Saturday, December 5, 2015

Let's Quit Calling Hateful Killers People Who Were "Radicalized"

Lately the media, acting like a galloping herd, likes to state over and over again that various Islamic extremists became "radicalized" in order to do the awful things they have done. And so the couple in San Bernardino were "radicalized". The shooters in Paris were "radicalized". We worry about normal devout Muslim people becoming "radicalized". 

It is an easy way to talk about a brain-washing conversion process, that takes normal people, possibly weak-minded or with psychopathic traits, and turns them into monsters. And yet, nobody said the Planned Parenthood shooter was "radicalized". We seem to save the term for violent extremists, usually of the type that we love to hate. The process seems to be reserved for Islamists and Leftists.

The Islamic State is an awful thing. Don't get me wrong. Their methods of recruitment are ingenious and prey upon weak minds that are susceptible to evil. But I find it curious that we use this notion of becoming "radicalized" to describe the followers of the most repugnant political movement since Fascism.

There are radicals and there are radicals. We have seen many fine "radical" journalists: Alex Cockburn, Izzy Stone, Glen Greenwald, Amy Goodman, Chris Hedges, Claud Cockburn, Jack Reed, Hunter Thompson: they all would fit easily into the term. We have many fine radical political commentators: Tariq Ali, Noam Chomsky, Ralph Nader, Doug Henwood, John Bellamy Foster.

Then there are the off the chart radicals, of the Left and the Right: you find them in the Anti-Vax Movement, or in the Libertarian tradition, in the Truthers and the Birthers. The kooks and the weirdoes.

I've heard Jesus called a "radical egalitarian" who practiced "radical non-violence". Would you say that his followers were "radicalized"?

We save the process of "radicalization" for those we hate. Mostly Leftists and Islamists.

Look at the Republican Party this year. Is there anybody out there saying that Donald Trump is "radicalizing" the party? After all, he is calling economic refugees "rapists" and calls for tracking and registering all Muslims in this country. How about the Tea Party? Do we say the local gun toting Obama Hater is a person who was radicalized? Why not?

Because we save the term for Leftists and Islamists.

Lenin said once: "Be as radical as reality". That's what real radicals try to do: Describe reality and complement that with a vision of something better. Radicals don't tinker; radicals create.

Ed Abbey almost single handedly created the Radical Environmental Movement. I fancy myself a Radical in many ways and I ascribe myself into a radical tradition that includes many thinkers that I admire. I find myself politically someplace between Ed Abbey and Che' Guevara.

We don't need to say "Radical Extremists" Just say violent Extremists. It is all in how you look at the use of violence, it isn't about your social criticism. We don't need to say the couple in San Bernardino were "radicalized". They were brainwashed into following a sick tradition that is willing to kill innocent people and abandon their own children.

Yes, we talk about the radical wings of both parties. It is a way of justifying the status quo. A radical critique is one that seeks truth. And it points to something better. Lenin (although certainly no saint) is right: reality is radical. And America has a fine Radical Tradition. A fine non-violent Radical Tradition. Let's not ruin that word.

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