Obama Is The Real Terrorist!?

Obama Is The Real Terrorist!?

This photograph was taken during the Harlem anti-war protests on the day Secretary of State John Kerry made the case for military intervention in Syria.

This photo begs the discussion of two distinct topics. The first is freedom of speech. Most people, when they see a bold statement or sign, such as the one pictured, have a reaction like, "You see! Only in the U.S. can you call your president a terrorist and get away with it". Sadly, this is only one half of the picture. Yes, you can call the president a terrorist, but on serious issues that matter, the freedom of speech is a lot more restricted. For example, the Occupy Movement was forcefully harassed, infiltrated and evicted by the police; They were also marginalized and ridiculed by the mainstream media. Any meaningful expression of corporate takeover seems to be out of the bounds of "free speech". The movement, from it's inception, was regarded by the FBI and other security agencies as a terrorist threat, despite the fact that the same agencies evaluated Occupy to be a nonviolent movement.

The second issue is the use of language to sway and control public opinion. No one seems to agree on a clear definition of what terrorism is, yet, it has sadly become one of the most used and most abused words in the recent years. Much like George Orwell's observations on the misuse of the word Fascism, clearly, the word "terrorism" is also losing its meaning. "Terrorism" is in the movies, on TV series, in magazines, on talk-shows, and even in casual conversations. It is one thing when the general public uses it indiscriminately, but a dead-serious issue when states misuse it to persecute and suppress any dissent - valid or invalid.

Alfred Korzybski, the Polish-American philosopher-scientist who developed the theory of general semantics, stressed that "the word is not the thing". Unfortunately, too often we confuse "the description with the described". It does not matter what label we attribute to something, the label is not the thing. Is President Obama a terrorist? Is it relevant what we call him? What do words like terror, terrorism and terrorist even mean? Here are a couple of "alternative" definitions:

"You know what terrorist means? It is a media word to keep you from thinking. Terrorists are poor people who are fighting. Rich people don't fight, they hire governments to get armies to fight for them. Poor people have to go out and do their own fighting, so they are called terrorists. When a government says 'we don't negotiate with terrorists', they are saying 'we don't negotiate with poor people'."
-- Robert Anton Wilson, The Map Is Not the Territory: The Future Is Not the Past (1997), p. 22

"What we in America call terrorists are really groups of people that reject the international system..."
-- Henry Kissinger, AKBank convention speech (2007).
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