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Author Topic: Charleston killer - is he a terrorist?
Greg Davidson
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Before we know for sure, it would be interesting to discuss what are the criteria that we would use to determine whether the Charleston shooter were a terrorist or just a violent insane person.

There is one piece of evidence that the scenario is not unlike the radicalization of Muslim extremists. With the caveat that this has not yet been confirmed (the website is registered in the name of Dylann Roof and includes photos of him, but I haven't see confirmation that this was not done quickly after the fact as a hoax):

quote:
I was not raised in a racist home or environment. Living in the South, almost every White person has a small amount of racial awareness, simply beause of the numbers of negroes in this part of the country. But it is a superficial awareness. Growing up, in school, the White and black kids would make racial jokes toward each other, but all they were were jokes. Me and White friends would sometimes would watch things that would make us think that “blacks were the real racists” and other elementary thoughts like this, but there was no real understanding behind it.

The event that truly awakened me was the Trayvon Martin case. I kept hearing and seeing his name, and eventually I decided to look him up. I read the Wikipedia article and right away I was unable to understand what the big deal was. It was obvious that Zimmerman was in the right. But more importantly this prompted me to type in the words “black on White crime” into Google, and I have never been the same since that day. The first website I came to was the Council of Conservative Citizens. There were pages upon pages of these brutal black on White murders. I was in disbelief. At this moment I realized that something was very wrong. How could the news be blowing up the Trayvon Martin case while hundreds of these black on White murders got ignored?

The putative manifesto then goes deeper into racist ugliness

link

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Rafi
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I don't get this obsession with trying to categorize him. He's a rabid dog and should be put down.
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Fenring
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Classifying him as a terrorist allows for nonsense justification of NSA spying and abridgement of freedoms.
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TomDavidson
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But, yes, of course he's a terrorist. If that brings with it unwanted legal consequences, perhaps we should have considered that possibility before passing those laws.
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Greg Davidson
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I am not sure of the answer of whether he is a terrorist or not.

But I do believe that we should treat similar threats with similar levels of responsiveness. How can you tell if someone has killed people due to ideology? If they assert that they have done so, do we take their word for it? What category of threat do we assign to adherents of a radical ideology that promotes the killing of Americans? Should we determine how to prioritize our resources on the ideology that has resulted in the most murders in the past decade, or should we choose an alternative standard such as discounting an extremist group if elements of their rhetoric (unworthy minorities are taking "our country")appeal to many Americans?

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jasonr
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I know virtually nothing about the case. But in my opinion, one of the few bright lines you can draw is between people who are merely unstable / antisocial / poorly adapted (which fits the profile of many terrorists) and someone who is actually mentally ill and particularly if they suffer from hallucinations / paranoid delusions. When you have the latter, it becomes a meaningless exercise to examine motivations, because the underlying cause isn't really political or ideological even if the killer has incorporated into his delusions some political / ideological / religious justifications.

The Giffords shooter struck me as someone very likely in this category, thus attempting to paint him as some kind of right wing terrorist was a bit absurd.

On the other hand, from what little I have heard about this latest shooter, the facts seem to point pretty strongly to terrorism, rather than to some obvious mental illness. If you commit mass murder to make a political or ideological point, that's pretty much the definition of terrorism.

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Fenring
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I know this may not fit the current FBI definition of "terrorist", which is overly inclusive sometimes to the point of raising eyebrows, but isn't the idea of a terrorist supposed to be someone who threatens to destroy property or lives in order to force the people or government to give in to a demand? It seems to me that simply conducting a strike on ideological grounds isn't enough to qualify for terrorism; there has to be an angle of effectively holding people hostage for a ransom; "do X, or I will strike again."

From this guy's manifesto it just looks like his ideas were run-of-the-mill white supremacist mixed with paranoia, with an unstable person at the wheel. Doing murder for racist reasons isn't terrorism; a lynching isn't terrorism, however bad it is.

I just have the sense that U.S. authorities will reach a little to try to identify acts as terror so as to be able to claim that domestic terrorism is a clear and present danger.

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JoshCrow
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For some reason I find it challenging to lump him in with "terrorist" despite the fact that he does check two major boxes in that regard (driven by political or religious ideology and targeting civilians). I feel like "mass murderer" and "hate crime" seem more appropriate. At first I thought "maybe it's because he's a lone wolf rather than affiliated with a specific group". But then, Tim McVeigh was similar and I had no trouble identifying him as a "terrorist".
I think it may just be that I've established a different nomenclature for hate/race crimes. They are "targeted" in a way that I don't associate with the T word. To violently go after a particular race/gender/etc seems somehow different from targeting a general population.

That being said, I don't think anything is to be gained from slapping the T word on this, and I question the motive that drives this angle. What is gained by connecting these words in that way, and what is lost? Why do some people care about that word while others don't? Isn't it enough to call it a horrific hate crime? I already know Fenring's answer to some of these...

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TomDavidson
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quote:
Doing murder for racist reasons isn't terrorism...
Specifically, he was doing murder to provoke other people into RAHOWA. He was doing murder for political reasons.
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Fenring
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quote:
Originally posted by TomDavidson:
quote:
Doing murder for racist reasons isn't terrorism...
Specifically, he was doing murder to provoke other people into RAHOWA. He was doing murder for political reasons.
Even if that's so, if my above definition was even close to accurate then the operative factor in "terrorism" is "terror", meaning using the fear of your target population to coerce them (or their government) into acceding to your demands. Here it seems the objective actually didn't involve the targets or their government doing anything at all, but rather (assuming you're right) getting some unrelated group to follow his example. The fear of his target population was therefore irrelevant to him as he was not using their fear as a lever to achieve his ends. To me, that's not terrorism, it's just murder with a plan. I guess this is splitting hairs, but since his plan didn't involve trying to coerce the government into action I would hesitate to call his agenda political.
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jasonr
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Since September 11, the "T" word has become infected with this idea of mass destruction i.e. almost as an act of war. This is why legislation like the Patriot Act was allowed to pass - because terrorism became seen less as a mere criminal act and more in terms of some kind of existential threat to the nation.

Pre September 11th, I don't think it would have mattered whether you called this act an act of "terrorism" versus, say, a "hate crime". Indeed, the answer would have been academic. Nobody cared if Tim McVeigh was a "terrorist" until after September 11th.

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Greg Davidson
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How many plots by Islamic extremists fit the standard of being designed to coerce a government or population to accede to a certain set of political demands?

Do you believe that the suicide bombings in Israel a decade ago by Palestinian extremists better fit the model of intending to coerce governments or people, or something more like Charleston where they were designed to express hatred and rage?

I think that there's not a clear distinction, and in fact since intent depends on understanding the mindset of the person committing the crime, it may not even be possible to make such a determination.

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Rafi
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Exactly, we likely would have labeled Roof a spree killer if anything. He's a nut job that got indoctrinated into something, as nut hubs are wont to do, and then acted. Whatever that something is was largely irrelevant. In this case it was race but could just as easily have been one percenters, technology, GMO food or jet contrails.

Trying to make a special classification for different types of criminal motivations like this is a disturbing trend.

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TomDavidson
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I would like to say that I am amused by the dance right-wingers are doing to position Roof's motivation as something unimportant and not really worth analyzing, but I can't and I'm not.
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Rafi
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If you think you can understand what drives people like Roof, then you might need to seek counciling before you become as crazy as him. His motivations are twisted and perverse, not something a sane, rational person can really identify with.

But I asked about the obsession to categorize him that comes from the left. What is the reason for that? Well, this:
quote:
Why? Why does the left see everything through the lens of identity politics? The simple (and correct) answer is Critical Theory. Critical Theory is the intellectual bible that guides the left, and it demands that people be broken up into smaller and smaller groups that are then pitted against each other and, more importantly, against the dominant culture. Pitting them against each other keeps any one group from getting too strong and dominating the others. Pitting them all against the dominant culture forces it to defend in many directions at once, preventing it from marshaling it's resources against any one threat.
The end goal:
quote:

The object of critical theory is to destroy modern western civilization as we know it. Critical theory was designed to eliminate free markets, to obliterate free people and to eviscerate free will. The endgame is to destroy all of that so that it can be replaced with a perfect collectivist Utopia (coming soon to a gulag near you). The exact form the Utopia will take is a little fuzzy (it always is), but critical theory doesn't care about that.

So as we see this play out, keep in mind what's really being done and why.
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Fenring
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quote:
Originally posted by Greg Davidson:
How many plots by Islamic extremists fit the standard of being designed to coerce a government or population to accede to a certain set of political demands?

It seems to me that "Islamic extremists" tend to have rather specific sets of demand, which often include "stop interfering with our country" or "stop badmouthing our prophet." Whatever one thinks of the validity of these demands, the terrorist attacks I've heard of tend to be accompanied by a demand for something or other, with the attack being the consequence of ignoring the threat.
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JoshCrow
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quote:
Originally posted by Rafi:

But I asked about the obsession to categorize him that comes from the left. What is the reason for that? Well, this:

For a much less extreme analysis that doesn't need the hyperbole ("the end of western civilization!!"), I prefer Mark Fisher's essay about the left and identity politics
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philnotfil
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quote:
Originally posted by Rafi:
If you think you can understand what drives people like Roof, then you might need to seek counciling before you become as crazy as him. His motivations are twisted and perverse, not something a sane, rational person can really identify with.

There is a difference between understanding someone's motivation and identifying with their motivation. In this case he explained his motivation, so his motivation should be pretty easy for anyone to understand. Even if they don't identify with it.
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TomDavidson
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Again, note Rafi's dance. I hope I don't need to explain to anyone why he so keenly feels the need.
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Greg Davidson
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Fenring, the Charleston shooter had a rationale as clear as that which you ascribed to Islamic extremists- whether badmouthing their prophet or raping their women. Where do you draw a sharp line of difference?
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Greg Davidson
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And why does Rafi go off into gobbledygook?

It appears to be a typical effort to avoid accountability by changing the subject. Yep, sounds like G2

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TomDavidson
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(BTW, Fenring, I acknowledge and appreciate your attempt to parse "terrorism" more finely for this sort of thing. But I think that if we accepted that distinction, we couldn't really call the 9/11 attacks "terrorism," either. Perhaps we shouldn't, but inarguably we do.)
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Fenring
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quote:
Originally posted by Greg Davidson:
Fenring, the Charleston shooter had a rationale as clear as that which you ascribed to Islamic extremists- whether badmouthing their prophet or raping their women. Where do you draw a sharp line of difference?

I believe I drew the line above. The issue isn't whether the shooter had an agenda; heck, synagogue vandals and grave defilers have a racist agenda, but they're not terrorists. I think the issue is whether "terror" is the lever by which the criminal will achieve that agenda. If the feelings or cooperation of the targets and their government are not the issue then I don't see how it's terrorism. There is no ultimatum, no activity the shooter wanted his victims to understand. The message was for another group altogether, a rallying cry for hate crimes. There are lots of bad crimes one can commit that involve hate that aren't terrorism.
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TomDavidson
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quote:
The message was for another group altogether, a rallying cry for hate crimes.
I would say that almost all terrorist organizations begin with exactly this purpose. Only the most delusional expect to be able to make effective demands in their early days.
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Fenring
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quote:
Originally posted by TomDavidson:
quote:
The message was for another group altogether, a rallying cry for hate crimes.
I would say that almost all terrorist organizations begin with exactly this purpose. Only the most delusional expect to be able to make effective demands in their early days.
Setting aside for a moment international terrorists elsewhere in the world, let's talk about domestic terrorists within the U.S. Can you think of some semi-recent prominent home-grown terrorist that fit the description you just gave? Would such terrorists even qualify as "terrorist organizations?" Remember that the shooter wasn't part of a larger organization that I heard of; maybe we'll learn eventually this isn't the case. It sounds like he was a lone wolf making a statement like so many others before him. Regardless, even if you want to qualify his attack as paving the way towards demands in the future, what would those demands be? Stop being black or else?

When we get into international terrorists it gets a little different because now we're talking about people making a plan to go into another country and make a strike. Maybe this starts as a rallying cry, but its ultimate aim is to try to force change from the targets (even if the tactics begin with something other than making demands). I'd be curious to hear if you can think of a group of international terrorists who don't have a set of demands at the core of their actions.

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TomDavidson
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quote:
Can you think of some semi-recent prominent home-grown terrorist that fit the description you just gave?
Most of them? Heck, even the Unabomber -- who did originally have a few demands -- ultimately came to think of himself as being the vanguard of a wave of unrest, and deliberately aimed at provoking more unrest rather than asking for, say, free computer access for schoolkids. American terrorists in particular are generally grandiose enough that they see themselves as inspirations, not profit-seekers. What they want is to be a leader or a martyr to millions, and their expectation is that those millions are ultimately the ones who'll make the demands.
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Fenring
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quote:
Originally posted by TomDavidson:
quote:
Can you think of some semi-recent prominent home-grown terrorist that fit the description you just gave?
Most of them? Heck, even the Unabomber -- who did originally have a few demands -- ultimately came to think of himself as being the vanguard of a wave of unrest, and deliberately aimed at provoking more unrest rather than asking for, say, free computer access for schoolkids. American terrorists in particular are generally grandiose enough that they see themselves as inspirations, not profit-seekers. What they want is to be a leader or a martyr to millions, and their expectation is that those millions are ultimately the ones who'll make the demands.
Yes, the Unabomber wanted to be an inspiration and he made demands as well; specifically, to print his manifesto in a major newspaper. But that was only the first step in his real objective, which was to make people realize that technology inevitably leads towards control and dissatisfaction. He wanted his target audience to change, to adopt a new way of life. This fact definitely made him a terrorist; that and his use of actual terror to get results.

I don't know the extent to which he made attacks for a while before making demands, but he definitely had an endgame involving demands. Did the Charleston shooter? As I said before if he did have a set of demands he was going to issue sooner or later then I think the word "terrorist" fits him. If not, then it just seems like a racist mass murder to me.

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kmbboots
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quote:
Originally posted by Rafi:
Exactly, we likely would have labeled Roof a spree killer if anything. He's a nut job that got indoctrinated into something, as nut hubs are wont to do, and then acted. Whatever that something is was largely irrelevant. In this case it was race but could just as easily have been one percenters, technology, GMO food or jet contrails.


Couldn't one say the same about Tsarnaev?
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Fenring
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I'll just add that having re-read the manifesto and especially the last section it seems to me that Roof's vision was to see apartheid in America, although one can perhaps connect the dots and foresee a genocidal attitude behind the initial roundup. But it was the minority he was targeting and he wanted nothing from them. He was pro-majority (in the case of America) and apparently pro-government of a white America. This really doesn't sound like a terrorist mentality, it sounds more like a neo-Nazi mentality.
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TomDavidson
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Can't neo-Nazis be terrorists? Again, I get the distinction, but it seems to me that you're parsing the distinction rather finely. After all, as Kate points out, Tsarnaev wasn't a terrorist, either, by that logic; he wanted nothing from the people he targeted except their symbolic deaths.
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Wayward Son
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Root had a political agenda and demands, although they may not have been clear or concise. Generally, he wants "those people" out of "his country."

He, of course, didn't expect this act alone to make the change, but to inspire others to act also, creating a movement of causing terror in that particular (perhaps ill-defined) group and effecting the change.

So, yes, he was definitely acting as a terrorist in my book.

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D.W.
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quote:
After all, as Kate points out, Tsarnaev wasn't a terrorist, either, by that logic; he wanted nothing from the people he targeted except their symbolic deaths.
If that was indeed the goal, just deaths, then he was not a terrorist. That would be what I would consider a hate crime. To just want to harm or kill a group or anyone outside of your group.

Terrorism would be if you were punishing a group until such a time that they change their behavior.

For a racially motivated killing spree to be "terrorism" in my book the intent would be to make the area so inhospitable for that group that they are forced out.

As to the first question,
quote:
determine whether the Charleston shooter were a terrorist or just a violent insane person.
He can easily be both. If you judge insanity by the likelihood your terrorist goals could ever prove successful, then I would say any white supremacy motivated act of violence is done by the insane.
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kmbboots
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quote:
Originally posted by D.W.:
quote:
After all, as Kate points out, Tsarnaev wasn't a terrorist, either, by that logic; he wanted nothing from the people he targeted except their symbolic deaths.
If that was indeed the goal, just deaths, then he was not a terrorist. That would be what I would consider a hate crime. To just want to harm or kill a group or anyone outside of your group.

Terrorism would be if you were punishing a group until such a time that they change their behavior.

For a racially motivated killing spree to be "terrorism" in my book the intent would be to make the area so inhospitable for that group that they are forced out.

As to the first question,
quote:
determine whether the Charleston shooter were a terrorist or just a violent insane person.
He can easily be both. If you judge insanity by the likelihood your terrorist goals could ever prove successful, then I would say any white supremacy motivated act of violence is done by the insane.

Unless you are counting the motivation as the insane part, than any act of violence other than immediate self-defense would be considered insane. If you are including the racial delusions as part of what makes it insane, then there are a whole lot of insane people walking around. And holding public office.
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Rafi
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Another interesting take:
quote:
Q: What's the difference between Bill Ayers and Dylann Roof?
A: Dylann Roof isn't a friend and colleague of an American president who enjoyed a cushy life in academia before retiring to life as the kind of author who's invited on-the-air by the mainstream media to hawk his books.

Other than that, both of these pigs share much in common.

Bill Ayers is an unrepentant domestic terrorist.

Dylann Roof is an unrepentant domestic terrorist.

Bill Ayers despises America.

Dylann Roof despises America.

Bill Ayers’s terror group The Weather Underground targeted and murdered innocent people.

Dylann Roof targeted and murdered innocent people.

Bill Ayers used murder and violence and terror as a weapon for political change.

Dylann Roof used murder and violence and terror as a weapon for political change.

Bill Ayers wanted a race war.

Dylann Roof wants a race war.


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TomDavidson
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*points upward*
Again, note the dancing. Please let Rafi know if you think that particular tactic is effective.

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Rafi
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What tactic do you think that is? The difference between the 2 is virtually nonexistent yet there was a defense of him. What's the rationale?
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kmbboots
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The Diversion Two step. Involves lots of pivoting. You take two steps backwards and side step at every measure.

[ June 22, 2015, 10:00 PM: Message edited by: kmbboots ]

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TomDavidson
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quote:
The difference between the 2 is virtually nonexistent yet there was a defense of him.
For one thing: Ayers never actually killed anyone, and he quite specifically never wanted to kill civilians (although his desire to kill multiple soldiers is horrifying, and I'm deeply grateful that he and his cohorts only wound up blowing themselves up). For another, Ayers did not in fact want to inspire a race war; he thought one was inevitable unless it could be preempted by a communist revolution. (Of course, neither happened.) For a third, the "defense" of Ayers is actually quite similar to the "defense" that groups like the CCC have offered of Roof; this is not some categorical difference, and if Roof hadn't actually massacred nine people it's entirely possible he could have gone on to run for state senate or something.

But that aside, it's pretty transparently obvious what you're doing, here. "Hey, look!" you're exclaiming, pointing into the distance. "Let's just ignore that black people are being literally massacred in the name of Southern racism by trying to draw as many false equivalences as possible, because I really don't want people to pay any attention to that!"

It's beneath you, man. It's sad and pathetic and even a little sick, and I wish you wouldn't do it.

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Rafi
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quote:
Originally posted by kmbboots:
The Diversion Two step. Involves lots of pivoting. You take two steps backwards and side step at every measure.

We all see what is happening, I'm asking why it's happening and pointing out the reasons. Based on TomDavidson's little tantrum and your response, Obviously asking questions like that is hurting some feelings and making some of you uncomfortable and I'm sorry about that. But if it makes you so uncomfortable and causes otherwise grown men to engage in childish behaviors, maybe it's a good time to ask yourself why that is?
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TomDavidson
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quote:
I'm asking why it's happening and pointing out the reasons.
No. In fact, that's specifically what you're not doing.

quote:
Obviously asking questions like that is hurting some feelings and making some of you uncomfortable and I'm sorry about that
Except that you aren't actually asking any questions, you're not remotely sorry, and you aren't hurting anyone's feelings. Rather, you are disgusting me, because you're primarily concerned about shielding an entire repulsive political faction from any ramifications of the deaths of nine people as the direct result of their toxic culture -- to the extent that you not only want to shut down any conversations about that larger issue but are mocking the possibility that such conversations might be had. I don't know how you get to a place where your first response to a national tragedy is "how do I distract people from this so my political faction isn't harmed," but I'm sorry you wound up there.

[ June 23, 2015, 11:09 AM: Message edited by: TomDavidson ]

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