To provoke or not to provoke

Provocateur, agent


[/prəˈvəʊk/ ]

verb (transitive)

  1. to provoke, anger or infuriate
  2. to incite


[pruh-vok-uh-tur, -too r; French praw-vaw-ka-tœr]

noun, plural provocateurs

1. a person who provokes trouble, causes dissension; agitator
(italics) French. agent provocateur

1915 Shortened form of agent provocateur “person hired to make trouble” (1845)

As time passes since the attack by terrorists at the Charlie Hebdo office and store in Paris, and responses are the topic of the day, let us add one more, from out of the mainstream but not as far from the mainstream as some would say. There is no doubt that provocation is a strategy that has been used throughout history — and today, especially in the Middle East among the parties in brutal conflict, provocation is a tactic of the times.

The words that come to mind are provoke and provocateur — and false flag, which adds the element of provoking under false pretense.

Few would disagree that the attack in Paris was incendiary with intent to provoke a response and the individuals involved were provocateurs.

If one goes beyond the provocation to ask of the intent of the provocateurs, then a grey area begins to obscure the motive as intelligence agencies investigate and political voices speculate, from blaming individuals to blaming groups, to blaming religions. Yet, looking into history, there are many incidents that have provoked, designed to initiate or widen war, escalate conflict, and reduce potential for solutions. An extremist agenda is not one of solutions, but rather confrontation.

Provocations designed to deceive, to manipulate public opinion, to assign blame to others is an age old tactic. As a tactic within a strategy, the power of provocation is not to be ignored. Provocations misreported have led to a declaration of war in Vietnam (Gulf of Tonkin incident) and the history of government claims have wrapped up agencies and individual actors, intel departments and mercenaries, radicals and zealots. The history, uncensored, is a shocking record of drums of war, beating loudly at regular intervals. The broadcast of provocation is the business of war. War sells, ask Hearst. The manipulation of public opinion is not a difficult task. History makes a case, as a consequence, for considered policy after provocative acts.

Who was behind the attack in Paris, and what were the motives of those responsible? The controversial Juan Cole, who has much experience in the Mideast, speaks of a “sharpening of contradictions”, a phrase that goes to a strategy of political incendiary acts. He speaks of Iraq and widening conflict. His point of view has on-the-ground reality, and the  widening of the war in Iraq speaks to this tactic of provocation and consequences. A strategy and tactics intended to ‘draw in’ France and the US, even further, are possibly in play.

The widening of the war in the Mideast has a connection to the Paris attack, to what extent is yet to be assessed. Those who are looking to widen the war have motives and these motives are in action. Policy makers should give consideration to the motives and not be ‘played.’

The history of acts intended to provoke flames of war and provocateurs who are acting with intent and/or as paid agents is a controversial record, but one whose hand reaches out across the decades.

Given the success of tactics that have deceived in the past, one can expect more of the same.

It’s a wonder there’s ever been a moment’s peace. — RS


There’s a Name for It

“False flag terrorism” as Wikipedia defines it:

False flag operations are covert operations conducted by governments, corporations, or other organizations, which are designed to appear as if they are being carried out by other entities. The name is derived from the military concept of flying false colors; that is, flying the flag of a country other than one’s own. False flag operations are not limited to war and counter-insurgency operations, and have been used in peace-time; for example, during Italy’s strategy of tension.

The term comes from the old days of wooden ships, when one ship would hang the flag of its enemy before attacking another ship. Because the enemy’s flag, instead of the flag of the real country of the attacking ship, was hung, it was called a “false flag” attack.

Indeed, this concept is so well-accepted that rules of engagement for naval, air and land warfare all prohibit false flag attacks.


“Sharpening of contradictions”

Re: the Charlie Hebdo attack

“It was an attempt to provoke European society into pogroms against French Muslims, at which point al-Qaeda recruitment would suddenly exhibit some successes instead of faltering…

Al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia… deployed this sort of polarization strategy successfully in Iraq, constantly attacking Shiites and their holy symbols, and provoking the ethnic cleansing of a million Sunnis from Baghdad. The polarization proceeded, with the help of various incarnations of Daesh (Arabic for ISIL or ISIS, which descends from al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia)…


Terrorists, Counter-Terror “Experts”, and Governments Are All Motivated to Cover Up the Facts

Experts say that terrorists are strongly motivated – for two reasons – to exaggerate their abilities to inflict damage:

(1) Terrorism is defined as “the use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims”. So terrorists exaggerate their destructive abilities in order to increase intimidation and push their aims


(2) The more damage people believe that a terrorist group has inflicted, the more donations and funding they will receive from radical extremists. Specifically, radicals are more likely to fund terrorists who are “effective” in inflicting damage than those who can’t pull off murder and mayhem.

So terrorists want to exaggerate how much damage they’ve actually inflicted…


So what are the real terrorism facts?

The actual statistics are stunning:

  • Daniel Benjamin – the Coordinator for Counterterrorism at the United States Department of State from 2009 to 2012 – notes today (at 10:22):

The total number of deaths from terrorism in recent years has been extremely small in the West. And the threat itself has been considerably reduced. Given all the headlines people don’t have that perception; but if you look at the statistics that is the case.


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Switching from the larger picture to a human story — here is a touching moment to remember, as we re-gather ourselves and carry on with the best intent possible

What Everyone Can Learn From Elsa Cayat’s Final Column In Charlie Hebdo

Charlie Hebdo is a weekly satirical newspaper that’s become infamous for the provocative humor of its cartoons. But the paper also regularly publishes very serious articles on politics, sociology, economics, and Cayat’s complex columns on psychology…

She drew in readers with stories about her patients, sharing their eureka moments with a dose of dry humor…

She has said of her profession, “The goal of psychoanalysis is to turn back time, to turn the s—- and blackness buried six feet under into gold, so [people] again find the open-mindedness they had as a child.” 

And that’s exactly what she does in her last published column, titled La Capacité de S’Aimer, or, in English, “The Ability to Love”. Surviving Charlie Hebdo editors curated the Jan. 14 issue — the first issued after the attack — to celebrate the most meaningful work of their lost colleagues. With the choice of Cayat’s column, they made a poignant statement on tolerance — and accepting others for their differences…

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