The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

What Matters Is Character (Terrorism and Rights Edition)

This chart tells you not about terrorism, but about the nature of the people living in and running Western Europe today.

terrorism attacks from 70 from Quartz

So, not even close to peak.

Yet Europeans in the 70s did not get rid of their civil liberties in the way that France, for example, has. They also did not react with the frankly embarrassing pant-wetting fear we have seen. Maybe that’s because, in the 70s, there were still plenty of people around who remembered World War II.

Terrorism is a serious threat to developed nations only because of the way we react to it. We, or our leaders, or both, seem determined to give up liberties and freedom over a danger far less likely to kill any of us than walking across the street.

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  1. V. Arnold

    The word, the concept of terrorism is god’s gift to neo-cons and corrupt governments across the globe.
    It is the bane of free people everywhere and a lie, so easily told and believed…

  2. Ivory Bill Woodpecker

    Terrorism could be easily ended, by ceasing the exploitation of labor and natural resources in the countries from which the terrorists come. Of course, that will not be done, since that would require depriving the Owners of some slight portion of their wealth and power.

    The terrorists hope that if they frighten us Western peasants strongly enough, we will use our votes to demand that the Owners stop plundering the terrorists’ homelands. The terrorists, ironically, believe the Western nations’ propaganda about the Western nations. The terrorists believe our countries are genuine democracies, so that we Western peasants could compel the Owners to stop plundering the homelands of the terrorists.

  3. sdf

    When the \”War on Terror\” started out the absurdity was palpable and people would frequently raise contradictions like the above. A decade and a half propaganda barrage has largely worn away the public\’s psychological resistance, though as with all propaganda the effect isn\’t so much to make people believe the falsehoods so much as to make them indifferent to truth and falsity altogether.

    There does seem to be some general appreciation of the unreality of it all in the way establishment opinion ridicules Muslim-baiting sentiments on the far right that would, at the very least, be worth hearing out if the terror-war cant were true.

    It seems to be recognized, though almost never said aloud, that some sort of official mythology of this sort is necessary to square the circle of an allegedly liberal-democratic-internationalist power running a coercive and autocratic military empire.

  4. Ian Welsh

    If the spamblocker blocks you, it virtually always just puts you into a queue for me to review later, which unless I’m traveling or something, I’ll generally get to in no more than 12 to 14 hours, and often far less.

  5. Billikin

    When I was young I was fortunate enough to see the movie, “The Battle of Algiers”. One thing I picked up from the film was that the object of terrorism is to terrorize, and to evoke an overreaction from the authorities. It has been disconcerting to see how easily we have fallen into that trap.

    But it isn’t just that we have fallen into the terrorists’ trap. Among the powerful are fear mongers for whom terrorist attacks are opportunities to ply their trade. An atmosphere of fear increases the authoritarianism of the populace, which they can exploit to their advantage.

  6. nihil obstet

    Orwell explained it back in 1948. An authoritarian government controls its population through constant war. First, there was the cold war. There were commie spies everywhere!!! We all needed fall out shelters! We had to establish permanent foreign bases around the globe and fight wars everywhere to stop the commie menace.

    When the population got too anti-war, the government added the metaphorical War on Drugs. Be very afraid of the superpredators who will addict your children! Build lots of prisons. Support authoritarian governments in drug producing regions and expansive, aggressive police organizations with allies.

    As drug-frenzy began to flag in the population, the War on Terror came as a god-send to the oligarchs. Notice that while we suffer quite extraordinary surveillance and induced fear, the elites not only control, but also profit. Major banks, most notably HSBC, laundered drug money, and paid the usual wrist slapping fine when caught. Nobody of course went to jail. The U.S. list of terrorist organizations is maintained with an eye to what groups should stay on and what groups should come off, depending on which well-connected insiders are getting lobbying money (example.)

  7. Lisa

    Off topic I know, but latest North Carolina news where all those cheering sticking it to the ‘trannies’ and ‘pooftahs’ are only slowly realsing they have been dudded ..yet again.

    Works everytime… hard not to think that these people deserve all that they get….

    I can just hear the howls from some idiot who thinks ‘pooftah’ bashing should be an olympic sport when they get fired and find out they have no recompense whatsoever….
    This is not just cutting of your nose to spite your face, it is having a good go at your face with a chainsaw….

    A lawyer’s perspective on why HB2 is a plague infested rat
    “North Carolina has a massive problem. Last week, its employees suffered a tremendous blow and few realize it.
    HB2 was about more than bathrooms and LGBT protections. It turned back the clock on well-established forms of workplace discrimination. ”

    “The State [used to] made clear that its public policy was to protect against workplace discrimination. Indeed, countless North Carolinians have used this as a means to protect themselves from these specific forms of discrimination.

    That all went out the door on Wednesday. Buried deep in the much-discussed and debated HB2 is this seemingly innocuous language:

    Eliminating “civil actions” simply means “cannot sue” and not being able to sue, or go to court, puts workers right back where they were in the 1970s. That is, for the first time in decades, North Carolina courts closed their doors to those fired because of their race, sex, age, disability, national origin, or religion.

    But the way in which this change came about might be even worse. The General Assembly didn’t hold a special session for the first time in 35 years to respond to Charlotte’s nondiscrimination ordinance —it used it as a diversion to roll back back rights for North Carolina employees.

    When lawmakers framed the debate as one about “bathrooms” they had already won. Calling House Bill 2 a Trojan horse is misleading. Trojan horses are far less deceptive. It’s more like a plague infested rat scurrying into a sleepy Medieval European town. ….”

  8. EmilianoZ

    It’s not the quantity of attacks that matters, it’s the quality, the efficiency, the intent. Not all “terrorist attacks” are designed to kill. Remember the Brad Pitt movie “Spy Game”. His love interest, Catherine McCormack, was involved in the bombing of the Chinese embassy that was not supposed to kill anybody but accidentally did. There were some bombings like this in Paris in the 70ies or early 80ies, either by ETA or the FLNC (Corsicans) I cant remember. I doubt there were any terrorist attacks in France back then that killed more than 100 people in one go.

  9. Jill

    Speaking for the US (who seems to be directing the response of Europe), it is clear that the war on terror is clearly constructed so as to forcibly remove the rights of its citizens.

    Terrorism had formerly been dealt with as a criminal matter. Somehow US authorities and Interpol were able to arrest suspects and hold civilian trials, in civilian courts of law.

    All of a sudden what was formally a criminal matter became a matter of “war”. This “war” brought untold benefits to elites. These benefits included financial gains not recently heard of. The banking industry has been caught many times funneling the money for weapons sales. Private contractors who provide mercenaries are the primary source of personnel for the this “war” on the world and its peoples. Private contractors also provide water (poisoned), showers ( which have electrocuted soldiers), supplies (which they can and do refuse to bring to regular grunts in the field) and now, the biggest money maker of all time-blanket surveillance of the earth’s population.

    In order to get ordinary people to accept such things they used psy-ops. When that has failed, they use force– tear/nerve gas, water cannons, arrest, disappearance and murder. I call all of the later terrifying myself. Not every person has the health or family situation to face down the physical power of an uparmored, militarized govt. arrayed against them.

    As to psy-ops, here is where character does play a role. Whipping up hatred against the “other” is a time tested technique for turning people against each other. This is something we can and must resist.

    Separating people into political teams is also something people can stop agreeing to. In the US those supporting torture turned from a majority of Team Red under Bush to a majority of Team Blue under Obama. The reason this can happen is because people are not holding real, honest, deeply felt ideas that torture is wrong. They can be spun around to the opposite position because they don’t have an ethical stance, they have a stance based on membership in a team. Yet human beings have the ability to be ethical. We ought to be truly ethical in our positions.

    The overlords cannot succeed on a population who is ethical. I would say cultivating an ethical way of life is the most powerful weapon of resistance any person or population has.

  10. markfromireland

    @ Jill – As I’m sure you know “terrorism” as a technical term, originally meant tyrannical state behavior. Repressive often violent actions taken against its population by the state – looking it up in my (print) Oxford English Dictionary I find the expression “government by intimidation” listed as one of the definitions of the word.

  11. Societies and the world will always have their “red herring” issues to deflect attention away from the more underlying moral and spiritual causes of interpersonal dysfunctionalities.

    If it’s not “sex offenses”, drug and alcohol addiction, gambling addictions, gun-control, gender politics, racial politics, or whatever it’ll be terrorism or corrupt politicians or corrupt police and officials

    …Whatever …

  12. Jill


    Thank you for that information. I hadn’t heard the definition “government by intimidation”. That certainly fits the bill!


    It’s not really “whatever”. “Whatever” can be stopped by an informed, ethical population. Especially an ethical population, one who won’t turn on their neighbors. During every war and every genocide, there were always people of courage who resisted doing harm and instead protected the “out” group or refused the lies they were fed. We can be those people today.

  13. markfromireland

    Some reading material:

    Civilization is not the endpoint of modern history, but a succession of interludes in recurring spasms of barbarism. The liberal civilization that has prevailed in some Western countries over the past few centuries emerged slowly and with difficulty against the background of a particular mix of traditions and institutions. Precarious wherever it has existed, it is a way of life that has no strong hold on humankind. For an older generation of liberal thinkers such as Alexis de Tocqueville and Isaiah Berlin, these were commonplaces. Today these truisms are forbidden truths, which can no longer be spoken or in many cases comprehended.

    Read in full: The Anomaly of Barbarism | Lapham’s Quarterly:

  14. fds

    A pursuit of this ghost has shaped the ruinous “war on terror.” The course of the Iraq war illustrates some of the consequences. The effects on the West, which included a colossal waste of resources and the rehabilitation by the Bush administration of the barbarous practice of torture, are by now well known. Less well understood is the fact that disaster in Iraq flowed not only from mistakes in policy (grotesque as some of these were) but also from the attempt to remake the country as a democracy.

    [ … ]

    The invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein in April 2003 destroyed the state of Iraq. Partly this was because of the policies of the occupying power, such as disbanding the Iraqi army in May 2003, a bizarre exercise that had far-reaching consequences. A more fundamental reason was the fact that the integrity of the state rested on Sunni hegemony, which the occupation undid. Iraq was a multiethnic and multisectarian state held together principally by force. Self-government for “the Iraqi people” was impossible, since nothing of the kind had ever existed. The only realistically imaginable outcome of regime change was the violent disintegration of the state.

    This is all thoroughly disingenuous. No less than the neocon ringleader Dick Cheney himself said more or less precisely the above in a interview shortly after the 1991 Gulf War. The insane electoral system imposed by the Coalition was essentially designed to exacerbate divisions, to say nothing of covert efforts by the Coalition to whip up sectarian violence. (Two British agents were caught red-handed plotting a mosque bombing, and were promptly broken out of jail by the Coalition.)

    A functioning democracy was never the Coalition’s objective.

  15. fds

    “…to exacerbate such divisions…”

  16. markfromireland

    There’s always some idiot who’s incapable of understanding the utility of knowing what the opposition thinks.


  17. fds

    What I wrote was in objection to the content of the LQ article, not in objection to it having been linked here.

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