Last night I finally got to see the new Wachowski brothers’ film; V for Vendetta. This film raises several interesting ethical dilemmas that reflect our own world in 2006.
The two main themes brought to the fore are around the relationships between people and states. I found myself moved by the challenges raised by these themes and I present my thoughts here in such a way as to not spoil the film for those who have not seen it.
Firstly, what is a terrorist?
What does it mean to say that someone is a terrorist? Why is Nelson Mandela a freedom fighter and practically deified when someone else, someone equally as valid, is considered the scum of the Earth?
Mandella started as a terrorist too:
Umkhonto we Sizwe (or MK), translated Spear of the Nation, was the active military wing of the African National Congress (ANC). Founded on 16 December 1961 by the ANC and South African Communist Party (SACP), its purpose was to mount guerilla attacks against the South African apartheid regime for their oppression against black people. It was classified a terrorist organisation by the South African government and media, and subsequently banned.
A part of the evil in the world and not a fighter for freedom (another spurious word used in multi-layered contexts). Is it that that Mandela was fighting an “evil” regime? Who says so?
Freedom fighter is a relativistic local term for those engaged in rebellion against an established organization that is thought to be oppressive. The terms “freedom“ and “rebellion” are often confusing, as often both sides in armed conflict claim to represent the popular cause of “freedom”. While external intervening parties, even oppressors, almost always claim to be “liberators”, ‘freedom fighters’ also often become oppressors in the eyes of civilians.
Who is it that decides what is evil? Can one even judge a whole society as evil? Is our society any better? Is the US?
Institute for Policy Studies scholar Professor Noam Chomsky has referred to the tactics used by agents of the US government and their proxies in their execution of US foreign policy in such countries as Nicaragua, Chile, Costa Rica, Honduras, Argentina, Colombia, Turkey, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia as a form of terrorism from which the term “American terrorism” has been drawn. Chomsky has also described the U.S as “a leading terrorist state.” After President Bush began using the term “War on Terrorism,” Chomsky stated:
The U.S. is officially committed to what is called “low-intensity warfare.”[…] If you read the definition of low-intensity conflict in army manuals and compare it with official definitions of “terrorism” in army manuals, or the U.S. Code, you find they’re almost the same. 
Armed with some of the strictest anti-terrorism laws and policies in Europe, the French government has aggressively targeted Islamic radicals and other people deemed a potential terrorist threat. While other Western countries debate the proper balance between security and individual rights, France has experienced scant public dissent over tactics that would be controversial, if not illegal, in the United States and some other countries.
What skeletons are in our closets? Is it really the inescapable conclusion that to call someone a terrorist is a matter of mere subjective perspective?
What happens when that perspective changes? When the Taliban fought the Russians they were freedom fighters, but when they fight the western powers suddenly they are terrorists. Rambo III was dedicated to the “the galant people of Afghanistan”, and the film was full of complements regarding their noble yet fierce resistance of the Russian menace. As Rambo himself remarks “(They) don’t take any shit”. Now it is more likely that the next film use them as target practice?
Could terrorism really be a label, something that is simple finger pointing? Do I say you are a terrorist and it magically becomes true, or is it that you automatically become a terrorist to me when you attack my trains or my towers? Then what must we look like to the rest of the world? I try and think of the most terrifying thing I can and basically it is already happening to other nations today. Something that we, or at least our leaders and their armies, are doing to them.
Imagine: that an alien and, from your point of view, corrupt foreign national government sent an unbeatable army to rain down bombs onto you, and no one cared. Cameras came and recorded you digging the graves of your children, but they are not there for you. Your private morning is now public; now bare to the world. It is a world that hates your faith, your country. A World that hates your way of life and who has power, unimaginable power over you and at one and the same time fears and hates you. Who can lock you away without trial, forever?
Is that not terror? Would you not, in that situation, point the finger and identify the terrorists when asked. Would you not give them their own names?
The meaning is even further misused by those who refer to a “War on terror”. Since bringing a war against a nation is terrible are you not creating terror? Should the army simply shoot itself? This misnomer has destroyed the meaning of the word. It is political double speak, the first steps along the lines to Newspeak. Double plus good!
Charges of Newspeak are sometimes advanced when a group tries to replace a word/phrase that is politically unsuitable (e.g. “civilian casualties”) or offensive (e.g. “murder”) with a politically correct or inoffensive euphemism (e.g. “collateral damage“). Some maintain that to make certain words or phrases “unspeakable” (thoughtcrime) restricts what ideas may be held (Newspeak) and is therefore tantamount to censorship. Others believe that expunging terms that have fallen out of favor or become insulting will make people less likely to hold outdated or offensive views. The intent to alter the minds of the public through changes made to language illustrates Newspeak perfectly.
Ressentiment is a profound sense of resentment, frustration, and hostility directed at that which one identifies as the cause of one’s frustration, generated by a sense of weakness/inferiority and feelings of jealousy/envy in the face of the ’cause’, that ultimately generates a rejecting/justifying ‘value-system’ or morality that exists as a means of attacking or denying the perceived source of one’s own sense of inferiority.
Something from which you cannot escape; a feeling of fear and the deriding of anything different and unorthodox, it is the making of a scapegoat. The war against terror becomes fnord, something that your conscious brain shy’s away from in an attempt to get on with your life. You will put up with anything to keep terror at bay. Almost any freedom is taken, snatched; not given, from the people because of the nasty fnord awaiting you.
The word was coined as a nonsensical term with religious undertones in the Principia Discordia by Kerry Thornley and Greg Hill, but was popularized by The Illuminatus! Trilogy of books by Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson. In these novels, the interjection “fnord” is given hypnotic power over the unenlightened. Under the Illuminati program, children, while still in grade school, are taught to be unable to consciously see the word “fnord”. For the rest of their lives, every appearance of the word subconsciously generates a feeling of uneasiness and confusion, and prevents rational consideration of the subject.
To get away with this, they send you hidden poster boys of terror.
A single evil man, supposedly the master in a puppet theatre trying to destroy the world. I have seen this thing. One man, they say, one man is wrong. He is the one man. Stop him for he is what you should be afraid of. And so we are. Why? Because we are told to be. In the end the act of attributing more and more events to one mans actions becomes an ever-repeating circle. He becomes a source of terror like the sun is a source of light and all reference to terror lead back to this one man.
deliberate techniques for scaremongering. For example:
- Careful selection and omission of news (some relevant facts are shown and some are not);
- Distortion of statistics or numbers;
- Transformation of single events into social epidemics;
- Corruption and distortion of words or terminology according to specific goals;
- Stigmatization of minorities, especially when associated with criminal acts or degrading behaviour;
- Generalization of complex and multifaceted situations;
- Causal inversion (turning a cause into an effect or vice-versa).
That is what we are told to think and slowly erodes the rains of our freedom. Chains built to protect us. What an irony. What a tragedy, terror created from a seed; the desire to live free. To live essentially selfish lives.
In a country that uses the word terrorist against anyone, what are we loosing? We are losing our ability to complain, the cornerstone of any democracy. We are losing rights both in public and in private as the government uses the war on terror as an excuse to remove that, which is different and does not conform.
The signs are plentiful but small. A man carrying a placard is arrested but let go.
Mr Jago, who will appear in court in September on charges of mounting an illegal demonstration prohibited by the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act (Socpa ), was searched and found to have three copies of an article from Vanity Fair.
Jean Charles de Menezes (7 January 1978–22 July 2005) was a Brazilian electrician living in Tulse Hill in south London, United Kingdom. Menezes was shot and killed at Stockwell tube station on the London Underground by unnamed Metropolitan Police officers. Police later issued an apology, saying that they had mistaken him for a suspect in the previous day’s failed bombings and acknowledging that Menezes in fact had no explosives and was unconnected with the attempted bombings.
Up until recently, you could refuse the police. You could say, “I am sorry officer, I do not submit to my bags being searched.” But not anymore. My policeman friends inform me that under the provisions of anti-terrorism legislation you and I no longer have that right. For “our” protection.
A small price, you might say?
Ah, but how the mouse nibbles at the cheese and how, soon, there is to be no cheese left. These “small” prices add up, they create weight. A crushing and unbearable weight on my mind that makes the fear essentially worse. And so, they destroy more rights and our decent into darkness is by inches, centimetres and millimetres but always ever downwards.
What can be done? Will we ever “defeat” terrorism?
How can we? No one even knows what the word means and the methods being used to fight it not only create more fear, but are also acts of terrorism themselves.
Coming next: “The tipping point man; can we let one man decide what is best for all of us?”