By David Futrelle
“Stochastic terrorism,” as many of you know, is a way to terrify your enemies without getting your hands dirty, or even bothering to learn how to make a bomb or fire a gun.
It’s when someone says or publishes something nasty about someone they hate (or a group of such someones), knowing full well that there is a very good chance that their words will incite some unbalanced fanatic to physically assault or even kill the intended target.
Sometimes stochastic terrorists mention violence explicitly; other times it’s implicit. But the whole point of stochastic terrorism is to bring violence down on an enemy without having to do this violence oneself. It is, as one anonymous blogger has noted, a sort of “remote-control murder by lone wolf.”
Those who engage in stochastic terrorism generally do it with a wink and a nod, sometimes pretending it’s all a big joke, sometimes using dogwhistle language that gives them a certain degree of deniability when the gun or the bomb goes off for real.
For an unusually transparent example of stochastic terrorism, consider a rather alarming post that went up on The Daily Stormer yesterday. In the post, an anonymous Daily Stormer contributor who writes in a style strikingly similar to the site’s publisher Andrew Anglin offers some thoughts on the murder of five journalists at the Annapolis, Maryland Capital Gazette, rather theatrically urging his followers NOT to murder journalists themselves, all the while making abundantly clear that he would be pleased as punch if somehow a whole bunch of journalists were in fact murdered.
The writer who may be Anglin starts by describing the Capital Gazette as the “inevitable” result of media wickedness.
So someone finally shot up a newsroom. I’m surprised it has taken so long. … The media is an immensely powerful institution that is now explicitly geared toward bullying and destroying the lives of individuals. … The shooter at the Capital Gazette this week was not even alt-lite. He was just an ordinary person that got his life destroyed by a malicious journalist.
They cannot stop this from happening. As the media continues to abuse its position to hurt more and more little people, they’re going to find themselves in the crosshairs of an angry victim more often. This is Newton’s Third Law at work.
This is arguably stochastic terrorism right here, albeit of a particularly indirect sort — suggesting plainly that the journalists at the Capital Gazette (and journalists in general) deserve whatever “inevitable” violence comes their way.
But then Possibly Anglin gets more explicit. He starts with some not-altogether-convincing pleas to his followers to remain non-violent towards the media.
I would never endorse violence. None of you should go out and kill any journalists. None of you should encourage anyone to do it either.
He follows this by encouraging these same people to loudly and publicly endorse the murder of journalists if, you know, someone else were to do it.
What you do need to do, however, is push for the emotional normalization of violence against the media. When this kind of thing happens you need to go to everyone you know and say, “you know, I’d never kill any journalists myself, but I’d enthusiastically vote for any guy that says he’ll use state security services to do so.”
He then offers some tips so his readers can make their calls for murder sound more palatable to non-Nazis.
There are a number of dog whistles for Jews that you can express contempt bordering on the homicidal in public and still find normies on the street agreeing with you.
In Possibly Anglin’s mind, as you may have gathered, pretty much everyone he hates is either a Jew or a puppet of Jews.
You can say you feel that the media is contemptible and deserves vigorous extermination. You can say that you’d like to see lawyers and their families rounded up and put into camps, to a chorus of cheers of anyone that has ever interacted with the legal system. You can say that you value Internet freedom, and that when the YouTube censors found someone at their doorstep firing bullets at them, it set your soul aloft. You can say these things in public with a smile, often, and people will laugh and say, “if only.”
And then you can pull back the imaginary curtain to reveal that all these evil people who should be murdered (but not by you!) are all pawns of the, well, I think you know who he’s talking about.
After they absorb the message and the fire’s lit, you can tell them who Internet censors, journalists, and lawyers really are.
Not exactly subtle. But the Daily Stormer rarely is.
This is hardly the first time the writers at or readers of The Daily Stormer have made clear that their souls are indeed “set aloft” by the murder of their enemies.
After the murder of antifascist activist Heather Heyer in Charlottesville last year, Anglin and his readers competed to see who could post the most appaling meme mocking Heyer; in a post on the site, Anglin denounced the murdered woman as a “fat … slut” and a “drain on society.”
Earlier this year, when a disgruntled videomaker shot up YouTube headquarters before killing herself, the Daily Stormer declared that she was ” too good for this world” and encouraged readers to “Keep Meming the Free Speech Jihadist” to keep her memory alive.
This is stochastic terrorism at its crudest. And if it doesn’t lead directly to someone being murdered, it will certainly nudge many of Anglin’s readers closer to violence.
@Katamount, numerobis: All cops are the enemy. Every police force in the world was instituted to safeguard the elite in power, and anyone who may enter the police force with the intent to do good for other people will eventually be broken by the forced re-socialization that occurs in such a closed system of reaffirmation and antagonistic othering of the people that are not part of the organisation, or be forced out.
There are no good cops, they are not here to protect and serve, unless you are benefitting from the exploitative systems of oppression that we live under.
That’s a notion I cannot get behind. For all the troubles that the Toronto Police Service has, I was glad that Constable Ken Lam was there to arrest Alek Minassian on Poyntz Avenue that fateful April 23rd day. I’m also sure that despite accusations of bias against the LGBT community, the victims of Bruce McArthur are glad he’s no longer prowling the streets.
Don’t get me wrong, the aforementioned G20 riot (thanks for reminding me of that one, numerobis) is just the prominent Toronto example of police being deployed against any left-leaning threat to the status quo using over-harsh and brutal measures which happens all over the world. In far too many instances, militarized police are being used to put down and intimidate the political opposition of the rich and powerful and terrorize racial and sexual minorities, and that’s what needs to change. But we still need investigators and they’re part of the police service too.
That is why we need a different structure than the police as we know it.
But then, I am in favour of a very different structuring of our world in general, much of which will remove the root causes of many of the social ills that our current institutions are so ill-equipped to deal with in a meaningful and constructive fashion.
well I’m sure that because of bias against the LGBT community, the family of victims of Bruce McArthur are sad he prowled the streets as long as he did, taking as many as he did. tell me more how the victims feel however. I am impressed how you can speak for the dead.
I generally agree. The existing system is hopelessly corrupted by a hostile, adversarial, and all-too-often white-supremacist culture. On the other hand someone has to deal with a barroom brawl that exceeds the capacity of the bouncer to cope. Someone has to handle spur-of-the-moment crimes and violence, even in a world where no-one is motivated to commit premeditated crime — and that’s assuming we even can build such a world (but we certainly must try).
I’m just unsure what this structure would look like. The alternatives I’ve seen floated all have obvious flaws:
* Benevolent dictatorship/Platonic philosopher kings/etc. — we all know how that ends. First of all, it’s usually not 100% benevolent. The BD will have biases and their own ideas and follies, even with the best of intentions. And power corrupts. And their descendants and inheritors may be less benevolent, or become inbred. 6000 years of history militates against the “put one guy in charge to fix it all” approach. Engineering-wise it has the fatal flaw of having a single point of failure. And it’s what Trump supporters support, which alone is a giant red flag. Uh-uh, no way.
* State communism — been there, done that, got all kinds of Cold War era T-shirts. Doesn’t seem to work, partly because “power corrupts” and partly because “central planning doesn’t scale”.
* Tempered capitalism — what we already have. The least worst version has a strong safety net and a relatively genuinely-responsive-to-voters democracy, produced using proportional representation in a parliamentary system without a separately-elected president or other executive. The system in use in the present happiest-places-to-live, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Iceland, etc., this is likely a useful stepping stone, but not the final destination. For one thing it’s still corruptible, as we’ve seen recently, and in particular it’s susceptible to outside pressure coupled with internal capital strikes to force it to slowly morph into neoliberal laissez-faire. It might also prove fragile in the event of war hitting the region.
* Anarchy — A lot of starry-eyed idealists propose some variant of anarchy. The problem is, nature abhors a vacuum, and that especially seems to apply to a power vacuum. Someone will amass a bunch of money and a bunch of guns and start lording it over everyone else. I expect anarchy to be as unstable as a pencil balanced on its point, or a nebula on the verge of collapsing to form stars. The underlying dynamics more resemble the latter (although ultimately, both that and the pencil are gravitational instability). You get localized power accumulations nucleating and staking out fiefdoms, turf wars when these butt up against each other; early on it looks like Roaring 20s gang warfare in Chicago, and once the dust settles it looks like feudal France, dotted with pretty little kingdoms whose knights brutally put down revolts and still fight occasional skirmishes while wealth inequality quickly reaches levels that make the present US look like Sweden by comparison. And then there’s a famine and some clueless aristo says “Let them eat cake” and eventually we wind up right back here where we started, and archaeologists refer to the period of anarchy not as some utopia but as a Dark Age.
I can sketch what I think a solution would look like.
* First, it would have a high degree of decentralization. Most problems would be addressed locally, and all at the level appropriate to the scale of it. So, global warming would be a global matter, but a pothole in a street would be municipal, or even down to the neighborhood containing that street.
* Policing would tend to be local, with a few people who live in the neighborhood policing that neighborhood rather than a bunch of people appointed at a distant city hall in a city of millions who may not resemble much the locals of that neighborhood, in skin color or in outlook. I imagine these to be part-timers, analogous to volunteer firefighters, with normal non-policing day-jobs in many cases, so less of a cultural gap also separates them from the others nearby. There would have to be more professional police to deal with bombs, the armed-and-violent, and other situations beyond the volunteers to deal with; and limits on their powers and use, starting with “there must be a lethal weapon such as a gun or a bomb involved, a dead body already dropped, or at least all efforts at de-escalation have failed, before they are legally empowered to crack heads or make arrests.” They can’t be the first resort and they can’t be nigh-unaccountable. In fact, if a neighborhood votes in some way sufficiently widespread dissatisfaction with how the professional police handled an incident within that neighborhood, that should become a reprimand on the involved officers’ files, no further investigation and no rules-lawyering needed.
* Neighborhoods would vary in how well funded they were, as well as in needs (some need huge snow removal budgets, some need none, etc.) so there’d have to be some leveling. Transfer payments, perhaps, or other bolt-ons to capitalism as a way of allocating resources, at first, and later something non-capitalist.
* The future of work has to be considered here. There are two trajectories for per-capita productivity that I’ve seen strong, plausible arguments for: one, that it peaks and crashes once the fossil fuels are gone, and two, that it just keeps zooming up because renewables, robots, and eventually space resources. In the former case, we already have a solution that proved workable: unions for collective bargaining. In the latter case, most people in the future might not work. How should people be provided for? Where should people go? What should they do with this idle time? Basic income is one possibility, again a capitalism bolt-on. What should that morph into eventually? Another possibility is to avoid a growing jobless fraction by redistribution of labor itself: ever shorter workweeks, ever steeper pay scales for overtime above that, and ever higher minimum wages. Everyone works, but less and less over time.
* Transitioning to even these intermediate models is difficult in the presence of global capitalism’s race-to-the-bottom tendencies, where capital flight and capital strikes are a major issue. It will likely require (gasp) protectionism of some sort, not only against cheap imports (aka labor offshoring and exploitation of the poor in the untransitioned part of the world) but also against currency manipulation (nations that went “too socialist” have been punished by banksters engineering currency crises in the past) and real estate speculation by foreign owners. It may be necessary to abolish the idea of free flow of valuables and titles to valuables. This might been barriers even at subnational scale. The US has seen its midwest hollowed out and most of the valuables not bolted down, and even the titles to some of what is bolted down, accumulating in a few large coastal cities.
* Such barriers are likely needed anyway to control carbon and other pollution. Otherwise the same race-to-the-bottom problem undermines all efforts.
OK, it’s now looking like renewable energy is maturing fast enough to start eating fossil fuels’ lunch any day now, especially as decreasing supplies of the latter (we’re already ten years past peak oil, if not 15) causes price volatility. Every time oil spikes, renewables ratchet forward, and the ground they’ve gained is not given back the next time oil slumps. The next time will likely see photovoltaics hit the knee of the adoption curve and a significant conversion of vehicle fleets to electric, and the time after that might see 90%+ carbon-free energy infrastructure by its end. If so, that will be the last one as oil will crater one final time and never recover. No one will want the dirty stuff anymore. This assumes the tech we have now. A breakthrough in PV efficiencies or lifespan or in battery tech, especially if it raises whole-system EROI substantially, will accelerate the timetable. Even without that, the EROI of fossil fuels goes down as we scrape the bottom of the barrel for the earth’s last dregs of it, while that of any renewable system goes up the longer we can make a given installation last before it breaks down and has to be replaced. If we have 60-year-lifespan solar panels replacing 30-year ones then PV’s EROI doubles at a stroke, while that of oil can go nowhere but down.
Even so, it’s not just carbon emissions. It’s microplastics, and estrogen-mimicking chemicals, and habitat loss, and all sorts of other things. Free trade on scales above the largest non-toothless governing bodies means the largest system is laissez-faire capitalism, and laissez-faire capitalism is destructive to the environment. So we need either a non-toothless world government or an end to free trade. There seems to be no third option there.
I have also given some thought to the proper place of capitalism in all of this. And I’m not convinced it’s 100% bathwater, no baby. But I do think its role should be limited, in both temporal and physical scope.
Capitalism does do one useful thing: it drives rapid innovation and expansion in the presence of some kind of a frontier, either of resources civilization can bind (think: asteroids, Mars) or a technological one (think: finding new uses for electricity, once Tesla and Edison did their thing, resulting eventually in refrigerators and blenders and microwave ovens and vacuum cleaners and all those other household conveniences).
This, I think, is where it firmly belongs: at frontiers, where anyone can go and stake a claim and turn destitution into a fortune, and in new technological fields that open up. But it does not belong anywhere else! Far from that frontier capitalism is worse than useless: there’s no binding of new resources, or significant improvement of existing ones using new technologies, just the recyling of what we already have. Away from a frontier capitalism is zero-sum and most people will end up losers — as we’ve seen, since the last frontiers closed up here on Earth. (Leaving aside that those “frontiers” consisted in most cases of taking land and resources from existing people; future ones can be expected to be unpeopled, e.g. asteroids.) So when a frontier closes, capitalism should end there. When a technology has matured, the basic level of it should be nationalized and socialized.
If we had done this in the early 1900s, we’d have limited capitalism to the applications of electricity and internal combustion engines, and the few unpeopled islands still being colonized in the Pacific. Once we’d settled an island it would cease to have capitalism. Once we’d settled upon 110VAC power with the current distribution infrastructure and standards we’d have nationalized the grid. Sometime later, once the technology of the vacuum cleaner had matured, we’d have nationalized that industry as well, and so forth. Right now most things would be run in some socialist way, with the exception of some cutting edge Internet stuff. But we’d have nationalized Google Search by now, since it seems to have matured and no-one seems to have improved upon it in a while.
So, I can outline what things maybe should look like, without a lot of detail. I can’t tell you what the first step is to getting there though! And I don’t even know what to call the eventual form of governance. Perhaps a fractally nested federalism? But some standards need to be applied from the top. Communities that mostly self-police can still miscarry justice. What if it’s a puritanical, devout one and someone in it turns out gay when they hit puberty? There has to be some meta-level policing of neighborhoods and communities the way these police their individual members, so some meta-cop can knock on the door and say you can’t discriminate against gays. We sort of have bits of that now: a constitution that overrides other laws; racist local cops but the national guard coming in to desegregate the schools after equal rights legislation passes at the federal level; international war crimes tribunals. But it’s all been very ad hoc and half-assed, so far, and all too often susceptible to local pushback. The schools by some measures are as segregated as ever. Reconstruction after the Civil War failed to maintain traction, with tragic consequences. And of course, who will watch the watchers? Who will set the rules at the very top level?
Oh yeah, chat with dead folk all the time! They’re actually surprisingly dull. Really big into Pictionary for some reason.
Kidding aside, I’m not downplaying the threat McArthur posed for the length of time that he did. What I am saying is that in a world where the police services didn’t exist at all, who would connect the dots and have the authority to apprehend him? The TPS are horribly biased against both racial minorities and the LGBTQIA communities, and McArthur’s victims primarily straddled both and that allowed him to operate with impunity for decades.
But they did get him. So let’s fix the problem that caused them not to catch him sooner.
I’ve noted before, the person who seems to really define the rank and file attitude of the TPS isn’t the chief (and as you noted, Saunders was the ‘uncontroversial’ choice, though he’s willing to make changes) but the head of the Police Association, Mike MacCormack. And MacCormack’s a corrupt little git who’s avoided paying for a previous conviction because he’s no longer technically a ‘police officer’. (He’s had several charges brought against him; the only one that actually stuck was that he abused police resources to look up dirt on the Toronto Star reporter that had been reporting on some of the things he and his friends had done.)
A lot of the argument over budget within the police force seems to be between Saunders, who at least recognizes that the TPS has a PR problem and wants to take active steps to fix things; and MacCormack, who seems to see any attempt at limiting police power as a personal threat and is quite willing to stir up FUD to avoid it.
@Surplus: I’m an Autonomist Communist, have been so for over half my life, no real distinction between that and a Social Anarchist. There are no obtainable utopias, only the potential for continous betterment and progress. It does nescessitate education of a very different kind than what we see today, but I believe in the future, and in humanitys ability to cooperate as a social species. I believe anarchy to be obtainable, though obviously not tomorrow, and it will not nescessarily descend into the pandemonium you describe. Without rulers does not mean without order. What do you think the circle around the “A” means? It’s an “O” for order.