March 21, 2014

Glenn Greenwald - US violence is "noble" and "civilised" while Muslim violence is "primitive" and "without rational cause"

Following the murder of drummer Lee Rigby, bloggers Glenn Greenwald and Andrew Sullivan crossed keyboards and battled it out. The issue: Greenwald called it "a barbaric and horrendous act"; but fell short of calling it "terrorism". The premise being that Rigby was a soldier, not a citizen. Since America and Britain had declared the whole globe as a battlefield, the attack was a reaction to this. But as Glenn explained, by highlighting the cause, he does not seek to justify the act. As he said:
"People reflexively try to radically distort the argument beyond recognition in order to smear you as a Terror apologist, a Terrorist-lover or worse, all for the thought crime of raising these issues. To do so, they deceitfully conflate claims of causation (A is one of the causes of B) with justification (B is justified). Anyone operating with the most basic levels of rationality understands that these concepts are distinct. To discuss what motivates a person to engage in Action B is not remotely to justify Action B."
He then approached the related issue that the west has a boundless compulsion to depict others as the "Uniquely Primitive and Violent Evil." He said:
"Our violence is understandable, noble, well-intentioned, necessitated by their pure evil. By stark contrast, their violence is sub-human, senseless, and utterly unrelated to anything we do."
"We make mistakes and do some bad things. But we’re not like them: the Ultimate Savages. The Primitive Islamic Hordes. The Terrorists. That’s why it’s urgent that these designations of special evil (Terrorist) be reserved exclusively for Them: only then can we elevate ourselves."
On the weapons used:
"We slaughter them with shiny, high-tech drones, cluster bombs, jet fighters and cruise missiles, while they use meat cleavers and razor blades."
Glenn Greenwald continued and explained how they use "base tribalism" to sell the story of "Our [Superior] Side". He said:
"Americans and westerners have been relentlessly bombarded with the message that We are the Noble and Innocent Victims and those Muslims are the Evil, Primitive, Savage Aggressors, so that’s what many people are trained to believe, and view any challenge to that as an assault on their core tribalistic convictions. The defining tribalistic belief that Our Side is Superior (and our violence thus inherently more noble than theirs) has been stoked by political leaders since politics began to sustain support for their aggression and entrench their own power. It’s a potent drive - something humans instinctively want to believe - and is therefore one that is easily manipulated by skillful propagandists."
Glenn Greenwald explained this worldview as a propaganda tool that allows western governments to control and justify action in the Middle East:
"[Andrew Sullivan], and so many others, are deeply invested on a psychological and personal level in protecting the narrative that Islam is a uniquely violent force in the world, that Muslim extremists pose a threat that nobody else poses, and that the US, the West and its allies (including Israel) are morally superior and more civilized than their adversaries, and their violence is more noble and elevated. 
Labeling the violent acts of those Muslim Others as “terrorism” - but never our own  - is a key weapon used to propagate this worldview. The same is true of the tactic that depicts their violence against us as senseless, primitive, savage and without rational cause, while glorifying our own violence against them as noble, high-minded, benevolent and civilized (we slaughter them with shiny, high-tech drones, cluster bombs, jet fighters and cruise missiles, while they use meat cleavers and razor blades). These are the core propagandistic premises used to sustain the central narrative on which the War on Terror has depended from the start (and, by the way, have been the core premises of imperialism for centuries)."
Glenn Greenwald in full here

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