Left Behinds

The anti-andrewsullivan.com. Or, the Robin Hood (Maid Marian?) of bright pink Blogger blogs.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

War News Radio: What Can Terrorism Accomplish?

Whoah, War News Radio is the most radical American coverage of the war that I've heard so far. On the broadcast I'm listening to right now, they have a segment called "what can terrorism actually accomplish?"

It's a project by Swarthmore students who try to "rediscover the voices of real people." They call random Iraqis using an Iraqi phone book and record the interviews. It's kind of a brilliantly simple technique.

They also interview other underrepresented voices, including media critics, rank and file coalition soldiers, and families of coalition soldiers. But the calls to completely ordinary Iraqis are what are really fascinating.

According to this profile, "Amelia Templeton, a senior history major, estimates that she has spoken with twenty-five Iraqis over the past year, and now, as she said the other day, 'it’s a bad idea to ask me about Iraq unless you plan on listening for a while.'”

As I mentioned, the last segment on the broadcast I just listened to asks the question, "Can a transition be made from terrorism to politics as usual?" Maybe I haven't been listening to the right news sources, but I've never heard such a rational discussion of terrorism in the MSM. They interview various academics, who distinguish between terrorists with clear, achievable political goals and those acting out of other, irrational motives. They actually discuss the fact that Al Qaeda is "not an evil monolith, but a complex group of terrorists whose motivations vary," noting that it appeals to young men with reasonable grievances against U.S. intervention in the region.

One problem I have is that the use of the word "terrorist" begs the question (since in its definition it would seem to suggest irrational extremism). It was a short segment, but I would have liked at least a brief discussion of what "terrorist" means. I think what they were actually discussing was militancy (a more neutral term, which is useful when considering these things in the abstract). Basically, I would have liked it if this segment were expanded to the whole half hour.

So how do they answer that first question? Noting the success and the mainstreaming of the IRA, Kevin Lewis of the University of South Carolina declares that "yes, despite the mantra that lots of states put out, the fact is that terrorism does work. It doesn't work all the time -- it depends on who's setting off the bombs, and why."

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  • At 4:45 AM, Blogger Neda Cole said…

    Interesting project. I'd be curious to hear or read transcripts of some of the interviews but seems I can't pick it up from here?

    With regard to the terrorist question, that has long been a huge frustration with very few sensible discussions of the use of the word. The only one I recall is this (in some places badly noted) transcript of a presentation on the subject given by Eqbal Ahmed in 1998.

    Let me know if you have any others.

  • At 5:11 AM, Blogger Neda Cole said…

  • At 9:39 AM, Blogger Solomon Grundy said…

    Eek, that was a little too much for me first thing on a groggy morning. I'll look at it again later though.

    In general, yeah, they're not perfectly informed journalists, which is what gives the broadcasts a certain charm. Too bad you can't listen. That's weird, since it's just MP3s you download...

  • At 10:05 AM, Blogger Neda Cole said…

    ok so its probably because i haven't upgraded quicktime on my system. i'll go sort that out and try and listen to some of it later.


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