Sunday, August 27, 2006

Bringing out the worst in America

The September 11th attacks really seem to have brought out the worst in America. Quite apart from the foreign policy response - Guantanamo, Iraq, torture and disappearance - the attacks themselves were followed by a spate of hate crimes, as ignorant Americans sought to take out their rage on anyone who looked vaguely Arabic or Muslim. They were also followed by a massive increase in discrimination against those same target groups. And the effects of that discrimination extended far beyond the few cases which made it to court. A recent study has found that the wages of Arabs and Muslims working in America fell by 10% in the wake of the attacks:

The study measured changes in wages of first- and second-generation immigrants, from countries with predominantly Arab or Muslim populations from September 1997 to September 2005. It then compared them to changes in the wages of immigrants with similar skills from other countries.

The average wage was approximately $US20 an hour ahead of the attacks in 2001 and dropped by $US2 an hour after them, Robert Kaestner, co-author of the study and a University of Illinois at Chicago professor of economics, said.

That drop persisted through 2004 but showed signs of abating in 2005, he said.

"I was surprised," Kaestner said. "We see an immediate and significant connection between personal prejudice and economic harm."

And to rub that last point home, the size of the drop was strongly geographically correlated with the incidence of hate crimes. This is bigotry at work.

As with internment and torture, this isn't just a crime, it's also a mistake. Terrorism feeds off injustice. If the US wants to see domestic terrorist groups spring up, then its rednecks are going the right way about it...


I wonder why peopel think they can jsut state "Terrorism feeds off injustice" as if it is a fact in every debate.
There is obviously no clear link between injustice and terrorism.

Posted by Genius : 8/27/2006 02:22:00 PM

It's always unwise to take these "studies" at face value. If you don't know for sure that a study's been rigourously constructed, and then peer-reviewed, it's conclusions are about as likely to be solid as those of the loud drunk guy in the corner of the pub.


Posted by Anonymous : 8/27/2006 07:06:00 PM

It's also increased the incidence of terrorism. Terrorism (against the West) was decreasing year on year before Bush came to power. Ever since it's been increasing year on year.

Posted by Anonymous : 8/27/2006 08:27:00 PM

M'Lud: well, it will be in the Journal of Human Resources (which is peer-reviewed) next year, so you can check it out then.

Generally speaking, I would expect a study whose design was obviously hideously flawed to be rejected by such a journal.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 8/27/2006 09:19:00 PM

Black Americans still earn below average wages and don't seem to be spawning terror cells.

Perhaps you need to know a little bit more about black militance in the 1960s & early 1970s and the government's reaction before you go making claims like that.

Second, nobody said injustice causes terrorism, but causation doesn't work like a billiards table. It's not that Bin Laden suffered injustice, he does, however, use the suffering of Palestinians as a rhetorical motivation for people to follow his ideology. Nuance baby, nuance.

Posted by Anonymous : 8/28/2006 04:22:00 AM


There are many more things that can feed terrorism, terrorism feeds on "anything the people believe strongly in". A terrorist infrastructure for example might use annexing land - as a reason for terrorism or political ideology or nationalism or racism. (which probably covers most examples!)

Where it feeds on injustice, terrorism feeds on perceived injustice not ACTUAL injustice.
For example it is an injustice that "fill in weird sect here" does not rule the world. As a result it is legitimate for "fill in crazy person here" to drive a truck/fertilizer bomb or other weapon into a building.

Anything can look like an injustice. And you can make your own (e.g. the red cross vans Israel "blew up" apparently).

One of the key ways terrorism is caused by injustice in the Palestinian case (or iraq or afganistain to lesser extents) is less the anger it causes in Palestinians and more the money and moral support it results in from overseas, which creates a system that promotes terrorism. in this case the key injustice is that Israel exists, so it is unclear if any reduction in injustice from a NZ perspective (two state) would help except in as far as it gets us on side.

Posted by Genius : 8/28/2006 08:22:00 AM

" this case the key injustice is that Israel exists..."

Bullshit. In this case the key injustice is that Israel exists but Palestine does not. Let Palestine exist on terms the locals could accept, and that cashflow would dry up pretty rapidly. Terrorism may be able to feed on perceived rather than actual injustice, but it still makes sense not to give it actual injustice to feed on, doesn't it?

Posted by Psycho Milt : 8/28/2006 08:44:00 AM

Indeed, we shouldn't neglect to mention that Arafat's personal wealth was estimated at 3.1 Billion; much of that money intended for ordinary Palestinians and stolen from them.

Posted by Anonymous : 8/28/2006 10:56:00 AM

> In this case the key injustice is that Israel exists but Palestine does not.

That indeed is an "injustice" (I support the two state solution of course) but what I meant to say is the "percieved injustice" that drives the conflict.

> Let Palestine exist on terms the locals could accept, and that cashflow would dry up pretty rapidly.

I don't think so. Afterall, to take an obvious example, the cashflow for Israel hasn't dried up.

> but it still makes sense not to give it actual injustice to feed on, doesn't it?

One doesn't commit injustices for other reasons such as them being "injust". Surely no one here is in favour of injustice.

There is no need to pretend that they will solve all sorts of other problems like making the crippled walk or preventing terrorism. That just deflects from more intelligent analysis of the problem.

Posted by Anonymous : 8/28/2006 12:13:00 PM

What about when Palestinians blow up innocent Israelis in sidewalk cafes? Should we understand those injustices too, or just the ones that suit you, James?

Genius made the point that there are many, many injustices in the world, and far fewer ideologies that use these slights, perceived or real (does East Timor's independence count as a 'real' injustice, given it's frequent citing by Indonesian terror groups?) to justify their atrocities. Would you support Tibetans targeting Chinese businesses in NZ in retaliation for the atrocities carried out in Tibet? What about Black Africans attacking Arabs in France because of Dafur? There is no connection between practices of injustice and episodes of terrorism, (unless you want to understand and sympathise with the abortion clinic bomber and the Night Riders of the KKK); there is the closest of ties between terrorism and ideology/belief, which was Genius's point, as I see it.

Posted by Anonymous : 8/28/2006 02:08:00 PM


you apparently have difficulty with nuance (and rules of debate and English it would seem)

The point that is being argued against is
"injustice therefore Terrorism"
That would be what one might term a "clear link" however that argument is flawed so instead you proceed to argue throughout your post
"injustice has effected terrorism" or "terrorists talk about injustice"

I might as well start talking about central Asia or any of a million 'terrorist' groups where 'injustice' was used to prevent terrorism. And as long as I can you loose.

You probably wouldn't think much of the argument that injustice equals NOT terrorism but apparently in some cases (in fact the majority of cases) it does. That means you have no “clear link”.

I might also say “terrorism causes injustice” (in which case I might have a clear link)

> i also love the comparison you draw between 'perceived' and 'actual' injustice. How lovely it must be to objectively state what constitutes injustice.

If that is the case (and it is a defendable philosophical perspective) one can’t know what is unjust. That must make you pretty helpless eh? In that case it is probably best if you stay out of political debates.

> Also, what happens when actual injustice is perceived as injustice? Can this no longer qualify as 'feeding' terrorism? As in your words actual injustice and terrorism are 'obviously not linked'.

Misquoting is dishonest (if you put words in quotes they should AT LEAST be the words the person used), as is trying to use that quote to imply a position I obviously don't have.

> For example, if (sorry, when) a Palestinian child is slaughtered by the IDF, the death will be used.

The killing of the child is a problem in itself - it doesn’t require some bombing afterwards to make it a bad thing. Anyway, it may be used to gather support or it may break up support – that depends a bit on its nature.

Posted by Anonymous : 8/28/2006 02:24:00 PM


Again just saying it doesn't make it true.

> The amount of funding is proportionate to injustice and nothing else, as is recruiting.

So the degree to which the KKK terrorized black people was directly proportional to the amount black people oppressed them?

And as soon as we committed a injustice against the japanese (like dropping an atom bomb on a bunch of civillians) they suddenly became really nasty, right?

Strangely "james' law" doesn't seem to apply in all cases in fact it seems to apply in hardly any cases.

The main point however is that your argument dumbs down the debate. the real situation has much more going on than "injustice --> terrorism".
although it is true that
"terrorism --> injustice" (in more ways than one).

Posted by Genius : 8/28/2006 06:03:00 PM

Gawd, James, your points are so poor it's kind of hard to know where to start. So lets just dive in:

your silly attempt to define terrorism on your grounds ("hate groups", etc)shows that the only way your argument can survive is as a cicularity: "Terrorism on the terms I define it has the effects I say". Of course, a first-year Phil student would recognise this as rubbish.

You're also curiously short of examples to match your sweeping claim. In the face of numerous counter-examples, you've mentioned the IRA at least twice, the IDF twice and now Gitmo. One can't delcare a universal rule on a meagre handful of cases, and what you've done here is to show that these few, compared to the numerous terrorist incidents around the world are the exception, not the rule.

And that's only if one grants your examples as valid, which I don't agree they are. Let's have a look at Gitmo, which pales into comparison as an injustice when compared with the penal practices of most Islamic states. If terrorism is a result of the maltreatment of Muslim prisoners, then surely Saudi Arabia and Syria would also be terror targets, given their appalling histories of detention, torture, and execution without trial?

If you're serious about making your argument, you really do need to muster a lot more evidence in its support than you've done thusfar. Again, what of the KKK? What injustice are they responding to? What injustice did Timothy McVeigh suffer? And on the other side of the coin, why do women not tend to commit terrorism as much as men, given the manifold injustices suffered by women at the hands of men throughout history??

Posted by Anonymous : 8/29/2006 02:05:00 AM