Domestic Terrorism Simplified

The fairly wrote definition for “terrorism” that I’ve always used has been something along the lines of this:

Terrorism is violence used against civilian populations in order to achieve a political outcome. 

But we can’t call things terrorism because we’ve imbued the word with such mystique and taboo that we can’t use it plainly for what it means - trying to terrorize civilian populations to get politicians to change laws. Religion or ideology in general don’t really enter into it - if someone is willing to hurt others for political reasons, it’s an act of terrorism. Full stop. And as painful as it is for most of us to admit - we have a fair amount of terrorists among our neighbors, friends and family. 

But we should say it plainly - the Kenosha murderer was absolutely a terrorist. Anyone burning down buildings in protest is... also a terrorist. They’re entirely different orders of magnitude, but still essentially acts of terrorism. I can’t believe we have to argue about this at the moment, but premeditated murder is a wildly different crime than petty vandalism of insured property, but both are acts of politically motivated violence. They want lawmakers to pass particular bills or take particular political stances. The murderer and the vandal are willing to go to extremes to make that position known and harm the broader public to call attention to their causes.

And that leaves us with something of a conundrum, because as much as we might not want to admit it, conservatives are successfully painting the broader movement for social justice and police reform as terroristic. No matter how untrue it is, no matter that protesters are separate entities from vandals, no matter how many Democrats and civil rights leaders outright demand non - violent protest, and no matter how popular their actual goals are, tens of thousands of peaceful protesters are being painted with the same brush as three dimwits who burned down a Wendy’s. And that means that (in the minds of many confused conservatives) enacting social justice and police reform legislation is negotiating with - and giving in to the demands of - terrorists.  

They're the same picture.

On the other side though, it’s absolutely symbolic of the Trump era that the murderer who killed two people and wounded another in Kenosha… doesn’t really have much of an agenda to speak of. Yes, there’s the vaguely authoritarian white supremacist defense of the status quo against scary “others”, but as the Republican platform lays out, there is no real agenda aside from “do as we say, or else”. The demand of the rifle - wielding Kenosha terrorist is / was that people support the President. No matter what. It’s as incoherent as it is authoritarian. Trump has taught him that any attention to an issue - including negative - is the goal. So why would he not go to extremes to make his voice heard?

Maybe because the answer to this question is always "no"?

So let’s say it - we have several (I think vanishingly small) groups of domestic terrorists that range from heavily armed “Christian Patriot” gangs to small “Antifa” groups committing vandalism, to local police departments who think they can act with impunity against whatever they label “civil unrest” (and they’re not wrong!). I don’t think that buzzwords will really convince anyone of anything - the people who are triggered by the word “terrorist” still myopically only want to apply it to Muslims - but it would be a good start to start applying it more broadly as a neutral term to anyone who thinks that violence is a good tool for solving political problems. 


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