Aug 032015
 

Is (was?) Ashley Madison more like RJ Reynolds? A purveyor of pleasure that comes with an enormous cost?

Or Smith and Wesson? Whose product can be used for (very) good or (very) evil?

Or the library, your local bookseller, or Amazon Books? Which allow you to feed your every (intellectual?) desire without reference to the use to which you intend to put your knowledge?

Is there something intrinsically wrong with facilitating behavior that may be emotionally harmful to others? [Note: Ashley Madison has, to its seeming detriment, emphasized this possibility by marketing themselves as they do. But the truth is, Ashley Madison is just Match.com or Plenty of Fish on which “married” is an option in the “relationship status” field. Many people on AM are not violating anyone’s trust, not harming anyone, by being there. So too at Seeking Arrangement (who must be quaking in their boots), where many men are single – and, incidentally, not a few women are married.]

I’m trying to think of an analog, but failing. The bottom line, I suppose – at least the easy one – is that in the U.S., we are supposedly ruled by laws, not by the Taliban, the Iranian Morality Police, or the “Moral Majority.” I don’t claim our system is “better,” but it is ours.

Moral vigilantism is indistinguishable from plain old vigilantism. “Vigilantism,” of course, is the name given to those who rationalize breaking the law to impose their vision of society on others, extra-judicially. In this case, the goal of the vigilantes is to bring about change by instilling fear. That, I think, is the very definition of “terrorism,” a word which once meant “the use of terror as a strategy or tactic in struggle.”

Today, that word has been hijacked to refer to something different: in the U.S., “terrorism” now means “tactics of which we disapprove when used by political or military or ideological foes whose skin color is brown, and whose victims’ skin color is lighter.” The discussion in the U.S. of the Charleston killings – which meet the former definition, but not the latter – exemplifies this.

And the use of the word “terrorism” is itself a tactic of ours in our internal political dialogue, intended to dehumanize our foes and to justify/provide political cover for encroachments on our civil liberties and a retreat from our historical (nominal?) commitment to adhere to certain laws, treaties, and standards.

I don’t mean to equate the AM hacking with ISIS beheadings. They are different, in many ways. But they share in common the strategy of seeking to bring about moral and behavioral change by instilling terror and thus, compelling compliance among those who don’t share the moral code of the attackers.

It is a feature of my particular mind that judgment or condemnation isn’t my response, either to ISIS or to the AM hackers. To my mind, judgment is beside the point.

What about you? What do you think?

  One Response to “AM questions”

  1. I agree with you. If I may be so bold as generalising slightly here, I think most Americans are all too happy to blame Islam for terrorism because it means they don’t have to look at the terrorists they breed in their midst. A scape goat of sorts. I’m not defending ISIS at all, I’m just saying their existence is quite convenient to many in the USA, allowing them to no have to reflect on their own failings.
    I don’t think the AM hackers are much better than ISIS members. They are terrorists too. As well as all the guys who shoot people i movie theaters, or he ones who kill or threaten (or even produce heavily edited videos sharing private information of) doctors at abortion clinics.

    Of course, to many Americans, I’m just the European thinking she knows anything about America and thus my opinion isn’t highly regarded 😉

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