Friday, October 21, 2011

May You Live In Interesting Times

Where do the Occupiers of Wall Street and the Tea Party hope to go?

Mark Chubb's post Economic Terrorism at Homeland Security Watch is worth a read.  The article discusses his efforts to contextualize the Occupy Wall Street movement.  In doing so Chubb expresses concern that the Geneva Center for Security Policy has a rather inclusive description of "economic terrorism."

"Contrary to 'economic warfare' which is undertaken by states against other states, 'economic terrorism' would be undertaken by transnational or non-state actors. This could entail varied, coordinated and sophisticated or massive destabilizing actions in order to disrupt the economic and financial stability of a state, a group of states or a society (such as market oriented western societies) for ideological or religious motives. These actions, if undertaken, may be violent or not. They could have either immediate effects or carry psychological effects which in turn have economic consequences."

While the GCSP is "not the boss of us," to my ears this self-serving definition sounds much more like the actions of firms on Wall Street than it does its peaceably assembled occupiers.  By the way, at first I didn't know if the GCSP had disavowed this view or merely deleted its source document from their website.  A careful reading of the 2005 original suggests they meant primarily to discuss the ability of "real" transnational terror actors to cause economic disruption, but we must be careful not to grant those in power the ability to summarily protect themselves and their cronies from we citizens.  Thank you Internet Wayback Machine.

If ever peaceful assembly, petitioning for redress of grievances, and even civil disobedience or nonviolent resistance meet the criteria of terrorism we need to take a long hard look at who is writing the definition.  As we are reminded in Dr. King's Letter From Birmingham Jail "We should never forget that everything Adolf Hitler did in Germany was 'legal' and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was 'illegal.'"  [Godwin's Law: Score!]

Is insurrection the solution the Wall Street Occupation or the Tea Party have in mind? I don't think so, but the Guy Fawkes masks and "blood of tyrants and patriots" t-shirts worn by some teabaggers give one pause. And who precisely are graduates of the Appleseed project planning to fight?  There is always the risk that the steady drum beat of divisive and violent rhetoric will eventually entice some other Timothy McVeigh to impose his vision of action on the debate. It would certainly be nice to find a way to turn down the heat while continuing a fruitful dialogue. In the mean time Congress and Wall Street seem to be conducting business as usual.