In light of the terrible attack in Charlottesville, there's been some debate about what terrorism is. Much of this is a flurry to press or deny the label on the attack.
Let's first go to the Oxford English Dictionary for a definition of terrorism:
The unlawful use of violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political aims.
By that definition, assuming that the car attack was meant to intimidate the protesters, then the car attack clearly falls into the scope of "terrorism." Protesters were protesting peacefully, and they were attacked out of an apparent desire to intimidate them with violence.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions is calling it a hate crime and opening a federal investigation.
Let's look at a few other examples to test the definition.
How about the man who intimidated two young women and stabbed three people in Portland while on an anti-Muslim tirade?
What about "punching Nazis?" The slogan has come back into use after the Charlottesville attack. After some discussion with supporters of the slogan, the conclusion I walked away with was that the core belief behind "punching Nazis" was this: if enough people punched them, they would be silenced. Is this a form of unlawfully using violence and intimidation against civilians in the pursuit of political aims?
Antifa and some other people have engaged in some such violence in the past. On July 3rd, Philadelphia police arrested 3 Antifa members for "stalking" and then "punching" pro-Trump protesters. Before the car attack in Charlottesville, New York Times reporter Sheryl Gay Stolberg reported that an Antifa protester was beating one of the white supremacist / alt-right protester with a club, though I'm not sure whether that happened before or after the Nazi-initiated violence. In Berkeley, masked Antifa threw Molotov cocktails and burned a lot of stuff in order to shut down a white nationalist "March on Berkeley," and on June 4th threw bricks at protesters in Portland.
Now this isn't a question of moral legitimacy, or equivalency. Let's not ask that question. Let's simply ask whether some of Antifa's attacks on protesters would also count as domestic terrorism. Thankfully nobody has died yet from Antifa attacks (as far as I'm aware), but with Molotov cocktails and bricks, someone could.
Here's the big question: is it domestic terrorism? Is it using violence and intimidation for political ends? Is that the right definition or is another one better?
What other groups might be committing domestic terrorism?
Worth listening in context: our podcast episode on The Effectiveness of Political Violence in History.
Political animosity in the US is probably at an all-time high. This isn't news.
Sadly, what is newsworthy is the fact that people are not only politicizing the hurricane, but discouraging helping the victims of it for political reasons. Harvey is something for which we should put our political differences aside, if only for a moment.
New polls and lots of new data after the Charlottesville attack can give us a real idea of the size and power of the Alt-Right, White Supremacists, and Neo-Nazis.
In light of the terrible attack in Charlottesville, there's been some debate about what terrorism is. Much of this is a flurry to press or deny the label on the attack. Can we settle the question?
rump is a big fan of calling various news networks "fake news," especially when they report something about him he doesn't like, such as poll numbers. Having a president so antagonistic against the media is certainly new in American politics, even though yellow journalism has been a thing for years, and Republicans coined the term "liberal media" years ago.
What can be done about it?
A lot of people feel pretty strongly about their political opinions. Often we feel like they are quite set in stone; based on some very deep values that won't change much.
A lot of people also feel like their opinions are based on well-thought-out logic and reasoning, from gathering evidence.
However, there's substantial evidence to suggest that when another tribe's opinions solidify on an issue, our tribe runs away--and we join them. Our opinions on important issues are often fluid and fickle, changing with political wind more than sound thinking.
I got to meet Pat Caddell, who has worked in presidential offices and campaigns since the Carter Administration. He has done a combination of personal interviews, polling, and soul-searching to get a sense of why Trump won the election when, in his words, Trump had no real strategy, few solid positions, and very little in the way of a campaign at all.
We saw the strikes happen last night and woke up this morning to various social media reactions: everything across the spectrum of:
- This is what Obama should have done when he called the "red line" and Trump is a hero of deterrence / justice / good
- We are entering World War III
- This is a distraction in order to do $POLICY
So time for a quick flash poll.
The Alt-Right remains probably the least-understood political phenomenon on the United States right now. There is very little consensus about what they stand for, who is in it besides a few celebrities and internet trolls, how many they are, and how powerful they are.
I decided to do some research. I even spent time running around chat boards like Reddit and 4Chan, and reading Breitbart. Fair warning, I have no conclusive answers--but that, in itself, is a finding, suggesting that anyone who is telling you they know that the Alt-Right is such-and-such is probably full of it.
In the Atlantic’s April 2017 issue there is a powerful read called “Making Athens Great Again.” It recounts the faltering of Athens with the execution of Socrates then its renewal with Plato’s creation of the Academy. It discusses why a nation with a sense of exceptionalism must include self-criticism and self-questioning to be worthy of itself. It is an article recounting an ancient history that is still relevant.
But it has some problems.
In our mission to "rebuild the middle ground" of United States politics, we are obviously fighting a losing battle. If there's any hope to be had from this particular strategy, the middle ground needs to identify who it is, and find each other--and fast.