Why Terrorism Is Stupid

Bombings in Egypt and Lebanon.  Shootings in Paris and California.  Terror attack after terror attack after terror attack.

Folks, we’re in the situation we’re in because people are ignorant and easily deluded.  I refer both to terrorists, exploited and manipulated into committing their ghastly acts, and to you the reader.  In order to oppose this, I’ve prepared a short summary of some history that you really ought to know.  By reading and understanding this, it is my hope that you will learn how you’re being manipulated, and by whom — and above all that you’ll do some thinking for yourself that you might not otherwise have done.

(If it’s too dry for you, skip to “A Side Note” at the bottom.  That’s the most important bit.)

One hundred fifty years ago, it was a time of great social upheaval.  The American Civil War was not the only conflict of the period; the whole world was aflame with the fires of revolution, both politically and philosophically.  This was the time of Marx and Engels, of Garibaldi, the Third Republic of France, the anarcho-syndicalists in England, the rise of labor movements and communism.  1848 was the Year of Revolution, and over fifty countries were affected.   That’s half the world.

The social philosophers of the time were basing their theories on social inevitability, on the concept that the level of societal evolution would generate social change of its own accord.  The general idea was that, since the industrial workforce needed more education, they would gain a commensurate level of enlightenment along with it.  Over time, the vast majority of people would demand better conditions for themselves and their families.

The entrenched industrialists who controlled the new industries would of course resist this; the workers would want more than could be provided.  It is a fundamental truth of capitalist economics that there can never be enough luxuries to go around; it is less that there are too few resources (though that’s likely true) than it is that there must always be a lower class and a privileged class, each to provide incentive for the workers by their own example.  It is, likewise, a fundamental tenet of the revolutionary philosophers that the lowest classes will exist in a perpetual state of revolution.

In my opinion, the logical flaw in both of these schools of thought is the presumption that people are bound to their classes, and that their class determines their action.  Each of these propositions is true in the aggregate, but it is always, in every case, the individual that chooses to act.  That the choice is almost always made the same way by each of these individuals in no wise negates the validity of their freedom of choice.

It was to influence a large number of these individual choices that a particular famous pamphlet was published; you’ve heard of it, but you’ve likely never read it.  It’s called the “Communist Manifesto”, and it was written not to express a philosophy honestly but rather to encourage discontent and revolt in the working classes, and especially among the disenfranchised poor.  It ends with that famous line, “Workers of the world, unite!”

The anarchist movements of the late 1800s and early 1900s in large part embraced the philosophy of “Propaganda of the Deed”, expressed cogently by Bakunin thus:  “…we must spread our principles, not with words but with deeds, for this is the most popular, the most potent, and the most irresistible form of propaganda.”  The idea was twofold: first, that any violent act against oppression would inspire others to violence; second, that each act would force governments and established societies to react oppressively, pressuring further the disenfranchised.  The two reactions would soon and inevitably create a sustained culture of violent revolution.

It didn’t work.

World leaders and prominent industrialists were frequently targeted for assassinations.  Dozens of attempts were made over several decades; many succeeded in their immediate goal.  The labor movements became more and more violent, and governments invariably reacted to oppress their own people.

But the results of so many bombings and shootings were sufficiently brutal that they failed to inspire emulation.  Instead, reaction from society was harshly opposed to any cause that openly embraced individual acts of violence as a force for social change.  Labor movements were increasingly active, but in the face of societal reactions they actually began to lose ground against reactions both without and within, as ordinary people were repelled by the horrors preached by the revolutionary leaders.

It is notable that none of the anarchist movements succeeded in their greater aims.  A great deal of social change did occur, and much was due to the attention given certain causes by the brutal violence — but in most cases those reforms which were instituted were weakened by the societal backlash.  It is estimated that many of these causes were set back by decades.

The Russian Revolution of 1917 marked the end of common acceptance for “Propaganda of the Deed”.  It was successful because it was carried out not by a populist uprising spontaneously generated by anarchist acts, but instead by a carefully orchestrated military and paramilitary coup undertaken by trained and disciplined cadres.  It was organized, swift, limited — and therefore effective.

To this day, revolutionary organizations that embrace the outdated anarchist principles are common, and they are ineffective.  On the other hand, successful revolutions mostly follow the Oktobrist model of the Russian Revolution.  Castro’s revolt against Batista, the Revolutions of 1989, the successes of the “Arab Spring” in Libya, Tunisia, Egypt, and Yemen — all of these were carefully orchestrated along the same model.  Apparent spontaneous activism was brought about intentionally, not by acts of terror, but rather through intelligent use of protest, counterprotest, rebound against repression, and extremely precise organization.

It is worth mention that those who preach violent terrorism rarely participate.  They are notoriously careful of their own skins, because they know all too well that men are mortal.  The exception that proves the rule, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who claims to be Sultan of an Islamic State, has demonstrated a great deal of personal courage in battle — but not in acts of terror.  No, that’s for the expendable footsoldiers, not for the generals, not for the imams, not for the preachers of violence and hate.

In a very real sense, those who have been convinced to undertake acts of terror are as much the victims of these preachers as those they shoot, or bomb, or behead.  They have been told to commit unforgivable acts on the premise that they will help the Cause (whatever the Cause happens to be); they have been promised absolution for these deeds, but those promises are unfounded even by the tenets of their own faith.  And the acts themselves will never accomplish the goals they are stated to accomplish.

And so I propose to you that acts of terror are dumb.  They are ineffective at their stated goals, which makes them counterproductive.  Historically, they accomplish nothing — nothing except individual destruction, the effects of murder on countless individuals, almost always including the perpetrators.

On the eleventh of September, 2001, nineteen men hijacked four aircraft.  Three were flown into buildings; the fourth was brought down by passenger reaction.  In total, nearly three thousand people were killed.

The stated goals of the organization which claimed responsibility were as follows:

  • to end US support of Israel
  • to end US sanctions against Iraq
  • to remove American troops from Saudi Arabia and the Middle East
  • to resist pro-American governments in the Middle East
  • to protest acts against Muslims in Somalia, Chechnya, and Kashmir

The United States since invaded Iraq, sent vast military force into the Middle East, has supported Israel vigorously, and now has more allies than ever in that region.  Somalia has been devastated internally; Chechnya has been subdued and reabsorbed into the Russian Federation; Kashmir remains divided — and none of the three was significantly impacted by the attacks.

The only direct result was a crash in the American economy, the start of a global downturn that impacted stock, bond, and commodities markets.  And those who knew about the attacks in advance and played the markets appropriately made vast sums of money.This is not mere conspiracy theory; the financial involvement of certain organizations and several magnates, including at least one Saudi prince, has been established.  Much of the funds have since been impounded and regained — and, for the tinfoil-hat crowd, it’s been convincingly demonstrated that the old money behind the world banks lost rather than gained.

Can it be said that these thousands died solely to make people rich?  Not really, no.  They died as sacrifices to a failed revolutionary philosophy, one that should never have been practiced in the first place.  What makes it worse is that anyone with any serious knowledge of history can tell you that these philosophies have been known to be incorrect for years, and that the people preaching terrorism mostly know it too.

Protest is effective.  Revolution works, especially when the people support it.  Governments can be overthrown, tyrants unseated, social change enacted.  But terrorism — anarchic violence — does not work.

Terrorism is dumb, people.

A Side Note

As this is being prepared for publication, it occurs to me that there are two things that terrorism does accomplish, and I call on those few who read this to resist these, for they can be said to be the true goals of the puppet-masters behind the terrorists.

First, you will feel pressured to compromise your own freedoms.  Your governments will act to oppress you, because that’s what they always do in reaction to terrorism.  It’s what every government has done every single time in all of history.  Resist this!  Do so nonviolently, peacefully, by writing letters to your representatives, by social interaction both in person and online — but resist.

Second, you will see a rise in racial hatred against those of middle eastern descent, and religious intolerance toward those who are Muslim.  This is the single most powerful recruiting tool employed by al-Qaeda, ISIL, Daesh.  You must not give in to it.

The terrorists themselves, the media, your own government — they are all being manipulated by the men behind the terror.  Don’t let yourself be used as a tool of these preachers of hate.

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