Skip to main content

I have admittedly been experiencing some cognitive dissonance regarding the recent rash of the right-wing crazies threatening Democratic politicians who supported the HCR bill.  I do not believe that the threat of violence against anybody has any place within political discourse, but I also am extremely uncomfortable with how acts of vandalism against Democratic congresspeople are so freely labeled as "terrorism" in this community.

Follow me past the fold for further musings.

The threat of politically motivated violence, like what has so clearly arisen from the right in the wake of the HCR bill, is by definition undemocratic.  The right wing loonies who break windows, etc. are clearly aiming to scare and intimidate the admirable members of congress who passed the bill.  

I think every legitimate threat of violence against these congresspeople or their families should be taken seriously and investigated.  But I have strong reservations when any act of vandalism, such as breaking a window, is regarded as terrorism.  You may recall that individuals accused of terrorism by the federal government enter a legal wilderness where their rights to due process are essentially stripped from them.  Ever since the Patriot Act, American citizens can be sent to Guantanamo as enemy combatants if they are deemed terrorists by the sole discretion of the Executive; I am fairly certain that this policy has not changed since President Obama took office (and even if they close Gitmo, they have made it clear that they will maintain other "extra-legal" detention facilities), and indeed Obama explicitly endorsed indefinite detention without trial for some people, a position that even Bush didn't take, at least publicly.

I suppose that "terrorism" has become as nebulous a term as "freedom" in our postmodern world, where every definition is fluid.  Certainly, the redneck motherfuckers who throw bricks through Democratic windows out of their pathetic, impotent rage should be condemned publicly by Democrats, Republicans, and everybody.  But, are we really willing to label those actions as terrorism, given what that means under the American "legal" system?  

I can't help but think of the policies that were adopted during the Clinton administration, such as the Animal Enterprise Protection Act, which was intended to prevent "environmental terrorism," defined as "physical disruption to the functioning of an animal enterprise by intentionally stealing, damaging, or causing the loss of any property...used by the animal enterprise." During this time, groups like the Earth Liberation Front would occasionally destroy lots full of SUVs, burn down unoccupied resorts in at-risk ecosystems, and spike old-growth trees slated to be leveled for paper production.  These groups always took meticulous care not to harm human or animal life, and to this day no substantiated reports of intentional physical harm have been attributed to such left-wing agitators.  Nevertheless, individuals convicted under such laws face the several years in federal prison for their vandalism, and could potentially face the Kafkaeque legal black hole that "terrorists" face in the US.  

I believe it is the treatment of private property as a fundamental right, on the level with life itself, that is the basis of this legal paradox, and I believe it is unjust.  Somewhere during the development of American culture/capitalism, the right to own property, and as much of it as you can get, became enshrined among the most sacred of popular American values.  This ideal has most recently been codified by the Citizens United decision, which only follows the trajectory of American politics to its logical conclusion: whoever has the most wealth and property can and should have the most influence, whether they are an individual or a corporation.  

I loathe everything the right-wingers stand for as much as the next Kossack.  I think that their violent rhetoric increases the possibility of violence being committed against Democratic politicians and citizens.  But I think we should all take a minute to step back and ask ourselves a few questions.  Are we really willing to look at pathetic acts of politically motivated property destruction, such as breaking windows, and condemn their perpetrators to the possibility innumerable years in a secret US detention facility?  Are we really willing to place the destruction or seizure of property - a legitimate political act that has been revered ever since the real Boston Tea Party - in the same category as mass murder?  Are we really willing to hand over the full power of the US legal system to the corporate elites, placing their massive property holdings on the same legal plane as human life at the same time as they ravage society and our environment with their greedy, destructive practices?

Just sayin'.

Originally posted to arreay on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 01:19 AM PDT.

Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags


More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

  •  Wanna call it a hate crime instead? (13+ / 0-)

    Because it is done out of hate towards a specific group of people based on their beliefs.

    O great creator of being grant us one more hour to perform our art and perfect our lives. ::: Jim Morrison :::

    by Kevanlove on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 01:42:16 AM PDT

  •  Definition of hate crime (10+ / 0-)

    Hate crimes (also known as bias-motivated crimes) occur when a perpetrator targets a victim because of his or her perceived membership in a certain social group, usually defined by racial group, religion, sexual orientation, disability, class, ethnicity, nationality, age, gender, gender identity, or political affiliation.

    "Hate crime" generally refers to criminal acts which are seen to have been motivated by hatred of one or more of the listed conditions. Incidents may involve physical assault, damage to property, bullying, harassment, verbal abuse or insults, or offensive graffiti or letters (hate mail).hate crime definition

    O great creator of being grant us one more hour to perform our art and perfect our lives. ::: Jim Morrison :::

    by Kevanlove on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 01:46:58 AM PDT

  •  jail them for their "isolated" incidents. (7+ / 0-)

    Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.~Voltaire

    by Randy Flagg on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 01:49:30 AM PDT

  •  intimidation is terrorism. (17+ / 0-)

    other that that, why are you more concerned with what the behavior is labeled, than what is actually being done?

    Language is wine upon the lips. -Virginia Woolf

    by valadon on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 01:50:19 AM PDT

  •  Sry to disagree but their beloved Patriot Act is (9+ / 0-)

    unambiguous on this point in Section (A) and (B) ii, to wit:

    Under current United States law, set forth in the USA PATRIOT Act, acts of domestic terrorism are those which: "(A) involve acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State; (B) appear to be intended— (i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; (ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or (iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping; and (C) occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States."[3]

    It would be hard to argue that death threats are not dangerous to human life and threatening a member of Congress is clearly a criminal act, so that's Section (A).

    Since these began before the vote on HCR and have continued to present it is a fairly easy case to make that their stated intent is to "influence policy by intimidation and coercion". Section (B)





    post hoc, ergo propter hoc

    by RvgAqs on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 01:59:52 AM PDT

  •  As with anything in this world (9+ / 0-)

    words are used among various classes and have different meanings.

    What constitutes an assault in a court of law is quite different from what a layperson means when using the same word. The term murder is used in common speech in a way that encompasses much more than the law narrowly defines it and few distinguish between it and manslaughter as do the legal definitions.

    When a blogger uses the phrase terrorist, it in no way is meant to rise to the level of the definitions as used by the Departments of State, Defense or Justice. It is used colloquially in accordance with common use and is subject to individual interpretation rather than the legal.

    To suggest that property loss is the single determinant of a terrorist act, is oversimplification. Bombing unoccupied churches, government buildings, schools and military establishments quite easily might fall into that category. Had the World Trade Center been empty at the time of the attack, that act, too, would have been classified an act of terrorism.

    So, the use of the term "domestic terrorism" is appropriate in the context of the recent acts of violence if one's focus is on the tactical aspects and goals of the groups involved rather than the individual actors themselves.

    I wouldn't go so far as to suggest these individually rise to a level beyond that of local law enforcement but we have not seen where this will go. But to dismiss the use of the word because the laws establish post-9/11 overreached is also an overreach.

    Tea Party H8riots - that ain't America

    by MKSinSA on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 02:10:07 AM PDT

    •  Well put (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Triscula, Dar Nirron, Dirtandiron

      What they are doing is illegal and well beyond the placid characterization of "crank calls".

      Rep Grayson's 5 yer old daughter picked up his phone to hear a woman screaming that he was going to be killed. She is 5 years old - do you think she thought it was a crank call or was she terrorized?

      The intent before HCR was to scare legislators to not vote for it and subsequent to its passage to make a "down payment" on motivating them not to vote on the next piece of controversial legislation - in other words Section (B) ii. I would argue that cutting a gas line as happened in Virginia is rather dangerous to human life and a criminal act of vandalism and of course if occurred in the United States. So whomever did that did that after the address was published on a website, not just some random pissed off squirrel. The intent was to terrorize, the act was illegal it occurred in Virginia either in collusion with or because of a web posting of the man's address who is the brother of a sitting United States Congressman.

      This is well beyond "crank calls", and frankly I find that characterization very troubling it is a second cousin to the dismissals we are hearing from the Republicans on this issue.

      post hoc, ergo propter hoc

      by RvgAqs on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 04:19:30 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  terrorism... (12+ / 0-)

       /ˈtɛrəˌrɪzəm/ Show Spelled[ter-uh-riz-uhm] Show IPA
    1.the use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce, esp. for political purposes.

    2.the state of fear and submission produced by terrorism or terrorization.

    3.a terroristic method of governing or of resisting a government.

    You FAIL. There is no distinction that the violence need be directed at persons to be considered terrorism.

    Delete this piece of shit diary.

    The last thing I remember, I was running for the door...

    by Clive all hat no horse Rodeo on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 02:10:51 AM PDT

  •  Tell that to the Jews when the Brown Shirts (7+ / 0-)

    were destroying Property and Vandalizing Property and Breaking Windows and painting vileness on the walls that doing those things aren't acts of Terrorism and the same for Blacks in the in the South when the Klan Vandalized buildings and homes and Destroyed Property and painted vileness on walls and broke windows tell them that wasn't Terrorism.

  •  Most of the commenters seem to miss the point (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    5x5, citicenx, Marja E, isabelle hayes

    of the diary which is not so much whether the acts of violence and threatened violence against Congressmen actually constitute terrorism -- the diarist seems ambivalent on that point -- but rather to focus on the legal consequences of labeling someone a terrorist.

    More than a statement on the violence itself, the diary rejects the restrictions on civil liberties contained in the Patriot Act, and suggests that because of those restrictions the bar for calling something terrorist needs to be placed very high indeed.

    The diarist doesn't call for repeal of the Patriot Act, which might actually be the best solution to the problem.  Accord terrorists their full constitutional rights, then throw the book at them.

    text "YELE" to 501501 to give five bucks to Haitian relief, or "HAITI" to 90999 to give ten to the Red Cross.

    by litho on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 03:58:34 AM PDT

  •  just vandalism? (5+ / 0-)

    Krystallnact - the night of shattered glass

    Nov. 9, 1938

  •  It's not about the right to own property (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    WIds, kefauver, skohayes, Dirtandiron, MaikeH

    You actually stated the reason why it's terrorism in this diary:

    The right wing loonies who break windows, etc. are clearly aiming to scare and intimidate the admirable members of congress who passed the bill.

    Their goal isn't property destruction.  Their objective is to terrify, and through instilling that terror, discourage others from voting for or supporting particular policies.  

    They're trying to incite fear for a political purpose.  That's terrorism.  It's no different from racists who vandalize a home or business and spray paint ethnic or religious slurs on the property.  The message is clear: "You better behave or we're coming for you next".

    "You must be the change you wish to see in the world." -Gandhi

    by Triscula on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 04:22:41 AM PDT

  •  So, it someone fires a bullet through my dining (6+ / 0-)

    room window I am not supposed to be terrorized, but merely vandalized?

    Might and Right are always fighting, in our youth it seems exciting. Right is always nearly winning, Might can hardly keep from grinning.

    by hestal on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 04:44:01 AM PDT

  •  Murder is not terrorism? (6+ / 0-)

    "The next time my gun will be loaded" is not terrorism?  Bringing a full sized casket and putting it on someone's lawn is not terrorism?  Sending a letter with white powder in it is not terrorism?

    You're confusing the government definition of terrorism used to determine a course of action internationally with what's happening today.

    According to your definition, the KKK were just vandals.

    The religious fanatics didn't buy the republican party because it was virtuous, they bought it because it was for sale

    by nupstateny on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 04:45:45 AM PDT

  •  If a brick comes through a window and hits (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    WIds, tardis10, Villagejonesy

    someone, it's going to hurt. Saying it's "not terrorism" does not change that.

  •  I think this is a great diary (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    slatsg, neroden, the fan man

    I think we're way too eager to be scared, or claim to be scared, by stupid stuff.  But that's just conjunctural.  More generally, I think the whole notion of terrorism is a problem when it's brought into legal terminology and differential punishments.  I'm OK with the notion that there's something called terrorism, defined as an already criminal act that's intended to scare others into giving in.  That would hold equally for vandalism and murder--given the same goal (e.g. worldwide Islamic theocracy or a ban on killing cute animals) slashing tires and slashing the President would both be terrorism.  But that's an analytical thing--I see no reason to enshrine terrorism in our criminal law.  It's enough to put the intended purpose of the crime on a list, already substantial, of aggravating circumstances.

    Enrich your life with adverbs!

    by Rich in PA on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 05:22:27 AM PDT

    •  Terrorism has been part of daily life for (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      neroden, bushondrugs, MKSinSA

      abortion providers, civil rights advocates and more recently animal researchers and land developers. In some respects, we've been loathed to use the word enough in this country. The Patriot Act was used to convict and sentence a would be bomber of an abortion clinic to forty years for intent to use a "weapon of mass destruction".  My problem is that its legal use today both dilutes and conflates meaning of the term. Some kid who phones in a bomb threat to his school can now be charged under the Patriot Act along with Mohammad Atta.

      "Ignorance breeds monsters to fill up the vacancies of the soul that are unoccupied by the verities of knowledge." H Mann

      by the fan man on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 06:03:06 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I agree that property damage is not (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    on par with even a threat to the well-being of a person.

    But while I chuckle a bit when the ELF torches a dealer lot full of Hummers, that's my emotional reaction. My thoughtful, intelligent, logical reaction still cannot condone these acts against property.

    Now, spiking roads and old growth forest trees to stop the clearcutting of old growth forests? I honestly have no problem with that.

    The overwhelming consensus of 2,000+ scientific experts from the IPCC& 18 US scientific assns: climate change is happening and is a growing threat to our wo

    by Cenobyte on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 05:25:11 AM PDT

  •  Um, yes (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    5x5, skohayes, bushondrugs

    Are we really willing to place the destruction or seizure of property - a legitimate political act that has been revered ever since the real Boston Tea Party - in the same category as mass murder?

    Yes.  They're both crimes.  

    If someone smashed your windows, slashed your tires, burned a cross on your lawn, firebombed your house, I think you'd be a deal less callous about the "legitimacy" of "property damage".

    There's a gradient of violence here.  These people attack property not because they are trying to avoid violence against persons, but because they are unable to use violence against persons, and strike against property as a symbolic extension of that person.  The same urge-to-kill, however, lies behind both.  And it's impossible to do damage to property without risking potential harm to persons.  In my state, we had a well-known incident many years ago, in which a supposedly "non-violent" bombing (just a crime against property, you see) killed someone who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Collateral damage.  "It happens".

    If you "legitimize" violence against property, then you are going to find it harder and harder to justify increasing levels of personal violence: ducking (hey, nobody got hurt!), tarring and feathering (is it that much worse than a bad sunburn?), pelting with tomatoes (everybody likes a tomato), pelting with rocks (they just have to remember to duck!), kidnapping (it's all good fun!), torture (I got hazed worse in college!), lynching (they deserved it!).

    No, I think that society rightly draws the line well before any kind of overt act of violence.  People can say what they like, but they can't do what they like, when there's even a chance someone might get hurt.

  •  Terrorism=violence for political reasons (4+ / 0-)

    Terrorism - by definition is violence based on political reasons.  Throwing bricks, sending powder that looks like Anthrax, death threats is indeed terrorism.

    Throwing eggs, toilet papering a building is vandalism.

    •  Arresting someone... (0+ / 0-)

      Well, it does involve violence and laws are the epitome of political purposes.

      Look, I'm a pacifist, and I don't support arrests, so I'm consistent here. But if you are not an pacifist, you may want to consider the full meaning of these definitions.

      Remember Duanna Johnson. Tortured by the Memphis PD for being black and trans. Killed by the Memphis PD for speaking up.

      by Marja E on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 06:56:01 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  If it hadn't been for broken windows, (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Marja E

    and other such acts of disobedience and trashing, we'd be getting out of Vietnam right about now.

    Moderation in most things. Except Reactors. IFR forever!

    by billmosby on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 06:20:48 AM PDT

    •  who threw a rock (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      isabelle hayes

      through a Congressman or Senator's office during the Viet Nam protests?

      This is not just civil disobedience....this is targetted!

      Was the killing of Dr Tiller just a murder? Or was it intended to intimidate doctors from practicing abortion?


      •  My ROTC building at U of Mich.. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        slatsg, Marja E

        .. had all its windows broken by a bomb. Seemed pretty well "targeted" to us at the time.

        As for official windows, I don't know. I do remember some folks trashing the Democratic convention in Chicago in 68 to some extent, though. Some establishment, politician types seemed to think that was "targeted", too.

        Moderation in most things. Except Reactors. IFR forever!

        by billmosby on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 06:38:26 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Are you purposely being disingenuous? (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Marja E

        There were many acts of vandalism directed toward government offices during the Vietnam protests.

        Excess ain't rebellion. You're drinking what they're selling. - Cake

        by slatsg on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 06:40:09 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Clyburn is getting pictures of Nooses! (4+ / 0-)

    how is that not meant to "terrorize"?

  •  I guess (3+ / 0-)

    by this diarists analysis a person shouldn't go to jail if you shoot at someone but don't actually hit them.

    If say someone points a gun at me...misses and only hits my window...they go to jail for vandalism not attempted murder. After all only a window was harm no foul!

  •  Two things: (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Governor McCheese, Dirtandiron

    First, the Declaration of Independence originally was going to say "Life, Liberty, and Property".

    Second, the purpose of terrorism is to TERRORIZE.  If you are terrorized by an act of vandalism of YOU property, it's terrorism.

    "Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." --M. L. King "You can't fix stupid" --Ron White

    by zenbassoon on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 06:38:51 AM PDT

    •  The slave power were scared shitless (0+ / 0-)

      of the possibility of abolition or even restrictions on their power.

      They would not have risked everything and gone to war if they were not afraid. At some point we have to be able to say that their property rights were wrong - they were based on continual violence, on the subjection of other human beings.

      Remember Duanna Johnson. Tortured by the Memphis PD for being black and trans. Killed by the Memphis PD for speaking up.

      by Marja E on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 07:03:17 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Some of the rocks thown (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Governor McCheese, Dirtandiron

    had notes attached that included direct threats...

    again...if someone shoots me...its one type of criminal charge if someone shoots a cop its another. Why do you think that is?

    Because an officer of the law represents the entire community! His loss affects more than just his immediate family. An entire community is effected because it has lost a peace officer.

    Answer this....what is the difference between murder and assassination?

    Do you think the rock is just a threat of continued rock throwing at windows or an insinuated threat of bodily harm? If the windows were taken out with a gun would you change your response?

    Understanding that question will lead you to understand why this is domestic terrorism not just garden variety vandalism or civil disobedience.

  •  Nonsense (0+ / 0-)

    If someone wrote "Death to Jews" and then torched a synagogue, I would have no problem calling that terrorism.

  •  The purity trolls at dkos never cease to amaze me (0+ / 0-)

    Between birthers, deathers and mouth-breathers, the gop has got 'teh crazy' and 'teh stoopid' covered.

    by amk for obama on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 08:38:29 AM PDT

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site