Of Terrorists and Referendums

What a convenient word ‘terrorist’ has become! Until 9/11 the word was reserved for anarchist types in long black coats who set off bombs in public or assassinated heads of state. But when the World Trade Center was brought down the word became a convenient designation for any individual who showed any sign of opposition to any government anywhere, democratically elected or not.

It’s nothing short of a miracle that the Occupiers were not dubbed terrorists, although some language came pretty close, as I recall. Even so, the word was handily picked up by Mubarak before his downfall, then by Assad – legitimately – and is now applied by Poroshenko to an entire swath of the country he purports to govern.

The banalization of the word ‘terrorist’ goes hand in hand with a sudden rash of referendums: the mainly Russian speaking majority in Crimea held a successful one to secede from Ukraine, the Scots had a failed one to secede from Great Britain, Catalonia will hold one soon. Egyptians, once again safely governed by a military man, overwhelmingly approved their new constitution in a referendum, even after the judicial system condemned hundreds of Muslim Brotherhood ‘terrorists’ to death. Governments rarely make use of referendums, however that of multi-lingual Switzerland held no fewer than seven this year with more to come.

Is there a link between these two phenomena?  I think so: leaving out the Swiss tradition, both point to a disintegration of the liberal-parliamentary nation state system and its replace-ment by global fascism. Though purporting to hold aloft the ancient principles upon which the nation-state rests, globaliza-tion signals the end of the nation-state as an entity regulated by laws applicable to all, its sole task now being to pass laws dictated by corporations for their sole benefit.

In a message that appalls citizens but seeks to reassure the stock market, the US and its allies have announced a long war against ISIS. In reality, this is a three-way standoff between fascism, its magic bullet, and an opposition that has yet to realize that ISIS – the most shocking of all terrorists whose followers behead single individuals (as opposed to a machine obliterating three thousand) – created to save the Western economy, will be kept alive as long as that crisis is deep, because there has never been a referendum about war.

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