged with plotting to kill police officers, then those mourning at their funeral using IEDs have nowhere in the mainstream media been referred to as “terrorists” or even “terror suspects”. After all, they aren’t Muslims. But, that’s not enough for the political right. Apparently, on the “No True Scotsman” principle, it’s also unfair to refer them as “Christians“.

93 thoughts on “No True Scotsman

  1. Under this definition the nutters who blow up abortion clinics are terrorists, because Doctors are civilians. These nutters who targetted cops are not terrorists, nor are the people who targetted US armed forces on their own bases like this guy In fact he hasn’t been charged with any terror-related offenses, only murder.

  2. Yobbo – I agree. That was the point I made earlier that somehow lead to accusations that I supported the invasion of Iraq. It is pretty tribal on the John Quiggin blog. The mentality seems to be that if you’re not with us on every issue then you’re obviously against us on every issue.

  3. @TerjeP (say tay-a)
    Totally wide call remark Terje – but I muist admit Ive noticed people and the general consensus against you more often than not…
    however I was pleased to see you had some decent views on Iraq.

  4. I dont suppose its ever crossed your mind Terje that some (quite a few) here see you as being tribal in your libertarianism…seeing as accusations of tribalism are flying around (emanating from you).

  5. Yobbo #25

    They could be terrorists if they had succeeded in doing anything as the press is not that fussy about labels or fine distinctions.

    The point that Prof Q was making was that in dog whistle politics there is something of a blindness to the behaviours emanating from the fanatical right lunatics in the USA – which has in recent years given us Timothy McVeigh and Waco. What concerns me is that the hard right in the USA have dog whistled up people who don’t know where to draw the line and the GOP has not made any attempt to moderate language in response to the kinds of threats made after the passage of the weak health changes.

    The leadership of the Republicans has encouraged those who seek Armegeddon and will be inclined to engage in “rebellion” rather than “terrorism”. It will no doubt be some time, if at all, before there is a recognition by the right wing press that the dangers from within are possibly worse than the external threat. This is incredible as it will make it harder for authorities to deal with external threats too but for the Republicans it is their strategy to gain control of Congress. They are a rabble but they are so dangerous because they are an armed rabble.

  6. The whole dog whistling analogy is rather limited in my view. It seems to be a device designed to maintain political correctness. If you express a reasonable mainstream view on immigration (eg we the democratically government will decide who comes to this nation and the terms on which they come) then somehow your in league with the devil to conjure up Nazi zombies who will kill coloured people. It’s a stupid device designed to ignore the substance of what people actually say and instead to judge some strawman position instead. Why not judge people for what they say and do, the good the bad and the ugly, rather than what you imagine that some people imagine they might have meant.

  7. Yobbo, the Fort Hood shootings were regularly described as terrorism

    And, even if you regard police officers as military targets, that can’t be extended to mourners at a funeral. It’s hard to conceive of a definition of terrorism (other than one in which certain groups are automatically excluded) that would not cover the accusations in this case.

  8. “When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less.” (to borrow from Humpty Dumpty) As well as the use of terms terrorist and terrorism, there is also calling suicide bombers ‘cowards’ and their acts ‘cowardly’. There are many derogatory terms that could be used to characterise the acts of suicide bombers, but calling them cowards and their acts cowardly is a very non-standard use of these words. “The question is, who is to be master”, the speaker and the uses of the moment, or the, until then, common usage, “that is all.”

  9. It seems to me that appropriating the word ‘terrorism’ for people and ideas we don’t like is hardly new, and that the Global War On Terror continues this long tradition. In the popular mind, terrorists are caricatured villains, and therefore the label cannot possibly be applied to righteous god-fearing folks who have somehow gone astray. The sordid tale of coverup of the lethal anthrax letters incidents that ocurred after the World Trade Centre atrocities was surely about focusing the public mind on muslim fanatics, and away from the numerous homegrown ones.

    As has already been pointed out in this thread, there is little to differentiate in tactics and results from state as opposed to non-state violence – assassinations, torture and use of bombs in circumstances where non-participants will certainly be killed are all part of the policy apparatus of many of Australia’s allies. Now that the US is wanting to cut back its ruinously expensive military exposure in the middle east, battalions of people formerly known as terrorists have been quietly rehabilitated and made respectable members of nominally sovereign friendly governments. OBL remains the bogeyman of choice, conveniently invisible but mysteriously able to recruit and maintain a never-ending supply of lieutenants, right-hand men, and ‘number 3 leaders’ in his non-organisation whose grainy photographs and names flit across the headlines, recording the white hat wearers’ parade of victories.

    At an institutional level, domestic counter-terrorist administrators have a long history of ignoring threats posed by non-target groups. J Edgar Hoover’s notorious eye-aversion to the activities of the Mob in order to focus on ‘crypto-communists’ had its echoes in ASIO’s ignoring the Ustasha while surveilling MPs and union leaders. To some extent I suspect the many and scary people and grouplets of the right were mollified by the adoption of much of their program and rhetoric by the Bushies. The hysterical reaction to Obama’s mild reform measures points to a likely resumption of violence by the US extreme right. But it’s rarely going to be called terrorism.

  10. J Edgar Hoover averted his eyes from the mob’s existence and activities, and the mob averted their eyes from Hoover’s penchant for dressing up in women’s clothes and preferring the company of men. Seemed fair exchange.

    Another useful word or phrase is WMD, weapons of mass destruction. Under the FBI’s definition (in legislation) WMD includes anything with more than 4 ounces of explosive. The conflation of the idea of WMD and elevation of its status, seems to be a cunning means of minimising the distinction between nuclear weapons and all others. Maybe it is intended to make the use of tactical nuclear weapons, which would only be used on another party that does not possess them, more acceptable. The handy thing about WMD is, given that it is now defined to include 4 ounces of explosive, that your enemy is bound to have some.
    If the US and UK had had the least suspicion that Saddam Hussein had nuclear weapons, you can be sure they would never have invaded Iraq. The rapidity with which the US shut up about North Korea, when North Korea acquired a couple of small nuclear devices, certainly demonstrated that. Fighting an opponent that has real WMDs involves far too many body bags (or is that ash trays?).

  11. Freelander you couldn’t be more wrong. The US would have no compunction about invading another state with nuclear weapons, unless they had ICBMs. Tactical Nuclear weapons are no more likely to hit US territory than conventional bombs are. The US maintains total air superiority in most places of the world.

    The reason North Korea is so hard to deal with is not their nuclear capability, which is minimal at best. It’s because they could level Seoul – a city with a population over 10 million – with regular artillery before anyone could blink.

  12. The point that Prof Q was making was that in dog whistle politics there is something of a blindness to the behaviours emanating from the fanatical right lunatics in the USA – which has in recent years given us Timothy McVeigh and Waco.

    I understand Q’s point. My response was that he is imagining it.

    And the lunatics involved in WACO were mostly on the side of the government, They killed 75 people including 25 children for the crime of refusing to leave their house.

  13. @Yobbo
    Yobbo – I hardly think the US for all its war noises is going to go into Iran or Korea and what are they both building?. The US war glory days are over Id say for quite a while. No decisive victory in Afghanistan. No Osama Bin Laden’s head on a plate. No glory from Iraq (and no rebuilding) and lots of unhappy soldiers and families at home. Add a recession, an economy thats tanked and war isnt whats on American’s minds. Its nice to pretend but…its a useless exercise with no political will or mileage in it right now. Its time to play the international diplomat and Obama is doing very well at that game.
    Now he only has to turn the spotlight on the right wing lunatic fringes within the US and get them in line. Time to clean up the homeground.

  14. @Yobbo

    If nuclear weapons are no more likely than conventional bombs then you are saying they are a certainty, because the US has been hit by conventional bombs plenty of times. As for getting a nuke into the US, given the tonnage of drugs that manage to make their way there, that would not appear to be insurmountable.

    If the American’s had the least worry that Iraq could have dropped a nuke on invading US forces they would never have invaded. They only invaded because they were sure they had nothing to worry about.

  15. @Freelander
    Agree Freelander. Iraq was no threat and the Bush regime knew itb and of course all the BS that peredicated that war has come home to roost now and the millions that demonstrated against it across the globe didnt matter one bit – it was the political relief valve for the world trade centre bombings that was going to get Bush’s government political kudos and mileage and at the same timje give them a chance to push the neoliberal agenda by rewarding their private sector war cronies like Halliburton with taxpayers blood sweat and tears *(and even play out some oedipal inadequacy complex for granddady Bush by knocking off his old enemy Saddam) – why the hell do these rich spoilt and somehwhat dumb prats get to run US politics?.

    …even Bush said “we hit the trifecta”.

  16. @Freelander
    I don’t buy the idea that JEH’s choices of targets were entirely, or even primarily, a function of his vulnerability to blackmail. Much more likely he and organised crime formed a working relationship in displacing the legitimate activist leadership of the American labour unions during the 30s and 40s, allowing Hoover to focus the agency’s attentions on what Hoover correctly identified as threats to the American way of life: civil rights organisations and the broad US left. Hoover also performed a service to organised crime in eliminating its anarchic wing and allowing it to prosper in fringe legitimate businesses like casinos and participation, through the compromised labour unions, in commercial cartel arrangements. JEH’s position at the centre of American political power structures was so carefully nurtured during the anti-communist hysteria of the 40s and 50s that he was effectively invulnerable. The Kennedys, who would no doubt have been aware of Hoover’s unconventional sexuality, were unable to dislodge him. But then again Hoover kept quiet about the Kennedys’ equally sensational sexuality. At any event, IMO Hoover saw his mission in life as perpetuating and extending the social and political relations that facilitated the continued accumulation of capital by the US ruling class. This he did very well indeed, and was appropriately rewarded with real power.

  17. They killed 75 people including 25 children for the crime of refusing to leave their house.

    Not doing what you are told is a serious crime. Up there with rape, murder, arson, torture, you name it.

  18. @Hal9000

    The mob did have photos, and Hoover knew if he saw no evil in that direction, no one would see what he liked to do in his spare time. People may have ‘known’ things but having the ‘goods’ is something different.

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