Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Fear Itself

While writing my paper I have come across a question that I hope you fine folks can help me with. My paper aims to argue that Marcus in Little Brother is actually a terrorist and I have found ample evidence to support this. However, I wonder if you personally would still consider someone a terrorist if their actions were terrorist like in nature, but this was not their original intent.
For example, Marcus only wants to prove that the Department of Homeland Security is flawed and immoral. He attempts to achieve this, however, through a series of pranks that are ultimately more harmful then anticipated. Since very few people are actually aware of his purpose, they become afraid of what is happening and link his actions to terrorism. So his original intent is misunderstood and has unforeseen consequences. Does that mean he should still be considered a terrorist?


Tristram said...

Good question. My only explanation would be that his actions did cause terror even if that wasn't his original intent. Hes a misunderstood terrorist.
Another way to look at his actions is to ask whether he means to terrorize Homeland Security or simply show they are immoral. He may not want to strike terror in society, but what about terrorizing DHS for its actions? Sorry if this is not much help, but good luck with the paper.

Laura said...

I am sure there are some people out there who commit terrorist acts just for the reaction, but most people who gain recognition as a terrorist have some sort of statement to make, as did Marcus. Technically, I think all terrorists could be labeled "misunderstood" to some degree. It all depends on whether you support their cause and/or methods. If someone is convinced that Americans are all bad people, all problems stem from America, and the killing of Americans will be rewarded, then they may choose to commit such atrocities as we have all seen, yet they, personally, feel they are just in their actions. Now, Marcus has targeted the DHS, and his methods are not nearly so lethal as what we have come to term terrorism, but he still causes mayhem in the lives of "innocents" just to make himself a more formidable opponent to his targeted enemy, the DHS. I am not making any claims as to his course of action being right or wrong, but I am saying that morality is relative. What is outwardly seen as terrorism, is vindication in the eyes of the terrorist(s).

What I find particularly interesting about the nature of terrorism is that it doesn't really seem to achieve its goal. In fact, it makes things harder on those who committed the acts because their malicious means beget stronger opposition. Marcus' case could have been brought to light by the journalist without him having to sabotage civilians in the meantime.

Ernest said...

I have issues with the term terrorism because it is such a nebulous thing and I'm not sure that there is an official definition that matches all of the various connotations that people have developed.
Marcus probably fits the basic meaning of the word in that he sparks fear* within a population. I don't think a lot of people would consider him a terrorist, though. He's a middle class white male who is fighting for truth and justice and the American Way(R); his profile screams the opposite of terrorist.
I guess my short answer is: maybe he is. Which is a totally unhelpful answer, but terrorism is hard for me to define. If he had failed at uncovering what the DHS had done or actually killed people, it might be easier to answer. As it stands now, I think it would be more apt to call him a popular upstart.

*I use fear here because terror is such a melodramatic word in this context that I couldn't bring myself to type it.

Mark Penner said...

This topic has particular resonance at the moment given the recent wikileaks scandal with Julian Assange. Princeton defines a terrorist as a person who is "a radical who employs terror as a political weapon." Using this definition I would argue that neither Marcus nor Assange are terrorists. It might be more accurate to describe them as anarcho-dissidents or some similar phrase.