Monday, February 27, 2012

A Nasty Little Story

Skillfully wrought...

Roman Polanski's new movie Carnage is based upon the Tony Award-winning comedy God of Carnage written by French playwright Yasmina Reza.

It takes a bitterly cynical thrill in piercing, lifting, then shredding the characters' hypocritical veneers to expose the racism, sexism, classism, and marital discord that suppurates beneath.

Powerful performances by Jodie Foster, Christoph Waltz, Kate Winslet, and John C. Reilly only make the ever more vicious excoriations all the more painful.

Carnage reminds me of the similarly self-indulgent Six Degrees of Separation in that it passes as deep only to people too wrapped up in their hip urban sensibility to realize they are the characters being viciously lampooned.

Not everyone shares my dim regard for Carnage.  I passed on a chance to attend the play at the Guthrie last year because I feared it would be exactly as unpleasant as the movie turned out to be.  For some reason I entertained some hope the movie would be as engaging as it is well done.  Oh well.  When my friend asked if we could leave before it ended I was happy to go.

An Existential Threat?

To the Republic and its Citizens?

While engaging in a LinkedIn discussion at the Workplace Violence group John Byrnes invited us to visit his Aggression Management blog to review a recent post highlighting the difference between probability and predictability in workplace violence cases.

His post used the recently interrupted alleged plot by Amine El Khilifi to carry out a suicide bombing at the U.S. Capitol as an example for his concerns.  My initial response reads as follows:

I respectfully submit that the current Washington DC case is a poor example for your method (or any other) of aggression management. It sounds very much like most other domestic terrorism cases since 9/11 in which the alleged conspiracy was encouraged and supported by a confidential informant working under the direct control of the FBI or other agency to make certain the case contains all the elements necessary for a federal prosecution. What does your system of threat management (or anyone else's) have to say about persons who encourage others to commit unlawful violent activity for the purpose of criminal prosecution?

In his reply John issued a challenge to my perspective.  After further reflection, I wrote:

Rather than missing your point, I regret I did not make my point strongly enough.

What does your program do to detect (if not mitigate) the contribution of “Complicit Tacticians” (whether genuine or embedded by the FBI) as a potential terrorist moves through his stages of aggression?

As for your challenge “Are you prepared to absolutely guarantee that all future Islamic Radical Converts (Lone Wolves) will only approach FBI informants?” I submit that a potential terrorist who is promised cash, collaborators, guns, bombs, and missiles by FBI confidential informants is, by definition, anything but a “lone wolf.” What’s more, while the DOJ and the FBI are careful to craft cases which are resistant to the defense of entrapment, I question the wisdom and ethics of having a CI contribute to the alleged perpetrator’s ideation, encouragement to deadly action, and refinement of the plan, deliberately serving as a “Complicit Tactician,” if I understand your parlance correctly. Law enforcement plays a dangerous and potentially deadly game when it participates in terrorist conspiracies in order to prosecute them.

To that end I’ll issue a counter-challenge. Are federal law enforcement officials prepared to absolutely guarantee that a conspirator encouraged and equipped by a confidential informant will never shake his handler and engage in a murderous act which might never have seen the light of day but for the contributions made by investigators?

In closing, I added:

Finally, on closer inspection, I take issue with your opening statement:

“The greatest threat to our Nation and its Citizens is the perpetrator of murder/suicide, whether a ‘Lone Wolf’ terrorist or simply the individual who shoots his estranged wife at a local supermarket then walks out to the parking lot and kills himself; a phenomenon that we are seeing on the rise in every community.”

By what measure is lone wolf terrorism or intimate partner workplace violence an existential threat to the republic or its citizens? And by what measure do you claim that acts of either type are on the rise in every community?

UPDATE: John responded at the LinkedIn group in part:

"You ask the question, 'By what measure is lone wolf terrorism or intimate partner workplace violence an existential threat to the republic or its citizens?' I have not stated, nor suggested, that lone wolves are an existential threat to our republic. I have stated that among human aggressors, the perpetrator of murder/suicide is the most lethal."

I suppose I could have read his statement that way...maybe I'm getting too twitchy on this topic.  John responded to my other points directly at his blog.  I'm going to reflect further on this.