Tag Archives: terrorism

Redefining Terrorism: Donald Trump and the Politics of Fear

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, one of the definitions of “terrorism” is “the systematic use of terror especially as a means of coercion” (Merriam-Webster online).

“Terror” is defined as “a very strong feeling of fear” (Ibid).

According to the F.B.I., domestic terrorism has the following components:

  • Involve acts dangerous to human life that violate federal or state law;
  • Appear 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
  • Occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the U.S. (“Definitions of Terrorism in the U.S. Code”, F.B.I. website, ref. 18 U.S.C. 2331).

Keep that in mind as you read today’s post.

This post is about Donald Trump, a candidate running for the Republican Party nomination for president.

For the future readers (refer to my “About” page if you don’t know what I mean by this), Donald Trump is a very rich man who is running for president of the United States in 2016.  His grandfather made his money by owning restaurants/brothels in the late 1890s during  the Klondike Gold Rush (“Donald’s Trump Grandfather Got Rich in the Yukon with Hotels Known for ‘Female Companionship’ “, Dermot Cole, Alaska Dispatch News website, 9/12/15).

Donald Trump increased the fortune he was born with by investing in property, primarily.  I am not going to cite his biography or CV or anything, because it’s just not worth my time.  There are plenty of sources if readers want to research Trump’s background.

He has made a lot of foolish statements during his lifetime, but the latest ones are worrisome because he actually wants to be president.  He seems to have a rather large grassroots base, mostly because he parrots the worst fears and extreme hatred of some segments of the American population.

He doesn’t research before he speaks, and he even cites faulty polls or, in some cases, completely misrepresents what polls have concluded, in order to advance his ideology.

It appears, at this point, that the Republican Party does not support him or his awful ideas.

So, what prompted this blog post was a speech Trump gave on December 7, 2015, to an audience aboard the USS Yorktown in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina.  In it, he literally read a proposal – referring to himself in the third person (can you see my eyes rolling?) – in which he stated he wanted to ban all Muslims from entering the US “until our country’s representatives can figure out what’s going on” (“Donald Trump’s Call for Banning Muslims from Entering U.S. Draws Condemnation”, David Jackson, USA Today website, 12/7/2015).

He also stated

“Until we are able to determine and understand this problem and the dangerous threat it poses, our country cannot be the victims of horrendous attacks by people that believe only in Jihad, and have no sense of reason or respect for human life” (Ibid).

In case you missed it, he was saying that all Muslims “believe only in jihad” and have “no respect for human life”.

He is repeating something that ultra-conservative, right-wing extremists say, that the actual religion of Islam is inherently violent, so all Muslims are inherently violent.

Other people, maybe not so political, also believe these things because:

  1.  They don’t know any Muslims personally.
  2.  They have never read any books about the history of Islam.
  3.  They have never read any books about the origins of terrorism.
  4.  They think all Muslims are Arabs who hate the U.S.
  5.  They don’t use critical thinking skills, and just believe everything that either confirms their     biases or panders to their fears of “the other”.

The San Bernardino shooters are held up as a failure of the ‘fiancee visa’ program, and of the immigration program in general.

The problem with all this is that you cannot just ban people from coming to the U.S., based on their religion.  And, until Trump started sputtering and backtracking today due to the backlash his comments received from the right, middle, and left (basically, from everyone with a brain), when he said “all Muslims”, he included American-born Muslims coming back from vacation, and Muslims in the U.S. military coming home from duty.

Trump cited Franklin D. Roosevelt’s use of internment camps for Japanese-Americans during WWII, stating that what he (Trump) was suggesting wasn’t as bad as that; the implication being that, if the public accepted the internment camps, they ought to accept Trump’s plan, too.

Or, as he also implied, if people thought Roosevelt was a great president, they ought to think Trump is, too, as his idea about banning Muslims from the U.S. isn’t as bad as putting them in internment camps.

However he tried to spin it, it sounded awful.  Because it is awful.

That’s like saying, “But Hitler cremated living people, and all I’m doing is banning them from the U.S. based on their religion – see how what I want isn’t bad?”

Which, as any first-year logic student can tell you, are false and patently ridiculous arguments.

And we all used to dismiss Trump as an idiot, a blowhard, and a narcissist whose world is divided into 2 parts – winners (him), and losers (everyone else).  In fact, he stated as much to Don Lemon on CNN last night (12/8/15) – I heard it myself.

He is an idiot, a blowhard, and a narcissist.  The problem is, he’s very rich, and so he has a lot of power…and he incites his base of supporters into doing some hateful things, by using a combination of whipping up xenophobic hysteria and flattery (telling his supporters how much smarter they are than everyone else).

For example, in August of this year, 2 men were arrested for beating a homeless man of Mexican nationality, and one of them told the police, “Donald Trump was right about deporting all these illegals” (“Police: Man Who Beat Homeless Mexican Said ‘Trump was Right’ “ Associated Press via the PBS website, 8/21/2015).

That was during a time when Trump was focusing on the “danger” from immigrants, particularly those from Mexico, claiming they were mostly criminals (“Donald Trump’s False Comments Connecting Mexican Immigrants and Crime”, Michelle Ye Hee Lee, Washington Post website, 7/8/2015).

All he is doing now is switching “Mexicans” for “Muslims”, and attempting to reinforce and spread fear in order to…

…intimidate a civilian population, and/or influence the policy of a government by intimidation.

Now scroll up and read the F.B.I.’s definition of domestic terrorism again.

In case you need another example, after his latest gaffe speech, someone threw a pig’s head at a Pennsylvania mosque (“Philly Religious Leaders Condemn Donald Trump’s Anti-Islamist Rhetoric”, Sandy Smith, Philadelphia News + Opinion website, 12/8/2015).

Additionally, a N.Y. shopkeeper was beaten after a customer stated, “I want to kill Muslims” (“Jittery Muslim Americans Accuse Trump of Inciting Violence”, Jennie Matthew, Times of Israel website, 12/8/2015).

I would also like to add an observation about the public at large:  I have been watching “liberal” news on TV (Anderson Cooper, for the most disappointing example I can think of) actually buy into this “all Muslims are terrorists” by having “experts” such as Ayaan Hirsi Ali of the “AHA Foundation” state that “most Muslims” will react to Trump’s rhetoric by “becoming more devout”, to which she added that part of being a devout Muslim was being violent.

She stated that she rejects the word “radicalization” because violent Muslims are devout Muslims (and therefore common, not some kind of atypical minority of Muslims).

I was surprised because this woman runs an organization that, on the face of it, appears somewhat progressive, claiming to want to end female genital mutilation and other horrors. She speaks out against the “oppression of women under Islam”.

Of course, progressive in one area does not necessarily mean progressiveness in other areas, and this woman clearly blames the entire Islamic religion for the policies of extremists.

Horrors committed by a government that tries to justify them by claiming religious authority is one of the oldest cons around.  It does not mean we ought to indict an entire religion.

By using progressives to support blanket misconceptions about Muslims in general, CNN is making it ok for liberals to be as anti-Muslim as Trump.

I see that as a very dangerous thing and an attempt to deliberately mislead the American public.

For another example, I was surprised by watching Dr. Drew make some small noises of agreement for policies based on religion, as well.  And while I have no respect for him as a clinician, I do consider him a liberal.

One example of his lack of clinical knowledge is, when Amy Winehouse died, he stated that it was impossible to die from alcohol withdrawal!  That you can indeed die from that is a basic fact of alcoholism and there is no excuse for a “addiction specialist”, as he bills himself, to not know that.

Anyway, he didn’t come right out and say he agreed with “Muslim=terrorist”, but in a discussion with an audience last night, he basically shouted down any audience member who suggested that blanket anti-Muslim statements were ignorant and based on a lack of critical thinking.

It alarms me when liberals start agreeing with fascist types.  I know that often they are the first group to fold when the going gets tough (read that as “to save their own asses”), so my cynical self isn’t surprised, just dismayed – because I don’t want things to get to the point in this country where the sane people are in danger of being persecuted in some way.

Sane people like my friends, my family, and me.

I think it’s tragic and ironic that the “anti-terrorist” rhetoric coming from liberals and conservatives alike is causing my blood to run colder than anything that’s been said or done since the 9/11 attacks.

That’s real terror.

I have another blog post for tomorrow night, and will post “weird news” and my recommendations at that time.


Jingo Bells, Jingo Bells, Jingo All The Way

Since part of this blog attempts to comment on/document current events for future readers, this post will be primarily about the terrorist attacks in Paris on November 13, 2015.  And I will also discuss some particularly hysterical, nationalistic American reactions to those attacks (hence the title).

The very nature of terrorism is such that attacks are designed to paralyze societies with fear.  In that way, the latest attacks were somewhat successful, because I read/hear/see a lot of very terrified people now.  Which is amazing, considering I live in Central Pennsylvania, a rather bucolic and boring part of the US.

I would say that the likelihood of a terrorist attack in Altoona or Hollidaysburg is basically non-existent.  But the people here are scared to death, or at least a very vocal sector is.

Here is the timeline of the attacks, courtesy of the Irish Times website (“Paris Terror Attacks: A Timeline from Friday to Thursday”, no author named, 11/19/2015):

~ At 9:20 PM, the first of 3 explosions is heard at the Stade de France, where fans were watching France play Germany in a “friendly” (soccer, or European football match, where the outcome does not affect a team’s rank).

~ At 9:25 PM, a black sedan pulls up near a crowded restaurant/bar, and 2 men with Kalashnikovs get out and spray the place with bullets, killing 15 people.

~ At 9:30 PM, the second bomb goes off at the Stade de France.  2 bombers and 1 unidentified man are killed.

~ At 9:33 PM, another black sedan pulls up outside a restaurant, men get out and start shooting.  5 people are killed and 8 are seriously injured.

~ At 9:36 PM, another shooting occurs outside a restaurant, killing 19 people.  Most of them had been sitting outside, enjoying the evening.

~ At 9:40 PM, a man walks into yet another restaurant and detonates an explosive vest.  He is killed and 15 people are injured.

~ At 9:46 PM, the president of France (who was also at the stadium at the time of the attacks) prepares to declare a state of emergency.

~ At 9:49 PM, gunmen enter a theater where a rock concert is taking place and start shooting. Some take hostages on the stage.  The police finally storm the theater at 12:20, but by that time 89 people are dead.

~ At 9:53 PM, an attacker detonates an explosive vest outside McDonald’s, apparently killing only himself.

~ At 11:30 PM, President Hollande declares a state of emergency.

~ In the next few days, places in Belgium and Germany are raided.  Arrests are made, mostly for people being connected to a person who police know was involved in the attacks – Bilal Hadfi, one of the jihadists who blew himself up outside the French stadium.

~ Police also raid a residence in Saint-Denis on Wednesday, killing the person who coordinated the attacks – Abdelhamid Abaaoud.  A woman detonated a vest during the raid, and was also killed.

At the time of this blog post, 129 people are dead, and 352 are injured (99 critically so).  The victims are from 15 different countries (Algeria, Belgium, Brazil, Britain, Chile, Mexico, Morocco, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Tunisia, and the US).

All 7 attackers are dead – 6 from suicide and 1 shot by police (“Paris Attacks: French Terrorist Named as Vigils Held Around the World – As It Happened”, Chris Johnston, Ben Quinn, Raya Jalabi, and Claire Phipps, The Guardian online, 11/15/15).

One of the attackers is French, named Omar Ismail Mostefai, from the south of France (Ibid). Not a recent immigrant – he was born in France.  This is important, I think, when looking at the reaction of some people, who blame immigrants for this incident.

That’s all I am going to write about him, because I don’t think he deserves any more words.  I have read a lot of commentary about this incident, and about jihadists and their motivations and so on, but what it comes down to for me, as a psychologist, is this:

It doesn’t matter what happens outside of you, it is something internal to you that causes you to behave in this monstrous way.  YOU.  Not the US, not Israel, not religion, not your parents, not your poverty, not your race.  YOU are ultimately responsible for what you do, and it takes a very warped (or non-existent) moral compass to step over the line from hating to murdering.

So, anyway, that was the basic timeline.

Immediately, people made French-flag-colored avatars to paste over their Facebook pictures, to show their solidarity with France.

Aside #1: Really nice of them to do that, I guess, but what about the attacks in Nigeria recently? An 11 year old girl blew herself up in a marketplace, no doubt forced to by Boko Haram – who claimed responsibility (“Police: Bombers, One of Them 11, Target Nigeria Market”, Eliott C. McLaughlin, CNN website, 11/19/15).  Where’s her flag?  I guess some of us only care about what happens in white Europe.

Many posted extremely hateful things about Muslims and immigrants, blaming them for the tragedy.  A lot of Americans ranted about the US taking in and relocating refugees from Syria, claiming that jihadists are “sneaking in” that way.

This climate of fear is being fueled by sites such as Fox News, Breitbart, Allen West, Ben Carson, and Donald Trump.  These guys are right-wing “Christians”, who do not want the US to take in refugees.

But, according to WorldVision – which is an evangelical Christian organization founded in 1950 – half of the 12 million people who are fleeing Syria are children.  

They are fleeing due to violence (over 240,000 people have been killed since the Syrian civil war began, and 12,000 of them were children).  Aid groups have a hard time reaching people in Syria who need help, because the Syrian infrastructure has been destroyed (you know, things like hospitals and schools).  Sometimes children are used as combatants and shields, too (“What You Need to Know: Crisis in Syria, Refugees, and the Impact on Children”, World Vision Staff, World Vision website, 11/3/15).

When Americans say, “Well, why don’t they go to Saudi Arabia or Jordan, instead of coming here?”, the answer is simple: they are not welcome there.

Those countries do not even have resettlement programs – people can go there to work as skilled workers, or stay in refugee camps, but they are never allowed to become citizens and their stays can be cancelled at any time, for any reason (“Gulf States Fend Off Criticism About Doing Little for Syrian Refugees”, Deborah Amos, NPR website, 11/20/15).

So they flee to Europe, where they hope they will be safe.  And they also would like to come to the US, as our country still does have the reputation of taking in and caring for people who need us.

Do people forget the Statue of Liberty, given to us by France?  Oh, the irony.