Sunday, January 11, 2015

Violence? Yes; Extremism? Yes; Violent Extremism? NO!

“We will bring together all of our allies to discuss ways in which we can counteract this violent extremism that exists around the world.” (Emphasis added)

Violent extremism?  There must be something special when these two terms, violent and extremism, are joined together.  What is Holder talking about?  Let’s unpack this phrase:

Violent: acting with or characterized by uncontrolled, strong, rough force; caused by injurious or destructive force; intense in force, effect, etc.; severe; extreme.

We know that governments of the west don’t mind violence – being the leading cause of violent death and destruction on the planet.  A quick check on the number of civilians killed by actions of the western military reveals:

The ongoing conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan have taken a tremendous toll on the people of those countries. At the very least, 174,000 civilians have been determined to have died violent deaths as a result of the war as of April 2014.

The major wars the United States has fought since the surrender of Japan in 1945 — in Korea, Indochina, Iraq and Afghanistan — have produced colossal carnage. For most of them, we do not have an accurate sense of how many people died, but a conservative estimate is at least 6 million civilians and soldiers.

And my eyeball check suggests only about 100,000 of these are US military.

So, there must be nothing wrong with violence, or at least not when it is government doing it.  Well, except for the private contractors. 

Extremism: a tendency or disposition to go to extremes or an instance of going to extremes, especially in political matters

The NSA collects every bit of digital data on and from just about every connected individual on the planet.  Doesn’t that sound a little extreme?  The TSA looks at the naked bodies (or otherwise feels up the clothed bodies) of every single passenger travelling in the US by airline.  Not extreme?  The IRS requires the reporting of virtually every financial account held anywhere in the world by every US person.  Extreme, I would say.

So, extremism also doesn’t seem to be a problem, as long as government is doing it.  Well, wait, that isn’t right.  Charlie Hebdo was pretty extreme.  To my knowledge, it isn’t a government operation.

So I guess extremism is OK if either a) government is doing it, or b) it is done by individuals that government isn’t targeting at that moment – for reasons known only to the state.

What is wrong, then, with violent extremism – when the two terms are put together?  It must be a problem only when done by a non-government actor not otherwise approved to be either violent or extreme.  These days, that happens to include anyone from…well, let’s allow the government actors to provide their own definition:

"We all agree that we need to put in place better control on certain passengers, on the basis of objective criteria and with respect for fundamental liberties and without disrupting cross-border travel," he said.

Certain passengers...objective criteria.  Code for what, exactly?  Either it is vague, to allow them to do whatever they want or he has something specific in mind.  Or both.

To add insult to injury, Cazeneuve wants to control hate speech on the internet:

Cazeneuve said the Internet needs to remain a space for free expression, but that Europe should fight against abusive use of the web to spread hate speech, anti-Semitic messages and the recruiting vulnerable young people for violence.

Hate speech?  I guess this didn’t apply to Charlie Hebdo, given what we now see as an outpouring of support for Charlie by the politicians.  Maybe it is only selectively applied, ignored when targeted at those whom the west wants to target. 

Violent extremism.  Just one more subjective term useful to the government to make an enemy of whomever they will – just like the terms terrorism and hate crimes.  It isn’t enough to merely call a crime a crime.  

The crime must have a provocative label, in order to generate the desired emotional response in the people; it must have a malleable label, in order to allow government the ability to label whoever they want.

And, begging for even more “safety,” the people cheer them on by the millions.


  1. Last time I looked these extremists attacked those who published offensive cartoons and not the government nor the armed forces.

    Then again what your reasoning for Sept. 11 considering the WTC, Pentagon and Washington D.C. were all legitimate military targets from the perpetrators point of views?

  2. By "cracking down on violent extremists" Holder means the Tea Party, who we all know are responsible for the Paris bombing.

  3. Extremists are like what C. Wright Mills called the "crackpot realists." We know the governments of the West don't mind crackpottery (e.g., "Lincoln freed the slaves," "the free market caused the Depression," "World War II was the crowning achievement of Western Civilization") so long as the organs of propaganda have mainstreamed it. After all, that's what makes it realistic. It's the crackpottery of truth, freedom and common human decency they marginalize and despise.

  4. When you hear the word "extremism", think "don't upset the apple cart". While the "masses" may think of Muslim fanatics and/or neo-Nazis when they hear the word "extremism", the government clearly has a broader meaning in mind, namely "advocacy of upsetting the status quo". Here we see that the government is behaving in a fundamentally and systematically conservative/reactionary manner.