Monday, August 26, 2013

"Terrorism" as a concept grows more meaningless by the day.

In my class today we talked about vagueness, and by sheer coincidence I came across two stories in the news that show just how vague and meaningless the terms "Terrorism" and "Terrorist" have become in US and international discourse. In both cases it becomes clear that the word now means, "anyone who does something the government doesn't like, or who might possibly do something the government doesn't like at any point in the future."

The first story, reported by Germany's Der Spiegel, and picked up by Reuters, continues the series of revelations of the extent of the US government's spying apparatus. In this case the reports show that the US has successfully bugged over 80 embassies across the world, as well as bugging various UN facilities and organizations. According to Der Spiegel, "The surveillance is intensive and well organised and has little or nothing to do with warding off terrorists..." Despite this, the US government continues to justify its wide ranging spy apparatus as responding to the threat of terrorism. Given the actions of the UK toward David Miranda and the US complicity in them as well as the massive scope of domestic spying in the US, it is becoming increasingly clear that the US and the UK governments literally regard every single person on the planet (and possibly those orbiting in space) as a terrorist or terrorism suspect.

Looking internationally, the second story I want to discuss notes that other governments (in this case the current military regime in Egypt) are taking note of how the US operates and are using the same techniques to suppress dissent and control their own populations.
Ten days ago, the police arrested two left-leaning Canadians — one of them a filmmaker specializing in highly un-Islamic movies about sexual politics — and implausibly announced that they were members of the Brotherhood, the conservative Islamist group backing the deposed president, Mohamed Morsi. In Suez this month, police and military forces breaking up a steelworkers strike charged that its organizers were part of a Brotherhood plot to destabilize Egypt.
Here we can see quite clearly that the Egyptian government is using the threat of Islamic terrorism to crack down on individuals and groups engaging in actions that are perceived as injurious or damaging to the current regime--a regime, it should be noted, that recently overthrew the democratically elected president of Egypt.

The one thread that unites these disparate stories from across the world is that the term "terrorism" is being exploited by governments to consolidate power over their populations. And this is because a word that was vague and undefined to begin with has been expanded in order to provide a rationale for these governments to do whatever they want without being held accountable by the people who are ostensibly citizens of the countries in question. Orwell proves to be more prescient by the day.

h/t to Digby

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