Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Protesting is terrorism

If you go to work for the Department of Defense, you will be taught that protests are an act of terrorism:

The written exam, given as part of Department of Defense employees’ routine training, includes a multiple-choice question that asks:

“Which of the following is an example of low-level terrorism?”

— Attacking the Pentagon
— IEDs
— Hate crimes against racial groups
— Protests

The correct answer, according to the exam, is "Protests."

Isn't that comforting, coming from the people who claim to be defending "freedom?" Even more interesting is the fact that I was tipped off to the story by the good loons at Worldview Weekend. Of course, they're still in a dudgeon over that report about potential right-wing extremists, but I find it notable that they link to this story without extraneous comment. The article mentions mostly anti-war protesters and quotes the ACLU, but WvW doesn't bother to mention that they usually see these folks as enemies. I know this isn't any sort of turning point in left-right relations, but it's still a nice little moment.

The day after the election, my Facebook status update said something to the effect that I was glad conservatives would start worrying about government overreach again, now that they were out of power. I'm feeling vindicated.


James Hanley said...

Well, the others certainly aren't "low level," so I guess the only possible answer is D. But what a stupid answer.

Social scientists consider protesting a form of "unconventional politics," which terrorism is also. But that doesn't mean the one is a form of the other.

And people mock me for thinking we shouldn't be trusting of our government.

pfanderson said...

Did you see the tshirts at the Powwow that were about homeland security?

Scott Hanley said...

I did see those shirts, although I the ones that spoke of "illegal immigrants" were closer to the mark.

pfanderson said...

I didn't see the illegal immigrants shirts. I had mixed feelings about the homeland security ones. Very clever, well designed, accurate, but a subtext that I wasn't sure about. Great images, though, and from the large number of vendors that were selling the same shirts, obviously something near and dear to the heart of that community.

An aside to James. Governments, bosses, kings, leadership of any sort. There is something about the structure of our brains and how we (the herd beast) respond to those at the point. At the same time, for the survival of the species and organization, we NEED those sympathetic contrarians to provide balance and keep us on a path that doesn't veer too far to one side or the other. Now, question - is it entirely not trusting the government, or does popular press / journalism come into this at all?

James Hanley said...


I don't trust anyone, especially you. ;)

No, more seriously, I am skeptical about government (cautiousness, as opposed to outright antipathy), due to an abundance of bad incentives that tend to undermine our ideal of government--that it's goal is the pursuit of the public good.

I am also skeptical about the popular press, as its incentives also lead it away from what is supposed to be its purpose--informing the public. I read a blog today that noted that when Helen Thomas tried to ask Obama a tough question, the rest of the White House press corps snickered. So there are real journalists in the press, but too few. I also read a column by economist Tim Harford today that reported that in countries with high newspaper readership, the public was more likely to accurately gauge the government's economic performance, while high radio listenership had no effect and high TV viewership had a negative effect.

Scott Hanley said...

Do you have a link to that article?

pfanderson said...

Conceptual reply to James later (maybe tomorrow?). Article/blogpost - was it this one from the Cassandra Effect? http://cassandraeffect.com/press-wakes-up-and-challenges-obama-giggles-ensue/ Or a better one?

pfanderson said...

At long last, finding a few minutes to reply to James' thoughtful comment.

Unfortunately, when I tried to post my reply, I got the following error message: "Your HTML cannot be accepted: Must be at most 4,096 characters." Eh, meh.

Here is the short version:

* Skepticism is good.
* Protests on both sides add balance and value to the discussion.
* Families, kids, old folks having a picnic and being poudmouthed should not be considered terrorism even if they say it is a formal protest protected by our right to public assembly.
* There are good reasons to mistrust the commercial press, and yes, money (as necessary as it is) implies bias.
* Citizen journalism is REALLY interesting and exciting.

Here is the full version, lightly edited for consumption out of context.

ETechLib: From Skepticism to Citizen Journalism via a Tea Party: http://etechlib.wordpress.com/2009/07/05/from_skepticism_to_citizen_journalism/