Friday, February 25, 2011

Freedom and Terrorism

Recently, authorities in Bahrain freed 23 political prisoners who had been accused of terrorism. Originally, the government accused these individuals of belonging to a terrorist network that intended to overthrow the current ruling factions. However, it appears that they were simply a small portion of the numerous protestors taken prisoner and tortured by the Bahrain government in an attempt to silence any public dissent that might occur.

The release capture and release of these prisoners bring up several human rights issues associated with both terrorism and freedom of speech. One of the questions to be asked in this situation is what truly constitutes a terrorist. I think that most of us would agree that simply protesting the practices of an oppressive government does not constitute terrorism, but at what point do we draw the line when we compare more violent protestors to terrorists? Are there occasions in which terrorism would be acceptable so long as it is limited to an attack on government officials (and likely members of the public/government security forces that protect them)? Perhaps prior to that question is the question of who exactly gets to define terrorism or label particular groups as terrorist networks?

There is also the issue of freedom of speech. As we all know, there are limitations everywhere on what you can say and to whom it may be said. For instance, a man that interrupts a Obama in the middle of a national speech in order to tell yell a twenty minute profanity-laced explanation of why the current administration is the worst in history (I'm not saying it is) would likely be detained quickly and thoroughly. I don't particularly question whether or not it is right or wrong for the man to be silenced, but I do wonder if freedom of speech is truly a right rather than a privilege given the restrictions that we place upon it. While I understand that we all have the choice of saying whatever we like so long as we are prepared to deal with the consequences, which may sometimes include being physically detained or removed from an area, I question whether that is sufficient to call it a right. There are many things that I have the option of doing in any manner that I chose so long as I am prepared to deal with the consequences. For example, I physically have the ability to defecate anywhere that I like, but I doubt that many people would be willing to argue that I have that right. What is it that truly distinguishes the two from one another and how do I have the right to freedom of speech while only having the privilege to defecate in certain locales?


  1. Perry, nice article find. You present some seriously tough questions though. Most of which I cannot answer but I’m glad you ask them. I do not think that people often realize how blurred the line between protestors, or rather violent protestors, and terrorists is. Are violent protestors the individuals who are stopped by the oppressive force that they are protesting against? If the “violent protestors” were stopped then it would seem that they are not terrorists, but rather protestors that can be held back by the government or other forces. If the government or organization cannot control or gain control of the opposing protesting force it would seem that that force would be characterized as “terrorists,” which is the more offensive label. I’m not sure if this is an appropriate characterization of the two different terms but this is what I first thought when I thought of the blurred line which seems to be continually growing more complicated.
    The freedom of speech question you presented was also very difficult to answer. It would seem that this “right” we claim to have been given does indeed seem to be turning into a privilege that can be given and taken away. I think that if we have restrictions on this “right” it doesn’t seem to fit as a “right” at all.

  2. Very interesting and provoking post. It seems to me that the term terrorist is completely relative. We may label political activists terrorists if their tactics include targeted acts of violence. Yet terrorism often entails unnecessary connotations. Terrorism is bad, period. In our wholly civilized and united States, terrorists are the bad guys seeking to topple our healthy regime. However, in Libya it seems that the government is culprit for terror. I think acts of violence may be occasioned for if the means truly justify the means (a slippery slope). Men we now regard as revolutionary heroes were most certainly viewed by the British along the lines of terrorists. The Boston Tea Party wasn't a party for everyone.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.