Defining Terrorism has proven virtually impossible.
“One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.”
Terrorism is the systematic use of terror, especially as a means of coercion. In the international community, however, terrorism has no universally agreed, legally binding, criminal law definition. […] An abiding characteristic is the indiscriminate use of violence against noncombatants for the purpose of gaining publicity for a group, cause, or individual.
On the night of April 22, 2012, I heard a conservative radio talk-show host, “Bill Cunningham – The Great American” (that’s what he calls himself), suggest that boycotts are “economic terrorism” and his guest agreed with Bill that to employ them is “wrong”, and they should not be used. Typical of political propaganda, their problem is a hyperbolic misuse of the concept of terrorism with intent to mislead. This appears to be one of the newer Republican propaganda lines, as a number of the conservative radio talk-show hosts seem to be “occupying” the same rhetoric.
Bill’s precise application was to recent circumstances of boycotts affecting businesses affiliated with ALEC. ALEC claims to be “a nonpartisan membership association for conservative state lawmakers …”, a bit of an oxymoron, I think, especially since it developed out of the Reagan Administration, although, given how the two major parties have essentially merged, perhaps “nonpartisan” fits. Regardless, some major companies responded to the boycott threats.
I recently read the governor of Vermont has apparently surrendered to Monsanto, suggesting it would “burden” Vermonters with costs of “legal challenges” from Monsanto, if he were to sign a bill that would require that food producers properly and thoroughly label their products regarding content of genetically modified organisms (GMO). As reported by Alternet.com:
But while supporters were emailing and phoning and signing, Governor Shumlin was sending out a canned response to the thousands of supporters who emailed his office. In the Governor's own words:
Thank you for contacting me about labeling genetically modified foods. I agree with those who advocate for clear labeling of genetically modified foods. GMO labeling makes sense and would give Vermonters key information about their food choices. However, we know from attempts to pass similar legislation in the past that such a requirement would not stand up to federal legal scrutiny. I don't think it is fair to ask Vermonters to bear the burden of the cost of those legal challenges...
The governor agrees that the labeling is needed, but insists that Monsanto can outlast the state financially in threatened lawsuits. The first question to ask – and answer – is why Monsanto objects to labeling indicating their product as an ingredient in food. The governor’s statement raises another question. Since similar labeling laws already exist, why would enforcing one more questionable ingredient’s listing be so different, so unique, that “such a requirement would not stand up to federal legal scrutiny”? The most reasonable conclusion I find is that the federal government represents Monsanto before it represents average citizens.
In Europe, Monsanto’s products have been banned. With regards to economic terrorism, consider the U.S. reactions to these bans:
In recent years, France and several other European countries banned Monsanto's MON-810 corn and similar genetically modified food crops. In late 2007, the U.S. ambassador to France recommended "moving to retaliation" against France and the European Union in an attempt to fight the French ban and changes in European policy toward genetically modified crops, according to a U.S. government diplomatic cable obtained by WikiLeaks. The U.S. ambassador to France recommended retaliation to cause "some pain across the EU."
In the case of GMOs, corporations producing these products make the first strike by putting harmful, or at the very least, questionable ingredients into their food products. For citizens to ask their government to merely require these ingredients be listed on the labels of products they buy is not terrorism. For these corporations to then threaten to sue the state, knowing the state will be unlikely to financially sustain an ongoing legal battle, is terrorism. For citizens to then band together and decide not to buy products affiliated with these corporations and producers is not terrorism; it is defending themselves against corporate terrorism.
Do corporations, advertisers and marketers have no political interests? Is it reasonable to assume they don’t back politicians with an agenda that benefits them? Is it worse to be subjugated to a government “of the people, for the people and by the people”, or to be subjugated to an unregulated mob of greedy wealthy elite capitalists and corporatists who care nothing for the plight of those who serve?
Like so many other issues in America, it seems obvious that, once again, while the rest of the world recognizes a dangerous situation and attempts to deal with it, the American government aligns itself with corporate-sponsored economic terrorism to undermine other nations, and even the health of its own citizenry. High I.Q. or a particular brilliant mind isn’t necessary to see this is not only a clearer case of economic terrorism, but a more vicious case, as well, and based not in promoting a healthier environment, but rather in promoting corporate profits at the expense of other nations, the health of their citizenry, and the health of America’s own citizenry.
This is a perfect example of what happens when people decide that a word or a concept means whatever they want rather than what it actually represents. If one follows capitalism’s logical course of evolution, and allows the same kind of definitional distortions, one arrives at a point where “terrorism” – in one form or another – is one of its primary inevitabilities. Profit is the primary tenet of capitalism, which means one person must disadvantage another in one way or another. The idea that one party is willingly disadvantaged by the other does not mitigate the structural characteristic that preys on human weakness.
When capitalist zealots like Bill-the-great-American decry tactics like boycotts as economic terrorism, they confuse “terrorism” with “social politics”, and they miss the point that they are, in essence, simultaneously ignoring and decrying the fact that capitalism promotes human weaknesses. After all is said and done, what, exactly, has brought us to this precipice we currently face? None other than economic terrorism has brought us here; terrorism perpetrated by American government colluding with American corporations against other nations and against American citizens, all in the name of profits for the few at the expense of the many.
A boycott essentially represents a refusal to align with a particular act by not using services or products. Boycotts are different from physically interfering with others using a service or a product. How is this any different than refusing to buy a product due to high pricing? Is this not the very essence of “free market” economics? If one person’s means of profit is damaging another’s livelihood, is it terrorism for consumers being injured to refuse to support the business that is supporting the institution supporting the injurious actions?
We’ve seen clear examples of this kind of terrorism recently, such as the Vatican’s chastisement of The Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), an organization representing a vast majority of nuns in the US, for “focusing its work too much on poverty and economic injustice, while keeping ‘silent’ on abortion and same-sex marriage.” The Church aligns itself with the political party that most clearly stands in opposition to some of the most basic tenets of Jesus’ teachings, morality spanning eons since before the time of Jesus, and common decency and directly demeans its own members who support those tenets. It’s easy to see the similarity between this form of coercion from the church and that of Monsanto against the state of Vermont. Of course, this form of coercion and infiltration has been characteristic of the Catholic Church throughout its history from its earliest beginnings; this is nothing new.
“Bill Cunningham-the-Great-American” is “Bill Cunningham-the-Great-Hypocrite”. He should learn to distinguish between “terrorism” and “consumer activism”. So-called “free markets” are based on consumer activism, so to decry consumer activism by labeling it as terrorism is to decry the sacred cow of conservative right-wing zealots, FREE MARKETS. Oppose economic terrorism, but know what it is.