Springingtiger's Blog


Terrorism, the Dangerous Word
September 26, 2013, 18:54
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Comrade Lenin said that, “the purpose of terrorism is to terrorise” in which case, one might argue,  the gunmen who committed the mall atrocity in Nairobi are not terrorists because their stated purpose is the withdrawal of Kenyan troops from Somalia. An exercise not in  terrorism,  but futility. The only thing that this sort of attack achieves is news coverage,  there is not a government prepared now, to be manipulated by violence. I doubt whether the perpetrators of violence honestly expect to persuade anyone of the rightness of their cause, the real goal is publicity, although I suspect that some,  so called,  terrorists simply get a kick from hurting others.

There is not, as yet, an agreed definition of terrorism in law or otherwise.  It is often forgotten that we take the term terrorism from post revolutionary France, terrorism was action by the state to control the people. Governments tend to use the term of those who oppose them. The term terrorist is both derogatory and highly emotive; frequently a so called terrorist,  like those who resisted the Nazis in Europe, or the English in Ireland,  describes himself as a freedom fighter. The term terrorist exists really only in propaganda to smear one’s opposition.  Because it lacks an agreed definition,  and because it is so insulting,  it is best avoided. The Conservative MP,  Rob Wilson,  wants the BBC to use the term, regardless of the facts, and expose journalists to the retaliation of those so described. It is alleged by many that allied drone attacks on Pakistani civilians is terrorism, I am inclined to agree,  however I think it is more accurate, and less emotive, to describe them as “drone attacks”, in the same way I think “Islamist militant” is preferable to the derogatory, “terrorist”. The BBC has a duty to be objective and is absolutely correct to avoid emotive terms like terrorist that imply a value judgement. I think it serves no one for the BBC to invite violence against its journalists who are already taking enough risks to bring us the news.

We should also bear in mind that the people we call terrorists today may well be leading the governments with whom we will be seeking to trade tomorrow. The current President of Kenya’s father, Jomo Kenyatta, was imprisoned by the British as a terrorist, he became the country’s first president. Grudges can last a long time, the Irish have not forgotten the Boyne, nor the Scots the betrayal of the Act of Union, President Obama still holds the British treatment of the Mau Mau against us. Given the length of some people’s memories of injustices and slights, it seems as well not to exacerbate things by the careless use of language. That we describe someone accurately, in this case as Islamic militants does not mean we support them, it simply shows that we are not going to let the facts be obscured by emotion. Had reason prevailed after 9/11 we might not have spent a decade in a war that has only served to stimulate Islamic extremism. As it is the example we hold up to the world makes it easy for others to justify attacking us, and to argue they are merely repaying us in our own coin. Wars and violence are not acceptable as instruments of politics. The sooner we start being a little more understanding of others, a little more cautious before taking up the gun, but above all unimpeachable in our own conduct the sooner we can move towards peace. At the moment we are casually pushing the world into a conflict which will leave none of us unscathed. It would be easy to eradicate the complete population of Somalia in a single nuclear strike and so remove the cause for Al Shabaab as well as its members. Would it lead to any diminution of terrorism, or of Islamist extremism?  Somehow I doubt it, I have no doubt that there is a solution to terrorism, I don’t know what,  but I do know that acting,  and speaking from emotions rather than reason is not the way to find it.

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