Using Technology to Deepen Democracy, Using Democracy to Ensure Technology Benefits Us All

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Rebranding Crime As Terror

Treating certain acts of public violence as terrorism rather than criminality always seems to derange discussions both of what happened and what should be done. 

What does it mean when people are more afraid of, or at any rate more exercised by, comparatively rare incidences of terrorist violence than they are comparatively more commonplace incidences of criminal violence? What does it mean when responses to terror undermine definitive civil liberties and utterly scramble budgetary priorities on the spur of a moment of public panic while responses to generations of inequitable policing and punishment move at a snail's pace despite long-plummeting crime rates and longstanding community protests? 

I realize, of course, terrorism seeks to provoke political responses as much criminality does not, but it matters that what follows from making a distinction of terrorism from criminality based on this recognition tends to facilitate precisely those sorts of responses that the terrorists are seeking. 

Branding violence as terror is itself terrorizing, terrorism is substantiated as such through the collaboration of the majority in the terms of a marginal minority: it amplifies a marginal threat of violence into an existential threat to civilization, it amplifies a brainwashed tool into a protagonist of history.

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