Propaganda 104 Supplemental: Vizzini and “Terrorism” (Case Study) UPDATED

551px-Humpty_Dumpty_TennielBy Gene Howington

“When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’

’The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’

’The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master — that’s all.”

― Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass

As previously discussed, language depends upon words having commonly accepted agreed upon meanings. One of the key tactics of propagandists is mislabeling. Humpty Dumpty knew all about the power and purpose of mislabeling.

To refresh your memory or in case you are new to the series:

Name Calling and Labeling/Mislabeling – Although both name calling and labeling tactics are common, I think they are best understood when consolidated under the term of “mislabeling”. Labeling in and of itself has utility. To return to the wisdom of Marcus Aurelius, ask of each and every thing what is it in itself. To that end, an accurate label is a summation, the encapsulation of an idea. Where we run into trouble is when labels are misapplied or used solely to conjure a negative implicit or explicit relationship. When someone engages in this tactic (or is the victim of it), look first at the denotation of the word(s) being used. Are they accurate? It is not name calling when you describe someone acting in a sociopathic manner a sociopath.  It is merely accurate if that is consistent with the behavior the person in question displays. If the label being applied is inaccurate, then that is your first hint that it is mislabeling and the speaker’s motivation should be suspect. A good way to deal with this tactic is to turn it back upon the user either directly or by deconstruction and clarification; make definitions – preferably objective definitions from credible sources – work for you and against them. This tactic is common on blogs and this counter-tactic is best suited for such an interactive environment, however, it is practiced elsewhere in media.  For example, anti-abortion articles that refer to doctor who provide that legal and necessary service as “murderers”.

Even if the denotation of the word or words is accurate, ask yourself if there is a negative connotation to the word being used? For example, in modern American English, saying someone is a black man is an accurate term if that man is indeed ethnically black and would not raise an eyebrow under normal circumstances (context matters, but we are talking about labels only at this time). Now consider if that same speaker used the term “colored man”? If you stick to the strictest meaning of the word “colored” as defined by Webster’s (“having color”), then this may be an accurate label as applied to a black man. However, if you consider the broader meaning of the word “colored”, you’d know that using that word to describe persons of races other than the white or of mixed race is often – in my experience always – considered offensive. It carries a negative connotation of diminution, an implication of inferiority based on skin color. Of course, this is nonsense, but it is an example of a connotation being put to bad ends. This should also lead you to question the speaker’s motives.

Mislabeling is quite dangerous when effective because its relationship to argumentation. In an argument, one of the basic ways to gain control of the argument is to gain control of the definition of terms. It is a sophist tactic and it can be turned on its head just so long as you are mindful to correct the impression by reasserting the proper meaning of words and terms in use. Sometimes this requires repetition as a form of reinforcement as repetition is one of the adjunct tactics propagandists use to make their mislabeling stick in public discourse and the minds of the unwary. Recent tragic events have unfortunately provided a case study in the basic tactic of mislabeling.  Those doing the mislabeling? Government officials. Those propagating the mislabeling unchallenged? The mainstream media. The word in question? “Terrorism”. A word defined by the OED as “[t]he unofficial or unauthorized use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims.” Keep that definition in mind as we look at some current events.

Here’s the timeline:

June 17, 2015: A mass shooting takes place at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in downtown Charleston, South Carolina. Nine people were killed and a tenth victim survived. The gunman is a young Caucasian male with a Christian background named Dylann Roof.

June 19, 2015: Department of Justice spokeswoman Emily Pierce says “The department is looking at this crime from all angles, including as a hate crime and as an act of domestic terrorism.”

June 19, 2015: Roof was charged with nine counts of murder and one count of possession of a firearm during the commission of a violent crime.

June 20, 2017:  FBI director James Comey says that while his agency is investigating the murder of nine people in Charleston, S.C. as a hate crime, it is not an act of terrorism. Citing a lack of political motivation for his actions, alleged shooter Dylann Roof is not a domestic terrorist. He went on to say, “Terrorism is act of violence done or threatens to in order to try to influence a public body or citizenry so it’s more of a political act and again based on what I know so more I don’t see it as a political act. Doesn’t make it any less horrific the label but terrorism has a definition under federal law.”

June 20, 2017: A Facebook page is discovered with a manifesto written by Roof. In it, he states clearly defined political and social motivations for wanting to target blacks and is seen in photographs with various symbols associated with racist hate groups and spitting on an American flag.

July 7, 2015: Roof is indicted on three additional charges of attempted murder, one for each person who survived the shooting.

NOTE: The legal definition cited is compatible with the standard English definition of the word. To this day, Roof’s crime is not being investigated as nor has he been charged with domestic terrorism.

July 16, 2015: Four Marines are killed and three others injured when Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez, a young man of Arabic male with an Islamic background, opens fire on two  military facilities in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Abdulazeez is killed in the exchange. As of this writing, no motive for the crime has been uncovered or announced in the media.

July 16, 2015: According to U.S. Attorney Bill Killian, authorities will investigate the shooting as an act of domestic terrorism.

July 19, 2015: Reuters reports the following –

“CHATTANOOGA, Tenn., July 18 (Reuters) – Hours before the Tennessee shooting that killed five U.S. servicemen, the suspected gunman texted his close friend a link to a long Islamic verse that included the line: “Whosoever shows enmity to a friend of Mine, then I have declared war against him.”

His friend thought nothing of it at the time, but now wonders if it was a clue to Thursday’s rampage in Chattanooga, which has re-ignited concerns about the radicalization of young Muslim men.

“I didn’t see it as a hint at the time, but it may have been his way of telling me something,” the friend told Reuters on Saturday. He requested anonymity for fear of a backlash.

While a firm connection between the 24-year-old suspect and radical Islam has not been established, the shooting follows a series of attacks or thwarted attacks in the United States and other countries by Muslims claiming to be inspired by Islamic State or other militant groups.

Abdulazeez returned from a trip to Jordan in 2014 concerned about conflicts in the Middle East and the reluctance of the United States and other countries to intervene, according to two friends who knew him since elementary school.” (Emphasis Added)

The suspect, Mohammod Youssuf Abdulazeez, a Kuwaiti-born naturalized U.S. citizen, was killed in a gunfight with police. The FBI is investigating the attack as an act of terrorism, but said it was premature to speculate on the gunman’s motive.

Your homework, should you accept it, is to monitor the news from Chattanooga and see if the definition of terrorism is proper or mislabeled as Abdulazeez’s motives become public knowledge. Will circumstances and political expediency and/or spin apply with an Islamic male of Arabic descent as they did to a Christian male of Caucasian descent? Will it matter that the victims in the later crime were soldiers and the victims of the previous crimes were black civilian citizens?

But that word they keep using? Terrorism. I’m not sure it means what they think it means in all situations. The definition the government uses and the media propagates seems rather flexible. After all, these are the kind of people who would start a land war in Asia and bet against a Sicilian when death is on the line. It certainly doesn’t seem to be applied properly in Roof’s case.

Which application of the word is “master”?

Also note the pattern in the Reuters piece of July 19 of “disclaimer/association”. This is a statement that may just be cautious journalism which is just good practice. However, such a framing is not unknown among propagandists either. It is a tuned form of the guilt by association fallacy in that context. Is that what is going on or is Reuters doing their duty and hedging until more facts are discovered? Personally, I think it is just good journalistic practice, but reasonable minds could disagree. Paranoid minds would most likely disagree.

What do you think?

Source(s): Reuters, KTUL, Huffington Post

About Gene Howington

I write and do other stuff.
This entry was posted in Christianity, Fundamentalism, Government Propaganda, Islam, Media, Murder, Propaganda, Racism, War on "Terror". Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to Propaganda 104 Supplemental: Vizzini and “Terrorism” (Case Study) UPDATED

  1. po says:

    Gene, you have part of your answer in this statement I just received via email:

    ISNA’s Statement on Chattanooga Shooting

    (Plainfield, IN 7/16/15) The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), the oldest and largest American Muslim umbrella organization, today condemned the deadly attack in Chattanooga, Tennessee that took the life of 4 military personnel and injured at least 3 others include a police officer.
    In a statement, ISNA President Azhar Azeez said:

    “We wholeheartedly condemn the horrific actions of the shooter who claimed the lives of US military personnel. These violent acts are unjustifiable and are a gross violation of the spirit of Ramadan, a month of charity, mercy and forgiveness . We offer our condolences, support and prayers to the families of the victims.”

    SEE: ISNA’s Position on Terrorism and Religious Extremism

    The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) is the largest and oldest Islamic umbrella organization in North America. Its mission is to foster the development of the Muslim community, interfaith relations, civic engagement, and better understanding of Islam.
    Propaganda is not effective until the targeted individual/group, starts acting “shifty”.
    This reflects the fact that the target assumes the mislabeling and reacts one of two ways:
    1- Does not challenge the label for fear of enhanced scrutiny, thereby earning it.
    2- Becomes pro-active in condemning situations where it fears label will be assigned to them, thereby assuming it.
    In both cases, the target is playing defensive, which makes the debate always about what it isn’t, rather than what it is, and politics have shown us that fighting a label, one is always playing catch up.
    We see it in the black lives matter movement (all lives matter/ reverse racism), the Iran issue (anything related to Iran), and the terrorism issue (a muslim problem).
    Twitter is abuzz today with both the hum of the pitchfork raising folks, chanting their mantra of “deport the muslims”, and the meek, apologetic lament of the latter fighting against the dreaded label.

    What scares the crap out of me however, is the blatant manner with which the propaganda is done. There is no subtlety in it. Rather, it is brazen and frenzed, and I knew we were in big trouble when Frank Luntz, the word coiner of the Bush administration, was feted on news tv for his ability to make words mean something else.

  2. Since this story is almost in my back yard, I have been following it off and on all day. Truth be told, there was no way to avoid it. Story dominated television and local media outlets. Little is known about the shooter, other than his name. Late today, two women from his home were led away in handcuffs by uniformed officers. No word on charges, if any, or even the reason for the detention. From the telephoto camera shots, they were clearly wearing middle east attire, including the Hajib head scarf.

    Law enforcement told media today the shooter was not on their radar at all. Not on the no-fly list, not on anybody’s watch list, and this attack came with zero warning. Nobody in Federal or local law enforcement had any reason to suspect him of anything. He had a degree in engineering from the University of Tennessee.

    My question is this. With NSA, the CIA and all the other alphabet agencies vacuuming up all our communications, why didn’t they know? This email will go into their database for no apparent reason, yet they missed him. I read a few days ago that the IRS can even tap into emails without a warrant, thanks to a loophole in the law.

    Hey, NSA! I am looking at you. Why the hell didn’t you pick up on this guy with your vaunted data scooping program, Prism, or whatever you are calling it these days. If it is so great, and needed so badly, I am calling bullshit. You can stop patting yourself on the back.

  3. The brazenness nature of modern propaganda is one of the reasons I started this series in the first place, po. To me, when I see it in action, it lights up like neon and thus has minimal effect. To gain that relative immunity, all one needs to do is learn to understand what it is that you are seeing. If this series helps just one person learn to see how the world is being pulled over their eyes? Then to quote another piece of political propaganda, “Mission Accomplished”.

  4. And the spin control starts . . .

    Emphasis added. Via

    The FBI’s Knoxville Field Office, along with the Chattanooga Police Department and other law enforcement partners, are working jointly to investigate today’s shootings at a military recruitment center and a reserve center in Chattanooga, Tennessee in which four individuals were killed and three injured. The shooter, Mohammod Youssuf Abdulazeez, 24, is also deceased. While it would be premature to speculate on the motives of the shooter at this time, we will conduct a thorough investigation of this tragedy and provide updates as they are available.

  5. Note the pattern of “say it/retract it” to both stories.

    That is because, in part, it is easier to create an impression than create a reversed message later. The mind often tends to hold on to the first information it gets, poorly integrating updates. This is rooted in our desire for certainty in the face of uncertainty. We fix ideas quite often, but changing our minds or keeping an open mind requires effort. Even if they don’t prosecute Roof as a terrorist and they don’t find that Abdulazeez had political motives, they still gain the benefit of “implied terrorism” to justify both their existence and their continued unconstitutional trampling of citizen’s rights.

  6. In the meantime, I have been attempting to wade through David Hoffman’s 542 page report on how high ranking officials of the American Psychological Association allegedly aided and abetted the torture program undertaken by Darth Dick Cheney and his minions in the CIA and military. In addition to the main report of over five hundred pages, there are five binders of exhibits. Those include emails, testimony, correspondence and other miscellany. I haven’t even had time to download all the binders. Binder #2 alone is 1,500 pages in a PDF file. Took forever to download.

    The spin started almost immediately. For example, Dr. Steve Behnke, the former ethics chief of APA was fired almost before the ink was dry on Hoffman’s signature. So what does Behnke do? He hires Louis Freeh, former FBI director as his lawyer. Someone sent me an email saying Behnke had made a statement. After reading the article in The Guardian, I find that it is not Dr. Behnke speaking, but his mouthpiece, Louis Freeh. Plausible deniability. I don’t expect either one of them making the talk show rounds anytime soon.

    Other psychologists named have responded, as well as several organizations representing psychologists. We shall have to wait and see what happens at the APA convention in August. I am not going, but have a feeling security will be tight. There are a lot of truly angry people. In an organization that large, there are bound to be some extremist nutcases, and no telling what they may try to do.

  7. bron98 says:

    if it looks like a duck it usually is.

    Why can’t you call it what it is?

    Hopefully we will do away with gun free zones after this. It is ridiculous,in this environment, to have unarmed “targets” working in unprotected locations.

  8. Bron,
    Gun free zones are a good idea for a very large number of reasons. If everyone were extremely well trained and disciplined, I would have less of a problem. Fact is, way too many people have permits that should not be allowed anywhere near a firearm.

    Earlier today, Col. Jack Jacobs and a couple of other experts responded to questions about arming recruiters. Col. Jacobs is no stranger to what a firearm will do. He did not find his Medal of Honor in a box of Cracker Jacks. He pointed out that using firearms in an urban environment is far different from military combat training. It is not even about marksmanship. It is about when and how to shoot when there are civilians around.

    He also pointed out that police train and train for urban environment weapons use. The discussion didn’t go this direction, but should have. Even with police training, we see way too many civilian deaths and injuries due to misuse or inappropriate use of firearms by law enforcement officers.

    If you want an example, look at the number of hunters wounded or killed every year. If one carries a firearm, two things absolutely must be in place. First, be a good shot. Second, have good judgement and discipline. The first requires practice and a lot of it. The second cannot be taught.

    I screen law enforcement officers before they are hired. I have missed some problem officers, but have also managed to intercept far more that were going to be a danger to themselves and others.

    So no, the answer is not more guns. The answer is going to be far more complex than that. Col. Jacobs suggested that some duty stations were better suited for having armed staff than others. Seems to me than hardening potential targets just a bit might be a better idea, and cheaper too. Better glass, or very little glass, just for starters.

  9. po says:

    Chuck says:
    Law enforcement told media today the shooter was not on their radar at all. Not on the no-fly list, not on anybody’s watch list, and this attack came with zero warning. Nobody in Federal or local law enforcement had any reason to suspect him of anything. He had a degree in engineering from the University of Tennessee.

    My question is this. With NSA, the CIA and all the other alphabet agencies vacuuming up all our communications, why didn’t they know? This email will go into their database for no apparent reason, yet they missed him. I read a few days ago that the IRS can even tap into emails without a warrant, thanks to a loophole in the law.

    “A U.S. official told the Associated Press that Abdulazeez had not been on the radar of federal law enforcement before Thursday’s shooting.
    But also added:
    His father had been investigated several years ago for “possible ties to a foreign terrorist organization” and added to the U.S. terrorist watch list, according to a report in the New York Times, but that probe did not surface information about Abdulazeez, the paper said.
    This means that yet another case of “domestic terror” has involved someone either investigated by the FBI, entrapped by an active FBI operation where FBI investigators posed as terrorist leaders and walked a patsy through every step of a terrorist attack before arresting them and thus “foiling” the attack, or linked directly to someone the FBI was investigating.

    Ironically, the immense omnipresent police state the West has erected to combat the so-called “terrorist” threat, including the total surveillance of all communications online and across all telecommunication networks, at home and abroad under the National Security Agency (NSA) will only expand, despite it once again apparently failing, and despite attempts by special interests on Wall Street and in Washington to claim this latest attack “again” somehow circumvented these already sweeping measures.”

    Regarding the APA issue, Chuck, Democracy Now has covered it since the beginning, and as recently as this week with one/two of the whistleblowers.

  10. Po,
    I agree completely. As for Democracy Now, I was aware they had several of the critics of the APA as guests over the past several years. I just hope those APA members and officers who were not in the loop aren’t smeared. Given recent events, we have to worry about the slightly unhinged lone wolf who might resort to violence. I am aware from inside sources the amount of hate mail going to the APA front office has reached epic proportions. People are scared, and with good reason. The SOBs who sold out to Cheney and his henchmen have managed to ruin lives and reputations, and may all but destroy APA. All for money and power. The very definition of psychopathy.

  11. Chuck, re. your reference to Col. Jack Jacobs, do you have a link?

  12. JoF,
    I saw Col. Jacobs being interviewed on MSNBC. He was asked about arming recruiters in a busy urban setting, explaining his concerns in his reply. He is a military consultant for NBC, and is often on the news. I can’t remember who the other expert was in that same interview, but they both seemed to be on the same page with their concerns.

  13. JoF,
    That is the clip. Jack Jacobs has been on more than one program, but those comments by the Colonel are what I recall.

  14. It all sounds so depressingly familiar, the media latching on to something, anything, to avoid talking about how it is far too easy for people to get guns.

    Four Marines Dead: Semi-Automatic Assault Weapons Are a Security Problem for the U.S.
    Juan Cole – Truthdig

    After Sandy Hook, the National Rifle Association (NRA), which is the publicity arm of a handful of big gun manufacturers who make billions selling military-style weapons to civilians, blamed video games. After the Charleston, S.C., black church shootings last month, the Confederate flag became the issue. Despite the Colorado jury’s rejection of Holmes’ insanity plea, his case was reported through the frame of his mental illness. Initial reporting on Abdulazeez in the Chattanooga shooting focused on his praise of jihad. One television commentator suggested bulletproof doors for military recruitment offices.

    In other words, anything to avoid talking about the real issue, which is the startlingly easy availability of extremely deadly and powerful weapons.

    via Juan Cole: Four Marines Dead: Semi-Automatic Assault Weapons Are a Security Problem for the U.S. – Juan Cole – Truthdig.

  15. pete says:

    That’s if you acquire your weapons legally.

    and does anyone really think Chattanooga Tennessee is a gun free zone?

Comments are closed.