A new ‘war on terror’ is declared

I just got around to reading the National Strategy for Countering Domestic Terrorism, which was released a couple of weeks ago.  It is alarming.

There is no reason to think that the coming domestic war on terrorism will end any better than the George W. Bush administration’s global war on terrorism.

The threat, according to the document, is not primarily from terrorist organizations, such as the Ku Klux Klan or al Qaeda, but from lone individuals, such as recent mass shooters, and ad hoc groups, such as the pro-Trump protesters on Jan. 6.

To protect society, it is not only necessary to suppress and disrupt inflammatory material on the Internet that might inspire violent action, but to conduct a society-wide educational campaign to counteract terrorist and pro-violence propaganda.

It is necessary to be aware of “inconography, symbology and phaseology” used by many domestic violent extremists, and to use “data-driven guidance” on how to identify them.

This could be used to develop watch lists of “known and suspected” terrorists to bar them from sensitive employment or put them on no-fly lists.

All this requires a coordinated effort involving federal, state, local, tribal and territorial governments, but also bringing in civil society, the technology sector, academia and friendly foreign governments.

The document is full of boiler-plate language about the need to respect freedom of speech and other constitutional rights, but I do not take this seriously.  There are too many blurrings of distinctions between beliefs and deeds, between violence and nonviolent civil disobedience, and between actual and potential lawbreaking.

I recall the eclipse of civil liberties in the post 9/11 era, and I also am aware of how government and social media companies work together in the present era to suppress dissident opinion.

Interestingly, the document does not propose any legislation.  As I myself and others have pointed out, the legal and administrative machinery for dictatorship already exists.  All that is needed is to activate it. 

The anonymous authors of the National Strategy do not present data about extremist threats, such as the number of violent incidents or casualties, but only scattered examples, plus generalizations based on assessments of non-specified intelligence and law enforcement agencies.

One important perceived extremist threat is hatred of minorities, including persons of color, immigrants, Jews, Muslims, other religious minorities, women and girls, LGBTQI+ persons and others.  The threat of violence can be explicit or “lurking in ideologies” of racial purity or cleansing.

Another important perceived threat is anti-government or anti-authority ideologies.  They include not only self-proclaimed militias who violently resist government authority, but also are violent anarchist extremists, who hate capitalism, and violent sovereign citizen extremists, who think they have a right to disobey laws.

The authors also see potential danger in pro- and anti-abortion violent extremists, animal rights and environmental violent extremists, and involuntary celibate violent extremists, as well as extremists who don’t fit in any category.

Interestingly, “black identity extremism” is not mentioned, although this has been a top priority of the FBI.  Does this reflect the government’s actual priorities, or is this just a means to make its plan acceptable to a certain American political faction?  I suspect the latter, but a police state with a “woke” exception would still be a police state.

Extremist violence is, of course, a very bad thing.  But with all due respect, I don’t see any of these categories of people as capable of overthrowing the government.  Nor do I see any of them as more of a threat to public order than they were 10 or 20 years ago.

I most certainly do not see the necessity for a big coordinated campaign to protect the public from misinformation and wrong ideas, as if government and corporate officialdom could be trusted to be arbiters of truth and falsehood.

Back in 2013, a Scottish science fiction writer named Charles Stross noticed how the USA and UK were becoming more like police states, and speculated that “the clamp-down on dissent, migration, and freedom of expression … … constitutes the visible expression of a pre-emptive counter-revolution.”

I think that’s the correct explanation.  The U.S. political and economic system isn’t working.  Reformers working through the democratic process are continually blocked and frustrated.  What they are able to accomplish is too little, too late.  The same with nonviolent civil disobedience.  

As President Kennedy said years ago, those who make peaceful revolution impossible make violent revolution inevitable.

The next big crisis—an economic collapse, another pandemic, a climate-related emergency—could well set the stage for revolt, from the nationalist right, the radical left or both at the same time.  Ideologies that are of minor importance now could gain large followings.

Our police, military and intelligence agencies foresee this.  They are preparing for a coming crisis in the only way they know how.


National Strategy for Countering Domestic Terrorism PDF.

Who is a “terrorist” in Biden’s America? by Whitney Webb for The Last American Vagabond.

Biden Classifies Opposition to ‘Capitalism and Corporate Globalization’ As Extreme by Thomas Neuburger for God’s Spies.

Inside Biden’s new “domestic terrorism” strategy by Kit Knightly for OffGuardian. [Added 7/4/2021]

Warning Against Further Erosion of Civil Liberties, Rep. Rashida Tlaib Leads Charge Against New Domestic Terrorism Laws by Kenny Stancil for Common Dreams.  From January.

Who ordered “that”? by Charles Stross (from 2013)

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5 Responses to “A new ‘war on terror’ is declared”

  1. davidgmarkham Says:

    Hi Phil:

    I share your concerns. Thank you for articulating the problem.

    Polarization has always been a problem historically not only in the United States but in may other democratic countries as well. This phenomenon is a symptom of an ethnocentric level of consciousness which degenerates at times to an egocentric level which manifests in violence.

    What is needed is a further evolution of our society to a world centric and possible integral level but it will take further spiritual development of at least 10% of the members of a society to provide the yeast in the dough.

    I have hoped that UU could be the yeast in the dough but as you point out in your articles on the Gadfly papers it seems that the same dynamic has infected UU as well. However, there are a few of us around who can and do speak to a broader view on the well being of society and humanity. We have to keep the light shining.

    Thank you for all that you do.


    • philebersole Says:

      David, just to make myself clear, I’m not opposed to polarization. I just think we Americans are polarized around the wrong things, and accept consensus on things we should be fighting over – the forever wars, for one thing; the control of government by high finance, for another.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. davidgmarkham Says:

    Hi Phil:

    Good point. Polarization has its place at a certain stage of development. After all our minds work by dichotomization – the old yin and yang. However, we forget that the yin and yang are both parts of the whole and what is often needed is a systems view.

    Evolution requires differentiation in its move to the next stage of development. So the polarization is the first stage of progress. This differentiation can be regressive to maintain the status quo when the stance is to conserve the ways of the past or it can be progressive expanding the boundaries to transform.

    The potential problem in the crack down on “domestic terrorism” is that those leading the crack down won’t distinguish the two sides of the same disruption. To tell the difference takes a maturity that most governmental officials and representatives don’t possess. This is where religious and educational organizations can be helpful assuming they possess more mature leadership themselves. As you point out in your essay on the Gadfly papers, it seems that the UUA and most UU congregations are sorely lacking in this regard although there are few mature people still sitting in the pews perhaps.

    Let’s hope so for the good of us all.


    • philebersole Says:

      The problem is the crackdowns, not “failure to distinguish the two sides of the same disruption.”

      I don’t believe in crackdowns on political opponents, no matter how misguided those political opponents are.

      A society based on the rule of law distinguishes between thoughts and acts. A society that respects freedom of speech and of the press does not censor or punish people for the peaceable expression of their honest opinion.

      I understand the argument that right-wing extremism is hateful and wrong, but left-wing extremism is understandable if sometimes over-the-top.

      I also understand the conservative argument that says the same thing, but in reverse.

      A free society allows for the peaceable expression of honest opinion by all.

      Besides, censorship of right-wing extremism and so-called hate speech doesn’t work.


      David, I apologize if I mis-characterized your point of view, but this is something I needed to make clear regardless.


  3. Vincent Says:

    What you describe is very scary of course but its context is even more so. Horror versus horror. No one can win.

    Concidentally I’ve received this link https://www.thealternative.org.uk/dailyalternative/2021/6/28/alternative-editorial-soulful-politics from a site I subscribe to. Surely there’s a path out of horror and into hope.


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