Saturday, April 07, 2012

Two on Terrorism


Glenn Greenwald's opinion that terrorism studies doesn't exist is based on his perception that its scholars focus disproportionately on their ideological enemies. (That isn't true -- Greenwald, a dilettante, assumes the talking heads on US TV news are the key scholars in the field.) Thus the Western analysts who populate terrorism studies focus on terrorism by Muslims and ignore Christian, Jewish and "state terrorism". The field is so polluted by bias as to be nugatory.

This fronts a broader concern held largely by left-of-center people -- that Muslim terrorism has become a lightning rod for racist malice against Arabs, Muslims, the dusky Easterner. Concern about terrorism is a merkin for Orientalist hostility.

Pair with this another of Greenwald's key themes, that Western foreign policy is by equal turns stupid and counterproductive, because visiting violence on Muslims in order to fight terrorism produces more terrorists than it destroys. If that is true, then given our unipolar power and multiple campaigns in Muslim lands, wouldn't by necessity the vast majority of terrorists today be Muslims? Wouldn't that explain the academic bias Greenwald alleges, as well as exonerate the average person, who when first hearing about a new mass murder, wonders if its perpetrators were Muslims?

If not, then what are the other root causes of terrorism, and how many terrorists are created by the Greenwald method versus the others? Shouldn't Greenwald attempt to answer, if he wants us to give his analysis weight?


Related is the lament that we blame Muslims en bloc for the tiny minority of extremists among them. But those who most conspicuously carry this concern -- again, left-of-center people -- often offer a systemic analysis of how non-Muslim terrorism comes about. Consider this recent Nation blog post by Jessica Valenti, who in the course of chiding the media for "ignoring domestic terrorism" -- the bombing of a Planned Parenthood in Wisconsin -- warns that the attack was "a foreseeable result of a conservative culture that uses violent rhetoric and lies" to "rile up" its constituency. The Gabrielle Giffords shooting (not really terrorism, but close) produced a similar response. Peter Daou sententiously announced -- "We do not yet know whether the Arizona massacre was directly fueled by rightwing [sic] rhetoric" -- while summarizing left-wing efforts to pin the shooting on Sarah Palin and the Tea Party.

If this -- a systemic analysis in which mainstream right-wing discourse roils until it actuates fanatical violence -- is fair game, then isn't it also fair game to surmise that the millions of Muslims who aren't violent themselves but endorse violence against Israel, entertain anti-American and anti-Jewish conspiracy theories and long to extirpate Western troops and influence from Muslim lands, are the engine of a social machine that produces terrorism?

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