Living the Terrorist Dream

Living the Terrorist Dream
Hitler had one. Mussolini had one. Jefferson Davis’s Confederacy had one. Osama bin Ladin had one. Now the American right wing has one – a dream that will never come true. Tragically, these and other historical actors have left for the rest of us a trail of violence and death in the pursuit of a fantasy.
Political violence is an outgrowth of extremist ideology. Through the centuries, there have been three main sources of extremism: political philosophy, religion, and ethnic nationalism. White supremacists and their sympathizers draw from all three. The most extreme elements of this movement (a broad coalition, to be sure) adhere to a political philosophy of nihilism, tactically applied as chaos or anarchy. The religious dimension of this movement is anchored – ironically – in a thoroughly politicized Christianity. Ethnic nationalism is the backbone linking these elements together in a syncretic belief system based on exclusion. They are called hate groups for a reason.
So, what is the fantasy that drives this movement? As far as I can tell, the dream is a return to the “good old days” when the United States was a mostly white Christian nation with a weak government, a small population, and unlimited resources. That America no longer exists – and that is a good thing. The right-wing political ecosystem is lost inside an information bubble that absorbs only misinformation. It is not surprising that members reject science and social progress. The legitimate DNA of the right was a Republican “conservative” political philosophy that has been overwhelmed by the cult of Donald Trump.
“Fantasy Ideology” is a useful term to explain what is driving some of our citizens to believe in conspiracy theories and participate in violent insurrection. There is little difference between Hitler’s dream of a Third Reich and the fantasy of a separate white nation in the American Northwest, living under a legal framework right out of the Middle Ages. The price of Hitler’s fantasy ideology was 75M people dead around the world. The American version has taken us through Oklahoma City, the random killings of non-white fellow citizens, the plot to kidnap the governor of Michigan and most recently, the assault on Congress.
They’re not finished yet.
When I wrote my second novel, A More Perfect Union, I thought it might be dismissed as too alarmist. The story of an American terrorist cell conducting a campaign of terrorism to take down the elected government felt a bit extreme at the time, even for thriller fiction. Less than a year later, our reality has caught up with my fiction.
I will write more novels about the right-wing fringe. I sincerely hope that the fantasy ideology they now seem to cherish is replaced someday by a constructive ideology that does not lead to the kind of violence in my stories. We can learn a lot from fiction. Let this book – and those to come – serve as a warning about what can happen, even in a civilized country such as ours.

11 Responses

  • Well done Paul. Great insight and presented in a concise, easy to digest form.
    I have chosen not to play much in the social media world, so won’t share in FB, Linkedin or the others, but will share the link on my email network. Thanks Bob

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  • Paul Shemella,
    I didn’t expect you to toe the common narrative. You have taken a shortcut when you wrote, “a political philosophy, religion, and ethnic nationalism”.
    Those who try to take refuge in their religion and do acts of terrorism, don’t know their religion. All the studies have shown that the terrorists who use religion or who are made to commit acts of terror by their mentors because the religion they believe is misinterpreted. If they are educated in religion they won’t become terrorists. There is a famous short story of a western diplomat traveling with his family in some parts of Afghanistan. A group of armed men asks them to stop the car. The diplomat says a few sentences in Arabic language and the armed men let him go. His wife and children who were terrified ask the man what verse of the Qur’an did he speak. The man said, “I greeted and asked about their welfare in Arabic”. These people are ignorant who have never studied the Qur’an. If they had they would have made a clear distinction in what I said and more importantly what they are being asked to do in the name of religion. Religion doesn’t teach them to be terrorists but the media, the politicians, and those who hate particular religions blame the religions instead.

    • Syed,
      Please don’t think I blame religion for inspiring acts of terrorism. It is the corruption of religion (any type of religion) that inspires such violence. Admittedly, a blog is fraught with potential for being misunderstood. I am glad that I finally saw your comment and was able to respond.

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