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Terrorism (and the psychology of resistance)
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grufty jim
grufty jim
1940 posts

Terrorism (and the psychology of resistance)
Jun 05, 2017, 00:11
I skimmed the thread on the London attacks and it didn't seem like this article would suit the mood; so I figured I'd post it separately.

Like much of Fintan O'Toole's writing, which I often disagree with myself, this is likely to prove controversial and provoke a hostile reaction in some (I'm always amazed that such a conservative paper as The Irish Times would employ him -- that paper is very much the voice of The Establishment over here). Anyway I think it's a thought-provoking piece and worth a read for those with an interest:

Terrorism is becoming normal, and that will be its undoing

Incidentally, I personally don't actually read much politics in that article; and what politics there is -- isn't the interesting part. It's the psychology... the notion that ultimately this form of violence is self-defeating, by definition.

As I say; just thought it was an interesting perspective.
dhajjieboy
913 posts

Re: Terrorism (and the psychology of resistance)
Jun 05, 2017, 00:34
Completely existential piece of writing and completely removed from ground zero...
I'm a 5th generation New Yorker, i can speak with real authority when i say that New Yorker's have NOT "gotten over it" and "got on with things".....
{as regards 911 certainly}
How the fuck do you think Trump got elected?
Masterful pandering to those very same souls who lost the most and those who still stand in solidarity with them.
It's going to be a cakewalk for Madam May to mine the same quarry.
But as i've learned from the 'higher mind's' hereabouts...its probably all staged by the CIA/FBI/NSA/'spooks'...whatever, to engineer the new social order...
Anyhow, i know where my people stand on what happened that day.
We will never forget. I will never forget.
These 'blowing them-selves up mother-fuckers' are way beyond anything that abstract you just linked to has to say about them....
But i guess we could get them on the couch for a bit of psychoanalysis....
prolly not though..all the journalists that gave it a go got their heads cut off.
phallus dei
390 posts

Re: Terrorism (and the psychology of resistance)
Jun 05, 2017, 03:21
Agree that it's an interesting argument, but I don't find it very persuasive when dealing with lone-wolf terrorists inspired by radical Islam / Wahhabism. The author makes the mistake of interpreting contemporary religious terrorists through the lens of the political terrorists of the 70s and 80s. But whereas political terrorists, for the most part, aimed to hit symbolic targets that they thought would "inspire" the broader population to join their cause, religious terrorists are mostly interested in getting a ticket to "paradise." Their actions aren't carried out in accordance to any semi-rational plan that might bring about social change, because they don't care if they change society or not. They're just following the rules of their death cult to get their reward. Perhaps at the time of death "All the blowing themselves up motherfuckers will realize that they are suckers", but I fear that they are going to be continuing to blow themselves up for quite some time... unless the funding for radical Islam dries up, the Arab nations that have been destroyed are rebuilt, and progressive secularism again gains a foothold within the community.
moss
moss
2813 posts

Re: Terrorism (and the psychology of resistance)
Jun 05, 2017, 08:01
Not following the thread as such, but perhaps we should concentrate on what is being done, or not. Nazir Afzal, spokesman perhaps for Muslim people, has been outlining his views, mostly in The Times unfortunately (subscription).

https://uk.news.yahoo.com/british-muslim-groups-accused-undermining-
135757020.html

He draws a parallel with what happened in Ireland, and states that the 'lazy state' of our government, OBEs the wrong Muslim leaders. Interestingly more money should be spent on women's groups within the community.

"In a speech to Manchester’s Chamber of Commerce, he said: “The Prevent duty to report extremist behaviour is today’s equivalent of internment in Northern Ireland – a policy felt to be highly discriminatory against one section of the community."

Prevent is a policy of the government, does it spy? or does it help? Afzal seems to think it works...

http://www.ltai.info/what-is-prevent/
grufty jim
grufty jim
1940 posts

Edited Jun 07, 2017, 18:03
Re: Terrorism (and the psychology of resistance)
Jun 07, 2017, 17:59
phallus dei wrote:
Agree that it's an interesting argument, but I don't find it very persuasive when dealing with lone-wolf terrorists inspired by radical Islam / Wahhabism. The author makes the mistake of interpreting contemporary religious terrorists through the lens of the political terrorists of the 70s and 80s. But whereas political terrorists, for the most part, aimed to hit symbolic targets that they thought would "inspire" the broader population to join their cause, religious terrorists are mostly interested in getting a ticket to "paradise." Their actions aren't carried out in accordance to any semi-rational plan that might bring about social change, because they don't care if they change society or not. They're just following the rules of their death cult to get their reward. Perhaps at the time of death "All the blowing themselves up motherfuckers will realize that they are suckers", but I fear that they are going to be continuing to blow themselves up for quite some time... unless the funding for radical Islam dries up, the Arab nations that have been destroyed are rebuilt, and progressive secularism again gains a foothold within the community.



We may be talking at cross-purposes here. The motivations of these murderers is an important subject to discuss and understand. I'm happy to have that discussion. But I don't actually think it plays a major role in what O'Toole is talking about here. You may disagree, but that's my view, and here's why...

Well part of the reason is because O'Toole is clearly using The Troubles in Ireland as his template. And with the greatest respect, your characterisation of the "political terrorists of the 70s and 80s" is extremely wide of the mark if you meant it to describe Northern Ireland. As someone who grew up in Ireland during the 1970s, and later lived in England during a couple of the more sustained IRA bombing campaigns over there (wasn't always comfortable being a dude with an Irish accent in London in the late 80s / early 90s) I can assure you there really are remarkable similarities between "then" and "now"; just as there are startling differences.

One of the big differences is -- exactly as you point out -- the self-image of the attackers... their immediate personal motivations, and how they view their role. The terrorists in Northern Ireland saw themselves as soldiers. From the language they used ("field commanders", "Army Council", "battalions", and so on) -- to their "ceremonial uniforms" -- to the great lengths they took to ensure they physically survived any "engagement".

The Islamist attacks we've seen in the past couple of decades have not been carried out by men who see themselves as soldiers (even when they use that word; even when they may consciously believe it). These guys at their core see themselves primarily as "weapons". And that makes a major difference in how we combat the threat... how we find and overcome those already committed to violence, and how we prevent others reaching that point.

HOWEVER... to return to O'Toole's article; I'm not sure the collective psychology of the population under attack is significantly affected if the lived experience is roughly the same.

And it kind of is, in my view.

Again, to use Ireland as the illustrative example, you really aren't close when you talk of "symbolic targets that they thought would "inspire" the broader population to join their cause". The vast majority of casualties in Northern Ireland were the result of car-bombs in shopping centres and remote-controlled backpack bombs in pubs in provincial towns. The high-profile ones... horseguards parade, canary wharf, etc... were exceptions to a very grim rule. And everyone from both sides acknowledges this... it was the very mundane nature of the targets that characterised The Troubles. It was three wet-behind-the-ears army cadets being brutally murdered at a rural checkpoint, followed by some nutter chucking a pipebomb at a Catholic funeral in some windswept housing-estate "in reprisal". It was fucking senseless. It was far from "symbolic targets" and attempts to "inspire".

And I say that as a committed Irish republican who has always felt that the best thing for this island (long-term) is reunification as a single sovereign state (within the EU ;-). I've always believed that. I believed the tactics used by Irish Republican groups during The Troubles were barbaric and contemptible even as I whole-heartedly believe their cause was just, and their grievances real. Christ! I've only gone and spilt nuance all over the discussion.

But to again return to O'Toole... we're talking here about how the local population experiences what's happening. And right now, what Europe is actually experiencing isn't a million miles away from a low-intensity 1983 in Armagh. Pubs and clubs (London, Paris, Manchester), shopping districts (Berlin, Stockholm), parades (Nice)... replace the city names with cities and towns in the North and it really is like switching on the news in Ireland in the 80s. Except it was one a week back then. Literally. And as O'Toole points out, people were not quaking in their boots. It really was just integrated into everyday life by that point. It's grim and unsettling to admit it, but that's what happened.

Yes, people were downtrodden by it, and a bit apprehensive in crowds from time to time. It was a fetid grey cloud hanging over the entire place. Those bastards -- the men with guns on both sides, but especially the car-bomb-pub-bomb maniacs -- they made life miserable for everyone. Really fucks me off when people do that for any reason... but especially when they do it in the name of a worthy cause.

And lest anyone accuse me of suggesting our ability to adapt to this situation -- to integrate the most vile of atrocities into our lives -- means I'm saying that terrorism isn't a problem, or is somehow "acceptable"; please get a grip. O'Toole's piece is savage, depressing and grim. If you view it otherwise then we're not on the same page. No sane person wants to live under the cloud that covered Ireland for most of my life. We need to work very hard to prevent that... to combat the terrorists and maybe look at addressing the issues that create them in the first place. O'Toole's point is that if the goal of the terrorist is to destroy the west, then Ireland demonstrates that regular low-level terrorism is fundamentally incapable of doing that. I don't believe he's making a wider point than that. And it's really the only point I'm making (at the moment).

Anyway, that's just some rambling thoughts on the subject. I'm not recommending repressive legislation or anything.




[Edited for spelling]
dhajjieboy
913 posts

Re: Terrorism (and the psychology of resistance)
Jun 07, 2017, 18:23
Any soldier knows that the way to neutralize a weapon is to destroy it.
thesweetcheat
thesweetcheat
5851 posts

Re: Terrorism (and the psychology of resistance)
Jun 07, 2017, 19:23
Beautifully expressed, considered writing, and very thought provoking.
phallus dei
390 posts

Edited Jun 08, 2017, 01:06
Re: Terrorism (and the psychology of resistance)
Jun 08, 2017, 01:03
Thanks for the well-thought out response, and for sharing your experiences growing up in Ireland. I admit to not being overly familiar with the tactics or history of the IRA, so there may well be parallels between them and modern-day terrorists in terms of actions. And in terms of how both groups affected the lives of ordinary people, they are probably quite similar.

However, I still disagree with the premise of the original article, which was "Terrorism is becoming normal, and that will be its undoing." Yes, it is becoming normal, but that won't be its undoing.

The crucial difference between the IRA and ISIS, in my view, is that one defined itself chiefly as a political organization. It set out to achieve measurable goals for the broader society. In reality, much of the claimed "political" goals were drowned out by retributive killings, random attacks, robberies, and the like. But the stated goal was the reunification of Ireland. When enough members finally realized that their actions were not going to bring about their goal, they ended their terrorist activities.

ISIS may claim that it is going to "destroy the West", but that goal isn't in any way achievable. Certainly not by lone wolf attacks against random people in a Western country. Comparatively speaking, there was a much higher chance that the IRA, through its actions in Northern Ireland, could cause the Brits to leave and the Catholics to rally to their side.

There was thus some semblance of "rationality" to the IRA. I don't see any rationality to contemporary attacks by Muslim radicals. It is this lack of rationality which leads me to believe that the ones who carry out attacks in the West aren't trying to change the broader society, but simply earn the rewards of carrying out jihad.

The "normalization" of terrorism will eventually lead to the defeat of a political terrorist organization such as the IRA. It will take something else to defeat a religious terrorist group such as ISIS.
wychburyman
938 posts

Re: Terrorism (and the psychology of resistance)
Jun 08, 2017, 10:47
How's the hunt going for all the US IRA sympathizers who funded terrorism (around 3500 deaths)over here in the 70s... Know any yourself?
Locodogz
Locodogz
232 posts

Re: Terrorism (and the psychology of resistance)
Jun 08, 2017, 10:54
Hey Grufty

Welcome back. Interesting article although I'd take a slight issue with the headline which seems to imply that the ability of (affected) societies to return to normal will "undermine" (defeat?) terrorism?

I'd defer to your more first hand knowledge of the troubles (although I was living in London at the time of several incidents) but I never got the impression that the IRA somehow 'bombed itself to a standstill'? The GF accord seemed to me to be a result of both sides recognising that, in the absence of a settlement, nothing would change, however, I suspect that in its absence the bombing campaign would still be rumbling on?

Apologies if I misinterpreted the article or your points on it.

Does beg the slightly worrying question of what 'settlement' could be sought or struck to stop this latest 'campaign of terror'? One thing I am sure of is that you won't bomb it out of existence with all the firepower in the west's arsenals?
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