Taking the Popular Wisdom Seriously is a Little Disturbing, No?

Dylann Roof, suspect convicted of Charleston Shooting

As a quick following-up to this morning’s earlier post on how quickly we tend to conclude, but only in some cases, that certain gunmen in mass shootings are “lone wolves” (whose actions couldn’t be anticipated), it occurred to me that there’s a largely unseen ramification to attributing individual, psychological motives to the actions of white guys as opposed to the ease with which many of us seem to attribute planned, political motives to pretty much everyone else who does something heinous. Continue reading “Taking the Popular Wisdom Seriously is a Little Disturbing, No?”

How Many Lone Wolves Does it Take to Make a Pack?

Photo of suspect in Las Vegas mass shooting

Yes, that’s the photo of 64 year old Stephen Paddock, the now dead suspect in last night’s mass shooting in Las Vegas.

At present, 50 people are reported killed, at an outdoor concert, with over 100 injured. (Learn more at the New York Times.) Continue reading “How Many Lone Wolves Does it Take to Make a Pack?”

Who Has Been Radicalized?

People commonly use the term “radicalization” to explain how individuals could commit certain horrific acts of violence. News reports about the person believed to have carried out the Manchester bombing have focused on when he (and possibly his brother) became radicalized, and both the Trump and Obama administrations have discussed how to combat radicalization. In these examples, radicalization refers to a process in which people develop “extreme” commitments to a particular viewpoint and sacrifice many things, even their own lives, to further that viewpoint, often using violence against others. Continue reading “Who Has Been Radicalized?”

Naming and Erasing

By Stacie Swain

The framing of tragedies by government officials and state actors in the USA and Canada this past week raise questions regarding the boundaries around “victims” and related categories – “perpetrators” or often in modern times, “terrorists” – and how such shifting boundaries are constructed and contested through strategies of naming and erasing. Continue reading “Naming and Erasing”

Muslim Terror

By Ian Alexander Cuthbertson

On January 29, 2017 six people were killed and others left in critical condition following a shooting at a mosque in Sainte-Foy Québec. What is at stake in classifying this tragedy as a terrorist attack?

Terrorism, however it is defined, remains a key social and political issue worldwide. Given global concerns concerning terrorism and especially so-called Islamic terrorism, it is interesting to note that Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Québec Premier Philippe Couillard both quickly described the Sainte-Foy shooting as a terrorist attack.

Continue reading “Muslim Terror”

Building Broad Support (or the Appearance of it)

event_347A New Jersey fundraiser last weekend titled “Humanity United Against Terror” provides an excellent example of one of the tricks of building cooperation. The Republican Hindu Coalition organized the event that featured Bollywood stars and an address by Donald Trump. The event had a range of interesting incongruities, including signs suggesting that Trump would ease speed up immigration  and images depicting Hillary Clinton and Sonia Gandhi (leader of the Congress Party in India) as demonic. My focus, however, is the framing of the event, contrasting the title and general purpose to its content, which in large part served as a political rally for Trump’s campaign. Continue reading “Building Broad Support (or the Appearance of it)”

Expanding the Terrorist Label

NYDailyNewsRobert Dear’s attack on the Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs just over a week ago and the shooting in San Bernardino last week have brought the question of who is identified as a terrorist back into the limelight. Lots of people have highlighted how the ethnicity or religious identification of the attacker has often influenced whether the attacker is identified as a terrorist or a mentally disturbed individual in a lone wolf attack. The Daily News cover following the San Bernardino shootings (4 December 2015, pictured above) illustrated this critique by identifying Ronald Dear, Dylan Roof, Adam Lanza, and James Holmes as terrorists, as well as the NRA’s Wayne LaPierre. In this cover and statements from figures like Mike Huckabee (calling Dear’s actions “domestic terrorism”), the critiques of the reluctance to apply the terrorist label to white Christian attackers have won a victory, of sorts. Continue reading “Expanding the Terrorist Label”

#YouAintNoMuslimBruv

Picture 10Are you following the reactions online to the knife attack on the London Tube (now classed by authorities there as a terrorist attack)? Specially this part:

Picture 9

As Baldwin phrases it in a series of tweets, the reaction demonstrates “the power of operational acts of identification,” inasmuch as “it defines Islam, defines London, defines Britons… draws a multi-dimensional line.”

Indeed — after all, interpellation presupposes exterpellation, doesn’t it? For to be hailed in some fashions amounts to being cast out. As is happening here.

Take Baldwin’s advice and follow the hashtag to see the debate as it unfolds.

Identifying Threats of Violence

5810753486_4142bc5cb7_bWith discourses surrounding terrorism and gun violence, which have become prominent again in the wake of Charleston and Chattanooga, people want to find patterns that illustrate the source of the threats of violence. Looking for these patterns, people engage in an act of comparison, which, as we have discussed on this blog previously, is more about the person constructing the comparison than some reality outside of him/her. For example, I have seen various social media posts recently that include lists of acts of violence, ranging from 9/11 and the storming of the US Embassy in Iran to the Chattanooga shootings, all attributed to people who identified as Muslims. While these posts appear to be direct descriptions of reality, they reflect the choices of the creator of the list as to which acts of violence to include and which identifications to include. Continue reading “Identifying Threats of Violence”

Is it Terrorism or Not?

Picture 35I find that a very interesting tweet. (Click it to go to the author‘s Twitter account.) For ever since the inauguration of the War on Terror people on the left have critiqued this notion of terrorism, seeing it as an empty rhetorical term that does significant political work by heightening anxiety among a population (like increasing the terror level warning, as we used to see periodically in the US); for it creates the impression that there’s some acts of violence that are somehow worse than others, more nefarious, their perpetrators are not being good sports and playing by the rules of war (but, really, who does?).

In fact, rather ironically, use of the very word terrorism to name just some violence could constitute but one instance of what we commonly take terrorism to be, for choices of what to call terrorism could be read as having the effect of intimidating a population in service of the interests that motivate (and benefit from) that very choice. Continue reading “Is it Terrorism or Not?”