RANGER AGAINST WAR: The Little Things <

Friday, January 20, 2017

The Little Things

History doesn’t repeat itself.
But it does rhyme
--Mark Twain

 And the seasons they go round and round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We're captive on the carousel of time
We can't return we can only look behind
--Circle Game
Joni Mitchell

Team by team, reporters baffled,
trumped, tethered, cropped
Look at that low plane, fine, then
Uh oh, overflow, population, common group 
--It's the End of the World as We Know It,

Mr. Obama wasn't the funniest of Presidents, but he has a toothsome sense of the ironic.

Just a little rumination, on Inaugural Day 2017 (which you might not know about if you read the New York Times exclusively.)

Last September, the President feted 1968 Mexico City Olympians Tommie Smith and John Carlos at the White House. The athlete's Black Power salute in violation of the non-partisan International Olympic Committee charter was a shot heard round the world via television. It was also to be the seminal event of symbolic terrorism in the mid-20th century.

Prior to this event, terrorist's goals were more tactically-oriented. Violence before Mexico City was for violence's sake. After Mexico City, it grew increasingly symbolic and spectacular. Terrorist events became entertainment in the theatre and the society of the spectacle.

Smith's and Carlos's theatre inspired terrorist actions from that point forward. Not that the two Olympians killed anyone, themselves. Rather, they showed that massive attention could be garnered by enlisting the electronic media in the conspiracy to commit spectacle. Simply put: their action was a fountainhead of international terrorism.

The near result was the 1972 Summer Munich Olympics Massacre of Jewish athletes by Palestinian terrorist group Black September. Eleven Olympic team members were taken hostage and killed, with the (later revealed) complicity of members of the German police force.

Subsequent actions were also media sensations, often focusing on only one building, boat or other vehicle. They were framed for the camera, just as the Olympics winner's podium provided a frame and a set-up for the Smith-Carlos photo-grab.

The athletes were not standing in the grass, but elevated and arrested in motion, calling out for the perfect shot. (Catch me while you can in my static set up; I'd like to be on t..v. tonight.)

Historical examples abound, but the Lod Airport Massacre (1972), the Raid on Entebbe (1976), the Rome and Vienna airport incidents (1985) and the Achille Lauro hijacking (1985) are a few.

The Irish Republican Army's 1982 Hyde Park bombing which killed seven Blues and Royal's horses scored front pages above the fold internationally, but not for the 11 serviceman that were killed: it was for the horses (who held no passport). Murdered animals are always a gut punch, and this was a new and novel target.

TWA Flight 847 (1985) featured the body of a USN diver thrown onto the tarmac. But the iconic image of this hijacking -- a gun being held to a pilot's head, sticking out of the cockpit window -- was committed with an unloaded gun.

The hijacker stated he primarily wanted to be on television.

The 1968 Olympic protest spectacle differs little from ISIS instantaneous uploads of their violence in Iraq, France, Belgium or Australia. We are our own publicists in this day of the social media upload.

Both murderer, set designer and photog.

The drama and symbolism always trumps the action. In order not to become hackneyed, symbolic terrorist acts always require that each subsequent act has more shock power than its predecessor.

As our consumption grows ever more savvy, we demand increasingly outrageous spectacles to hold our gaze. It is perhaps not too simplistic to trace the origins of ISIS live Facebook feeds to the 1968 initial broadcasted transgression.

It took four years for terrorists to learn and operationalize the lesson, but a profusion of spectacular media events followed.

Operating from the principle of charity, it could be said that Mr. Obama acted from an intellectual scotoma, as the first visibly black President. Everyone from Henry Louis Gates to Rosa Parks had their moment in the sun during his presidency, in the callow effort to enforce a post-racial America.

But publicly honoring the Olympic "protest" lends credence to every subsequent video violation. Euroterror and Palestinian terror groups were informed by this first act of live defiance, and learned to coalesce and to harness the power of instantaneous international news coverage.

Smith and Carlos let the horse out of the barn. The West has been opposing the violence unleashed for the last 48 years. And we now commend them.

Just how stupid and clueless are we?

We guess it's good for giving the dispirited public something to fixate upon. We all like rehabilitation stories -- even when we must construct them for ourselves.

However, it would be wise to consider that one cannot in good faith be both for protests that germinate terror activities, and yet against terror activities. Or as the late George Carlin said, "Fighting for peace is like screwing for virginity."

What have the last 25+ years been about? Confronting the escalating threat of terrorist activity rising out of the Middle East.

Concomitant with and responsible for the terrorist's success is their ability to saturate the media. Ditto for the ability of the media to saturate our minds, as we grow ever closer to the much ballyhooed convergence day when our minds coalesce with our devices.

Some celebrate this "brain opera", but we must be ever-vigilant in monitoring the conductors. How to keep the mind in control is becoming an exponentially greater challenge daily. The peddlers of fake news -- an oxymoron if ever there was one -- do not want to help you.

Living in America today is a little like inhabiting an M. C. Escher drawing, or traveling a Mobius strip.  Perhaps, Hieronymous Bosch's Purgatory is the more analogous scenario.

We supposedly fight terrorism, while smiling and nodding at two men who blazed the trail for terrorists to exploit public media.

Where does it come from and where does it go?

Just an interesting little thought on this morning of the swearing in of a new President.

--by Jim and Lisa

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Anonymous David said...

I wondered whether you would have thoughts today and I'm not disappointed.

Although I do read the Times online, in fact, so I know not only that the inauguration is today but that there are at least a half dozen definitely terrible things about Trump, first and foremost of which was his poor musical selections for inauguration (a dangerous weakness in any leader, to be sure).

It seems to me there are a couple issues here. On the first, even more than television, social media transforms politics. ISIS and Trump both demonstrated this; al-Qaeda, like Clinton, is boring, old-fashioned, and unplugged. I don't imply any moral equivalency here; this is simply a new wave in public relations, kind of like Triumph of the Will and televised presidential debates.

On the second, this charge of hypocrisy is as old as the hills. Sadly I do not see any way around it unless we either (a) recast our foreign affairs in objective analytical terms instead of moral ones, or (b) withdraw from the foreign entanglements that give rise to these moral judgements.

Obviously both A and B are possible but I am not holding my breath.

Friday, January 20, 2017 at 1:12:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Ael said...

I would have thought that the "under protest" sign from Team Taiwan as they marched past the dais in the opening parade of the 1960 Rome games would have been the genesis of this sort of thing.

Sunday, January 22, 2017 at 7:55:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous David said...

Without getting into the game of who called who a dirty name first, I think Lisa and Ranger's broader point needs to be taken seriously. I suppose for the postmodern Twitter age, "every man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter" should be updated to read:

Every non-gender-specific individual's microaggression is another person's resistance in solidarity against an unjust hierarchical power structure.

Monday, January 23, 2017 at 12:14:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

ok, but please i.d. the Terror that started with your example.
i'm always open to facts.
whatever the case the outcome is much the same.

Monday, January 23, 2017 at 1:12:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...


I appreciate sardonic humor in all forms ;)

Wednesday, January 25, 2017 at 12:33:00 AM GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Late comer to this blog. I'm going to explore the old posts. Very interested in your posts on COIN and the debacles of the Iraq War and GWOT.

But Really? A nonviolent protest for Civil Rights that hurt no one, inspired murderous terrorism going for media exposure?

You make a claim, but no facts substantiating it.

Terrorism always has sought publicity. How does it impact the foe, terrorize the foe, if the word doesn't get out. The improvement in media technology is more of a reason for its use by terror organizations than one isolated incident of peaceful protest.

Impugning 2 men who used upraised fists to protest centuries of black oppression, the murders of civil rights workers, and lynching, without facts is just plain wrong.

There is distinction between peaceful protest and terroristic murder.

By the way, the Australian athlete that won silver supported their action, he was against the racist policies against the aborigines.

All 3 wore badges of human rights organizations.

You might want to rethink this post, revise and extend your remarks.

Start your research here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1968_Olympics_Black_Power_salute

Jack the Cold Warrior

Sunday, February 12, 2017 at 4:58:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...


Welcome aboard.

This piece is not about impugning the athletes. It is about the (perhaps) unintended consequences of their action on the Olympic podium.

I think Jim makes his point clearly: apres-1968 and their use of their moment in the world limelight, television was employed and exploited heavily by terrorists.

(The piece does not really address the Black power movement, per se.)


Sunday, February 12, 2017 at 10:09:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

Jack, the cold warrior.
i do not have any intention of rethinking this article.
i stand behind my words.
btw - how is black power working out in Africa?
who sold the slaves to the slave traders? was it anybody on the olympic committee?
my family came to America well after slavery, so i have no guilt about the situation.
jim hruska

Monday, February 13, 2017 at 10:29:00 AM GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Leave aside Black power in Africa and elsewhere. It's off topic.

You could have made a much better argument had you used the unrest in the U S in 1968. Over 100 riots after the assassination of MLK.

Or the Chicago riots in August at the Democratic National Convention between 10,000 protestors and 23000 police and National Guards. Remember "The Whole World is Watching"? The police riot, Dan Rather being punched in the gut inside the Convention Hall? All live on TV nation wide and covered overseas.

These happened well before the Olympic Protest in October. Hell, I may have been only 15, but being a news junkie even then I saw a lot of the coverage live on TV.

These much larger media events would have had more impact on terrorist media strategy than 2 guys sticking fists in the air.

It was inevitable, that media coverage would become more important to terrorist groups, but I think the advances in media technology had more to do with that than any one event acting as the Genesis.

Jack the Cold Warrior

Tuesday, February 14, 2017 at 4:29:00 AM GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's also ironic that the US is the originator of all this technology now used against us. TV, networks, comunication satellites, the Internet, smart phones, No more lugging around a video camera and a Sat Truck, just an iPhone, lap top or tablet for editing, and an Internet connection....

Jack the Cold Warrior

Tuesday, February 14, 2017 at 4:47:00 AM GMT-5  

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