…Jerry Bruckheimer is already making the movie, and if not…call me anytime Jerry and I’ll give you a plot.
So in the blogs and in the comments below, we’re wrestling about what to call – and how to react to – the crazed guy who flew a private plane into the local IRS headquarters.
The usual suspects on left and right are trying desperately to tie him to the Tea Party movement or to socialism (based on one incoherent suicide note).
John Robb says this is a canary in a coal mine (and I worry that he’s right).
Patterico and I disagree; he says it’s clearly terrorism, I say no it’s not.
I’m left really, really uncomfortable that we’re looking at this in the right way.
Here’s a CNN interview with the filmmaker Pierre Rehov, who made the great documentary ‘Suicide Killers‘
You get a clear sense of the ideology that grows terrorists as a deliberate tool in its combat with the wider world.
Both terrorists and muckers (see definition) do the same things – if you take the actions out of context, they look alike. But that’s just it – by taking the actions of of context, you’re depriving them of their meaning, and in doing that I’ll argue one risks making some serious mistakes.
Muckers arise from anomie; from the spiritual/philosophical crisis that seems to run through modernity (one reaction, and one belief, is the orgasmic self-destruction contained in the Romantic ideal at the heart of Bad Philosophy). Muckers are essentially random, and somewhat self-generating. They will be triggered by personal issues (I’m hearing that the Austin mucker’s wife was leaving him after a trail of business failures and tax crises), but a generalized ‘failure to thrive’ socially. they may hang their actions on a hook – anti-cop in the case of the Washington or Oakland muckers – but there is no coherent philosophy behind muckerdom and there is no social change we could make that would accommodate them.
And, more importantly, there is no organized social movement working to grow them.
Terrorists, on the other hand, act less out of anomie than out of belief; out of a social construct that extends well past them and lionizes their behavior – thereby helping grow the next generation.
Rehov’s film is about Islam, but there are other ideologies that have done this; early militant Christianity certainly did, and today you see it in the black nationalist movement and their counterparts in the various white power movements; they key word here isn’t ‘black’ or ‘white’ or ‘Islamic’ – it’s movement.
The pressures of modern society shake loose a certain number of people who finally go amok; but certain belief systems are growing up that not only want to harness that drift, but seek to encourage it so that they can harvest the violence that it breeds.
The crazy antitax movements that the Austin mucker (I deliberately obscure his name) was on the fringes of didn’t have in their core doctrines the belief that you should blow up tax buildings. When they do – when that becomes a part of the pernicious beliefs that get espoused there – then these acts will have moved to the category of terrorism and we should treat them as such.
What I’m trying to say is that there is no acceptable government security response to muckers. I think that there are a number of things that government should do to improve the economy, to improve its own legitimacy, to help rebuild a narrative of America that we can participate in emotionally and spiritually.
But practically? not so much.
There are a number of appropriate responses to movements that mean to grow muckers, however. Working to dismantle those movements is absolutely the right thing to do, and the possibility of dismantling the movements at the root or terrorist acts is what distinguishes terrorism from simple acts of mindless rage.