the relevence of terrorism

@soadnot (1606)
May 24, 2007 12:21pm CST
Terrorism is the systematic use of terror as a means of coercion. “Terror” is simply a state of fear, or perhaps intense fear. Both the fear and its intensity are entirely subjective -- they depend entirely upon the state of the one who is afraid. “Systematic” simply means that it is a repeated established strategy or that it may be standard procedure in some organization or institution. “Coercion” simply means to force a desired behavior from an unwilling subject. However, “terrorism” and “terrorists” are necessarily, always, pejorative terms. It is never a term that a person or group uses in reference to itself. It is always a term that a person or group uses to refer to someone else. If someone within a group entertains the notion that the same group may be guilty of terrorism, they are likely to be censored. But, stripped of its pejorative power, terrorism is simply negative reinforcement which is applied systematically. By viewing terrorism from the perspective of systematic negative reinforcement, and/or temporarily bracketing one’s group identity, it is possible to clearly see that terrorism exists all around us... and always has. Here are some common forms of terrorism that exist around us, and within some larger sets or smaller subsets of our own group. The ones that seem obvious likely involve groups we don‘t closely identify with, while the ones that don‘t seem so obvious likely involve groups that we do closely identify with: -- Many aspects of the military establishment -- The KKK and other white supremacist organizations -- Raising children under the threat of pain or punishment -- Religious persuasion under the threat of eternal damnation -- Penal systems and many aspects of law enforcement -- Street gangs and their various admirers, along with their systematic personal body-language -- Many aspects of educational institutions -- Many of the activities of anti-abortion groups -- Some political campaign advertising, especially nearer to an election day -- Many forms of persuasion used by politicians on their respective constituents -- Any kind of psychological or sociological conditioning which systematically relies on negative reinforcement Systematic negative reinforcement sometimes produces outcomes which are weighed to be an improvement over the original unsatisfactory condition. That is one reason it is used. Another reason it is used is because of a lack of clear thinking, in the throes of anger or frustration, without much if any creativity. It has been scientifically demonstrated that negative reinforcement is consistently inferior to positive reinforcement as regards behavioral outcomes. Thus, all forms of negative reinforcement would be best dispensed with on this basis. Attempting to dispense with negative reinforcement by calling it terrorism is, itself, a subtle type of negative reinforcement. Declaring war on it is not so subtle negative reinforcement. I don’t believe the “war on terror“ is an application of negative reinforcement that will ultimately improve the original condition -- the behavior of the group apart from our group. Furthermore, to say that we will never negotiate with terrorists is true, but completely redundant -- an unobvious truism. To view someone in completely pejorative terms, and to repeatedly and publicly refer to them that way, practically guarantees that genuine negotiation is impossible. It’s not that we won’t negotiate with terrorists, it’s that we can’t. So, a necessary condition -- a condition of practical impossibility -- is merely being recast into a statement of honor, as if there was some freedom of choice on our part. On the contrary, as long as we view someone from such a utterly pejorative perspective, we have relinquished freedom of choice as to how we will continue to relate to them. Negotiation is off the table the moment that we view them, call them, terrorists... but not necessarily because we have made an honorable choice.
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