Friday, October 26, 2018


Amarnath Amarasingarn and Colin P. Clarke didn't have all the answers, but were on to something when one year ago they wrote

By continually staking claim to big and small terrorist attacks, regardless of target selection or casualty count, ISIS has attempted to instill a sense of omnipresent and unpredictable danger. And in the process, terrorism fatigue may be setting in around the world.

The quest to organize and inspire a steady stream of attacks in the West comes with a cost. It can make the outrageous seem relatively normal. People become numb to the violence. As the once-shocking violence becomes normalized, they are no longer able to muster the requisite outrage or compassion to respond.

One year later, as the nation yawns to another round of terrorist attacks (twelve bombs- and counting) sent to perceived opponents of President Trump), their observation appears particularly prescient.Seven months later, we learned of a possible parallel to this reaction to terrorism. 

Tali Sharrot and Neil Garrett noted research which (as they put it) found "people are less likely to criticize the unethical actions of others when such behavior increases gradually over time." They thus speculated "that voters (and perhaps even the president's own advisors) may desensitize to the president's falsehoods in the same way that they do to overused perfume, making them less likely to act to correct this pattern of behavior."

The desenstization or fatigue, however, is only part of the reason that Americans no longer are mustering appropriate outrage at terrorist acts.

The other is failure to use the word terrorism.  This is not always the case, of course; if the culprit's name is Omar, Khalil, or Muhammad, terrorism becomes an issue. The act may be considered terrorism or discounted as terrorism. However, it invariably- as it should be- is evaluated in the context of the possibility of being a terrorist act.

In their Friday morning, 10/26/18 on-line articles about the 11th and 12th bomb packages being delivered, The New York Times and The Washington Post invoke the term "terrorism" or "terrorist" only once- in unavoidably quoting James Clapper, one of the victims. In its article, USA Today uses neither term at all.

The Oxford Living Dictionary defines "terrorism as "the unlawful use of violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political aims." Surely the intended targets of the packages were civilians because they are not enemy combatants, in a war or otherwise. Although none of the bombs has exploded, they still represent an unlawful use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims. 

There should not have to be a Muslim and/or Arab, or someone suspected of being Muslim and/or Arab, for a terrorist act to be attributed to possible terrorism.  Because it is, unjustifiably, required, virtually all terrorism seems to be coming from The Other. That not only desensitizes us to the threat of terrorism, but is a massive political gift to the hatemongers such as Donald Trump and the voters the President preys upon.

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