I struck up a conversation in Copenhagen with an American expatriate leftist who worships Caesar Chavez and lives in Seoul. During the conversation, as with many others I have had with anti-capitalists, I was struck by the language he used. “Capitalism” was, among more colorful terms, “slavery” and “capitalists” were “murderers.” Two weeks have passed since then, but over the past few days, other leftists in politics and media have picked up this wise (and sexist – if you’d only heard what he said about the virtues of Korean women versus Chinese) man’s torch.
I’m referring to the most hilarious and dishonest misuse of the word “terrorism” since its application to Julian Assange half a year ago (ironically, by some of those now bearing the pejorative’s brunt). That the current denunciations come from the “politically-correct” left only amplifies the hilarity. To refreshen your memory:
Three-time Pulitzer Prize-winning Thomas Friedman likened the Tea Party to a “Hezbollah faction” of its GOP base. Joel Brinkley of the San Francisco Chronicle tried to somehow compare the Tea Party with his experiences covering the Middle East. He went for broke, trying to link the Tea Party Movement with Islamist pedophiles. A David Johnson from the Baltimore Sun went even further than his fellow “journalists,” claiming that actually the Tea Partiers are worse than terrorists; terrorists could never have “brought this country to its knees.” Even more exaggerating was the ever delusional Maureen Dowd, who chose to deviate from the pack and describe, in detail, the debt ceiling debate as a “Washington Chainsaw Massacre”. If political hatred, violence, and cannibalism interest you, read it.
These slurs have not been limited to media commentators. Nancy Pelosi referred to the GOP’s “hostage-taking” behavior during the debt ceiling debates. Mike Doyle complained that, once the decision had been made, all of his liberal buddies had “negotiated with terrorists”. According to Vice President Biden – although there has been some controversy over exactly what he said – the Tea Party had “acted like terrorists”. It seems like 1) terrorists act like terrorists and 2) when non-terrorists act like terrorists, they become terrorists. So, either way, Tea Partiers are terrorists. The White House was swift in its damage repair.
“Terrorism” is a fuzzy term to begin with. Various papers claim to have found in excess of 100 definitions of it, which is indicative of the worth of the word as an expressive unit. Regardless, the following individuals and organizations are near-universally deemed terrorists: al-Qaeda; Timothy McVeigh; the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam; Baruch Goldstein; and the CIA (ask people of the “developing world” and Eastern Europe for confirmation).
Wittgenstein famously rejected the idea that words need ‘metaphysical’ definitions in order to have meaning. He proposed that examples of a concept, with their similarities and dissimilarities forming “family resemblances” linking them together, suffice. The “family resemblance” common to the above terrorists is a willingness to use violence – often targeting innocent civilians – to advance their political goals. Indeed, a United States Army manual I have from the 1986 states that terrorism is “the calculated use of violence or threat of violence to attain goals that are political, religious, or ideological in nature.” Seems uncontroversial enough.
It is possible that I’m suffering from selective amnesia, but I do not recall Tea Partiers killing anyone in the name of lower taxes. Or bombing government buildings (although doing so in the name of smaller government would, admittedly, make more sense than doing so to establish a Sharia state). Or engaging in wide-scale vandalism, like far-left eco-terrorists. Or in any way coercing others into accepting their account of the Facts beyond the coercion inherent in our democratic process, where sometimes those you do not agree with get their way over yours.
What I do remember are the good ol’ days when the Tea Party only inspired terrorism. This was as recent as January, when talking heads of the left assumed that Jared Loughner was either a Tea Partier or a right-wing extremist brainwashed by violent conservative rhetoric. This was before it was revealed he was an untreated schizophrenic whose political beliefs were, to say the least, scattered and warped with conspiracy. There was no evidence that he ever looked at Sarah Palin’s infamous target map either, which was another soft association the left harped on before it was revealed to be another swing and miss.
I also remember a significant number of liberals generalizing from a minority of cases of racist Tea Partiers to the conclusion that the Tea Party as a whole was a racist, reactionary movement against the election of a black president.
Now, though, the standard of proof has been lowered even further. This time, the Tea Partiers are terrorists because . . . well, because the left is wounded and upset. They did not get their way in the debt ceiling fiasco and they took some hits in the 2010 elections, preventing them from maintaining their bureaucratic leverage. Since they have no true means to recourse, some of them simply resort to smearing. It is worth noting that discrediting in such a way is a tactic people resort to when they lack the means to censor (again, reminiscent of Julian Assange). Not too liberal, these liberals.
Why try to paint the Tea Party as a bunch of “homegrown terrorists,” anyway? There are a few other “-ists” which can be appropriately applied, although they are not as effective as assassinating character. Take the claim that some Tea Partiers are opportunists, for example, and then ponder where these people were for the past 11+ years. If you experience a libertarian or “small government” ideological shift only after Barack Obama becomes President but had no such inclination under Bush, you are probably disingenuous. If you truly endorsed such ideals, Ron Paul would not have done so pitifully in 2008 and the TPM would not have started as recently as 2009. The confused beliefs of some Tea Partiers was further captured in this poll.
Some Tea Party members are racists, and they are indeed upset that a non-White is POTUS. I have come to this conclusion from personal experience with members as well as the footage from rallies that routinely went viral beginning in early 2009.
Some are also anti-Islamists, as demonstrated by former Tea Party Express spokesman Mark Williams, who notably apologized to Hindus everywhere after claiming Allah was a “monkey god,” claiming he did not mean to insult the Hindu Monkey God, Lord Hanuman. Such a Monkey God was not “whatever the hell that terrorists worship.”
Notice the word “some” in the preceding paragraphs as it modifies “Tea Partiers.” I consciously chose to use it because covering such a sprawling movement with any blanket characterization is foolish. Tea Partiers are not, as a group, terrorists, racists, anti-Islamists, or opportunists. What’s more, I’m not betting you’d find a Tea Partier, individually, who is a terrorist either. Being loose with language the way the aforementioned liberals have been is irresponsible and ultimately tells us more about them than their intended targets.
For further clarification, and due to the frequency of “terrorist” being abused, I propose the following bifurcation, which I believe obtains (please suggest other options):
(1) all individuals have the property of being “terrorists,” much as they have the property of being “human,” so no information is conveyed by the claim “x is a terrorist,” or
(2) the word “terrorist” can still be accurately applied to specific individuals and organizations that use violence to achieve non-State sanctioned political ends (it is only terrorism, after all, when the government is not doing it).
So, if (1) held, which it doesn’t, it would be unnecessary to call others “terrorists” because, well, we would all be terrorists. If (2) holds, it is inflammatory hyperbole to so accuse the Tea Party. In either case, those who have denounced their nonviolent political opposition as “terrorists” look damn stupid.
Now, I have to admit that my incentive for writing this was the opportunity to say the following to the PC left:
Please stop the hate speech and learn to tolerate those with opposing views.