|Terrorist or CEO? (Image by puuikibeach)|
Oakland Mayor Jean Quan called OWS protestors economic terrorists for shutting down the Oakland Port on Monday. Such bombast would be laughable if we weren’t currently slaughtering thousands of people throughout the world, assassinating, torturing and incarcerating suspects in secret prisons without trial, all in the name of fighting terrorism.
Her comment is even more threatening in light of recent Congressional legislation that would allow the U.S. military to arrest and indefinitely detain American citizens anywhere in the world without charge or trial, including on U.S. soil (in violation of the Posse Comitatus Act), for suspicion of being a terrorist. The new rules are part of a new $662 billion military spending bill that has been criticized by several Obama administration officials, human rights groups and even some Tea Party members, according to Democracy Now.
While it is unlikely that any OWS protestors will be sent to Gitmo, the rhetoric is clearly intended to discredit them and turn public sentiment against their cause. It also belies a commonly believed misconception that “Excessive” profits by the wealthy are bad, but the wealthy themselves are good because they create jobs and keep the economy running. Therefore, anything that hinders their ability to run their businesses and make a profit is seen as an attack on the 99% and their ability to go to work and earn an income.
According to this line of reasoning, workers who go on strike are terrorists. Consumers who boycott a business or product are terrorists. Shoplifters are terrorists. Little old ladies who refuse to engage with phone solicitors are terrorists. But employers who maintain unsafe working conditions, illegally dump toxic waste, pollute the air and water, pay starvation wages, or implement dangerous speedups are simply doing business.
Even if we ignore the absurdity of the “terrorist” epithet, the theoretical basis for it is still absurd. How can it be bad for a person to make an “obscene” profit, but okay for him to make a “not-so-obscene” profit when all profits arise by paying workers far less than the value of their labor? Aren’t the workers being exploited in either case? And how can one distinguish between obscene and not-so-obscene profits when all profits contribute to inequities in wealth and social power.
There are other absurdities, too. Workers and activists who try to halt profits for a day are terrorists, but Congressional leaders who want to slash unemployment benefits and require recipients to have a GED or college degree and submit to drug testing are simply encouraging lazy shirkers to stop horsing around and get jobs quicker (never mind that there aren’t anywhere near enough jobs available). Congressional leaders should not be seen as engaging in any sort of economic violence, blackmail or threats when they tie tax cut extensions for the middle class to the fast tracking of a Tar Sands pipeline running from Alberta to the Gulf of Mexico and deregulation of mercury emissions from coal power plants, because they are only trying to preserve jobs and we should certainly appreciate that, even if the riders on the bill will kill us through pollution.
Thankfully I have a job as a teacher and therefore protection against the military’s witch hunt for terrorists, except I’m also a member of the NEA, which was declared a terrorist organization back in 2004, by George Bush’s Education Secretary Rod Paige.