Radio Freethinker

Vancouver's Number 1 Skeptical Podcast and Radio Show

Posts Tagged ‘Iraq’

RFT Ep 257 – Sex Sells Redux Edition

Posted by Don McLenaghen on June 24, 2014

Download the episode here! 

<NOTE: Due to technical issues, CiTR's pod-casting server is down. The show can still be enjoyed via the link above...sorry for the inconvenience>


This Week Whine – The Iraq Dilemma and Globalized Ethics


This past couple of weeks has brought to light the very precarious nature of the idea of an Iraqi nation…and it does not look good. We provide a quick historical context for the civil war in all but name that has resurfaced in Iraq. We also look at the UN’s Responsibility to Protect…a high point for humanity where we no longer limit people to be citizens of a nation but citizens of the world with rights the global community is charged to protect. Alas, we discuss how Iraq shows the utter failure of the UN, NATO, The US and the global community in general to actualize these rights…to ACTUALLY protect people from military violence.


The New Prostitution Bill…oy vey


In the wake of the Supreme Court striking down Canada’s prostitution law, the Harper government has presented to parliament a replaced based on the so called “Nordic Model”.

We review the reason the previous law was struck down and how this new law makes matters worse for sex workers. We deconstruct Justice Minister Peter McKay’s regressive, paternalistic sexist misogynistic law and the real reasons Harper is introducing a law he knows will be struck down by the Supreme Court of Canada.

Further Reading:

The Case to Legalize Brothels


In the previous section, I asserted that prostitution and more specifically brothels were not innately harmful…well, to be a good skeptic…we take a moment to review the evidence out there and see if the proposition – legalizing brothels makes sex work and sex workers safer is justified or just dogmatic.

Further Reading:

How Class Works


Based on a presentation given by Richard Wolff, an economist who has studied class issues for more than 40 years.

Wolff explains what class is all about and applies that understanding to the foreclosure crisis of 2007–2011. He argues that class concerns the “way our society splits up the output [and] leaves those who get the profits in the position of deciding and figuring out what to do with them… We all live with the results of what a really tiny minority in our society decides to do with the profits everybody produces.” As you watch and listen, consider what we know from research about disease and illness patterns among groups with lower income, more stress, and less control of their lives. Consider how investment decisions in neighborhoods, over transportation, school facilities, parks, location of grocery stores, quality of affordable housing, etc. influenced by powerful interests, affect the quality of life for large segments of the population.


This was produced by the National Association of County and City Public Health Officials (NACCHO) as a part of their Roots of Health Inequality Project. The project is a web-based course for the public health workforce and “How Class Works” is one section of the course.

Further Reading:



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Double standards of terrorism – Part 4

Posted by Don McLenaghen on August 8, 2011

The regionalization of the term Terrorist

Some things we may learn from how the press and the security agencies react to terrorism.
First, it was almost comical in the rush to blame Muslims for the attack. Many a news organisation rush out the news that a Muslim extremist had attacked Norway. This is interesting in two ways: first the fact it was a ‘terrorist attack’ when everyone though it was done by a ‘brown person’ but quickly the rhetoric changed to ‘lone wolf’ or ‘crazy person’ then it was discovered the act was perpetrated by a ‘indigenous Norwegian’…the term terrorist did not seem to be appropriate for a blond haired local.

So, who qualifies as a terrorist seems to be dependent on religion or nationality. That is if a ‘brown person’ tries (and fails) to blow up a plane with explosive underwear… we have a terrorist; when a ‘white person’ assassinates a doctor in church…we have a crazy lone wolf, a disturbed individual.  If you take a look at the FBI’s most wanted terrorist list, you see that EVERY terrorist on the list is a Muslim…its only if you look at the page longer you see in small print the category ‘domestic terrorist’, which seem to be exclusively environmentalist, blacks or communist. One should note that the almost all the ‘most wanted terrorist’ list are for crimes committed outside the USA…typically the FBI has jurisdiction within USA territory with the CIA dealing with attacks on US interests outside the USA.

It’s interesting in a second sense that the vast majority of terrorist attacks in Europe or the USA are not Muslims at all…in fact they account for a surprisingly small number. Worldwide their numbers grow but this is largely due to the fact that of the ‘big wars’ being waged – Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan – are Muslim countries and like any civil war, the locals are trying to outdo themselves in killing each other. Each day, about 150,000 die, of them about 23,000 are murdered…of them fewer than 50 are the result of Islamist militants and that number drops to 10 when you exclude the hotspots of Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan.

If you look at popular “know it all” Wikipedia you may be lulled into thinking that the only terrorist attacks (at least in Europe or the USA) are by Muslims yet a little more research reveals that a large number (I would argue the vast majority) of terror attacks are not listed. I checked out ETA, a Basque separatist group in Spain. According to Wiki’s terror attacks of 2003, there were NO terrorist attacks in Spain, yet the number of attacks listed in the ETA page was 20 – yes, ETA is on the international list of terrorist organization.

Where has our journey taken us? Thanks to (or in spite of) our Norwegian terrorist, we have had the opportunity to investigate what Terrorism has come to mean in our society. Through the trauma of fear and pain we have allowed our culture to transform a word to describe an act of violence into a dehumanizing term of racism. The extreme right has latched on to the ‘struggle of civilization’…has concocted this ‘epic’ struggle in a (sadly successful) attempt to distract us from the true ills in our society. They have created the ‘OTHER’ that we must all sacrifice everything to defeat.

We have been blinded by the ‘rhetoric’ of terrorism so as to not see the inequality that has grown exponentially in our countries…not see the reciprocal violence hatred breeds when we adhere to the standard of an ‘eye for an eye’…not see that western imperialist (be it colonial or economic) have created much suffering in the world; suffering that has in its own turn led the traumatized to see terrorism as the only option at hand.

We are led by the racist and the xenophobic, by the profiteers and exploiters, and by the manipulative politicians and elites…we are being led not to preservation of our culture but the extinction of it.

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Double standards of terrorism – Chapter 2

Posted by Don McLenaghen on August 5, 2011

The de-contextualization of terrorism?

Okay, in part one we seem to find that to call our Norwegian a “Christian fundamentalist terrorist” is valid at least in the common understanding of the idea but let’s look at what the term Terrorism has come to mean. The term itself is a relatively new one. We have always had terrorist, but they were often referred to as political or religious terrorist with membership to a particular group. This was important because it created a ‘context’ for the act.

For example, Anarchist terrorists were understood to be an Anarchist who was a “political terrorist”…when we apply it to ‘Muslim terrorist’ we do not get that context. “Political terrorists, who were anarchist, did their terrorism for political reasons…it provided not only a description of the act but also the reason for it.  Since 9/11 it has become fashionable to just label anyone who does violence and is Muslim as an ‘Islamist terrorist’ or Jihadi.

The modern term “Muslim terrorist” does not translate into ‘religious terrorist’ if it did there would not be the reticence to apply it to the IRA or our Norwegian. No, “Muslim terrorist”, in fact the term “terrorist” itself, now has the understanding as ‘Islamist terrorist…no context only a label to be applied to something we are to interpret as less than civilized…less than human; why else do we with little more than a moment’s hesitation allow those accused of terrorism (again a term that only seems to apply to those of the ‘brown’ skin) to be treated like animals by this I am referring to torture.

This de-contextualization of the term “terrorism” has allowed us to ignore the underlying cause of the act (and often such actors have legitimate grievances even if we still deplore these acts). The separation of actor and context allows us to create a scapegoat for all the ills in our society…a new link is created by this amorphous threat and the current problems in the country – “why can’t I find a job? It must be those ‘terrorist’ who are either taking my job or ruining the economy!”

This re-definition allowed us to ignore the underling context for violence and see it all as one big all-encompassing conspiracy against us…or more exactly the USA and western civilization. This ignores the fact that the vast majority of terrorist attacks by Muslims are not religious acts but political.  It ignores the fact that the vast majority of ‘terrorist acts’ (traditional definition) are committed not by Islamist but the ‘traditional’ population.

But you may say that 9-11 was an attack on the west. This too was not an attack to destroy the USA but a political message intended to have the Americans remove their troops from Saudi Arabia. 7/7 and the Madrid Bombing were likewise driven not by a desire to conquer Europe but to have the ‘western forces’ withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan. The vast number of attacks on US individuals occurs in countries they are either occupying or engaged in military operations…one person’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter.

If we turn an eye to the terrorist threats that intend to ‘destroy’ or ‘fundamentally change’ Europe or the USA, we find “Jihadist” very low on the list. In fact, the USA far more groups exist on the extreme (and often racist) right than ‘Islamist’. The largest sources of ‘terror’ attacks in the US arise from three main groups – Anti-abortionist, white supremacist and sovereign citizens groups. The number of attacks since 9/11 on USA soil includes the Anthrax Mailer, Austin IRS building plane attack, almost a dozen attacks on Abortion clinics by groups like Army of God and let’s not forget the Holocaust museum attack by a neo-Nazi.

So in an odd way, our Norwegian qualifies as a terrorist in the modern context because like the imaginary enemy he hoped to attack his own actions lack a real context. He has created in his own mind this ‘conspiracy’ of ‘social Marxism’ to create a fictional state of ‘Eruabia’…in this line of thinking there is no context only dogma, ideology and sedition.

But was our terrorist a lone wolf or part of some large organization? What does his manifesto…his actions say about those who inspired him? We are often quick to point out links, when the actor is ‘brown’, to the Middle East, Islamic websites, Imams sermons and the polemics of Muslim nationalist. Yet, when that same analysis is applied to our Norwegian perpetrator, the xenophobic extreme right is quick to proclaim loudly their disavowing of the actor and apologetics for their role. Who should be held culpable for the creation of our Norwegian terrorist shall be the topic of the next chapter of discussion.

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