‘To intimidate or coerce a civilian population’

‘To intimidate or coerce a civilian population’ January 5, 2012

Melissa McEwan at Shakesville notes that this Bobby Joe Rogers, 41, of Tuscaloosa, Ala., was charged today with “one count of damaging a building by fire or explosive.”

But he was not charged with terrorism. Why not?

McEwan links to this AP story: “Authorities: Man charged in fire at Florida clinic says he was motivated by dislike for abortion

Authorities say a homeless man charged Thursday with setting a New Year’s Day fire that gutted a family planning clinic told investigators he acted out of a strong disbelief in abortion and was also fueled by seeing a young woman enter the clinic while he looked on recently with protesters.

Bobby Joe Rogers, 41, was charged with one count of damaging a building by fire or explosive and was being held Thursday at the Escambia County Jail in the Florida Panhandle region. He could face up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

In an affidavit, prosecutors say Rogers told investigators he went to the Pensacola clinic of American Family Planning around midnight on New Year’s eve with a fire bomb he had crafted from a 32-ounce beer bottle and gasoline with a wick made from an old shirt.

He told them he lit the bomb, threw it against the building and watched it burst in flames and ignite the building, the affidavit said.

… The two-story Pensacola clinic that was gutted by flames has been attacked before. It was bombed on Christmas Day in 1984, and in 1994 a doctor and a volunteer who escorted patients to and from the clinic were shot to death as they arrived. The gunman, Paul Hill, was executed in 2003.  Pensacola was the site of other abortion-related violence in 1993 when Dr. David Gunn was shot and killed at another clinic by an abortion protester.

The firebombing of the clinic in which Rogers was charged was an act dangerous to human life that was a violation of the criminal laws of the nation and the state of Florida. It appears to be intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population, and to influence the policy of the government.

If that sounds like legal language, that’s because it is. Here is the definition of domestic terrorism in the U.S. Code:

(5) the term “domestic terrorism” means activities that—

(A) involve acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State;

(B) appear to be intended—

(i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population;

(ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or

(iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping; and

(C) occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States.

Prosecutors accuse Rogers of “damaging a building by fire or explosive,” and that seems appropriate.

But it wasn’t just any building. He chose this building for a reason, and that reason was to intimidate and coerce a civilian population and to influence government policy by intimidation and coercion.

How is that not domestic terrorism?

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  • Anonymous

    I have no compassion whatsoever for someone who thinks they know better than me what I should do with my own body.

    But this person took that one step further. He decided that not only is his thinking right, he was going to act on it. He cost people jobs, healthcare and much needed aid.

    And you’re writing this off as a petty crime?

    Pull your head out of your ass.

  • Anonymous

    terrorism…. (i saw the 9/11 terror attacks with my own eyes and I agree)

  • P J Evans

     I wish I had that much confidence in prosecutors. They’ll do anything they can, including withholding evidence and lying, to get someone convicted, whether or not that person is actually guilty of the crime they’re being charged with.

  • P J Evans

    Unlike the ‘lone wolf’ terrorists like the guy at the MLK Day parade in Spokane last year..

  • And why, pray tell, do you think it is best avoided?

  • Dan Audy

    I can’t answer for anyone else but since I believe (and occasionally suggest) that it is a profoundly unhealthy community that diminishes the cause of feminism, I’ll hop in and explain why.

    The problem with Shakesville is Melissa McEwan.  Her primary problems are that she is very, very angry and unable to focus it on legitimate targets; she is unable to tolerate or respond to dissent; she consistently engages in bad faith discussion and accusations; and appears to seek out things to be offended about.  These are all interrelated problems that blur into each other and are hard to address without turning this into a massive post covering years upon years of internet drama that is both wasting my time and needlessly cruel. 

    In very brief, my experience (and the experience of several other people who I know both in real life and online) is that any disagreement with her posting immediately draws claims of ‘mansplaining’, bad faith, and personal persecution regardless of how minor that disagreement might be or even longstanding membership in the community.  She will delete non-offensive, non-hostile responses that point out the flaws in her reasoning or factual errors and counteract with massive frontpage posts denouncing people (though usually without actually saying their name) and exhorting her followers to attack them through other boards, twitter, etc.  The big problem this creates is that her comment section is an incredible echo chamber and those who aren’t driven out of the community emulate her behaviour making it one of the most hostile communities I’ve experienced which is made more offensive by its claims to be open and inclusive.

  • Dave Jenkinson

    Everyone deeply knows, just like the terrorism act, this discussion on in he a terrorist or not is utter nonsense.
    This guy is being dealt with correctly by THE LEGAL SYSTEM!!!!There are no terrorists in the world, every country has socio paths and whatever the creed of the offender they should all be dealt with in the same way without terrorism bills taking away civil liberties of the people.


  • Anonymous

    There are no terrorists in the world, every country has socio paths and
    whatever the creed of the offender they should all be dealt with in the
    same way without terrorism bills taking away civil liberties of the

    While I agree with the last bit, are you seriously saying that there are not, there have never been, people whose goal in committing an illegal act was to strike terror into the hearts of the population against whom the act was committed?

  • Macacanadian

    The 911 hijackers used box cutters. The tools aren’t important – only the result and the intended reaction.

    This guy used violent means to achieve a political goal, inspire fear and destroy a building that didn’t agree with his political/religious beliefs.

    That is terrorism.

    He wasn’t charged as a terrorist because, in the United States, it is quite clear that one of the definitions of a terrorist is to be muslim.

    It is also worth mentioning that the so-called massive left wing media conspiracy tows the line and does not mention the word terrorist at all.

  • Dave Jenkinson

    yes that is true, but the manipulation of the word terrorist is out of control thanks to mr bush.
    Although some political retaliations are provoked, they dont justify a ‘socio path’ going on a murdering spree. but we already have laws in place to combat this. the new laws only harm our own societies and divide the government establishments and the people even further.
    Any rapist, murderer or even bully at school inflicts terror on its victims. Its our governments definition which the media has helped everyone swallow is flawed. you cant say that someone who inflicts terror on a specified group is a ‘terrorist’ yet against another group isn’t. You could argue our actions in Iraq killing +1 million people makes us a nation of terrorists while we are fighting for our beliefs.
    We have to tread carefully because the only way we will ever win this ‘war on terrorism’ is leading by example.
    ask yourself when the last time was that you respected someone whom dictated a policy/idea to you that you strongly disagreed with? there are a percentage of the population in EVERY country that will retaliate by violence as they are unable to debate.
    In my eyes we are either all terrorists or none of us are, it’s merely a definition we have created and apply it when it suits us.

  • Anonymous

    you cant say that someone who inflicts
    terror on a specified group is a ‘terrorist’ yet against another group

    Exactly our point. Which is why Bobby Joe here should get the moniker.

  • Dave Jenkinson

    well It seems we agree on most points, and if I’m not mistaken he is already facing a lengthy sentence. I’m just fed up of this terrorism definition, the future it holds for our nations and the racism in incites as this will inevitably lead to further wars. We are just talking about another criminal and not some ‘terrorist’ by our own definition. Lets keep the legal system as it was and trust the people of our nations a little more not to self destruct. :)

  • Anonymous

    this terrorism definition, the future it holds for our nations and the racism in incites

    Well if we used the word for white people too…

  • Dave Jenkinson

    that is true again but why use the word? do we need a system where people can be held without trial or legal representation? I suppose my point is, he is already being dealt with correctly and all we need to do is apply that same rule to the branded ‘terrorists’ without creating fear in the people to intimidate or coerce the population into changing laws that remove personal freedom. isn’t that terrorism by the pen?

  • Anonymous

    Your point about the PATRIOT Act is valid.

  • Dave Jenkinson

    thankyou, although yes by legal definition he SHOULD be branded a terrorist. I’m just glad he wasn’t as he is going to be punished accordingly. The legal system is in a mess and is being very hypocritical because the truth is we don’t need the act to punish criminals. 

  • ako

    The word “terrorism” describes a specific type of crime, and if used well, can help law enforcement successfully target the crime of using violence to inflict political terror (recognizing, for instance, that a terrorist assassin is likely to have a different pattern of behavior than a serial killer).  If used poorly, well, we get stuff like the PATRIOT act. 

    I think you may have confused enthusiasm for consistent and accurate use of the label “terrorism” with enthusiasm for the kind of punishments commonly given to people who get the label.  I don’t want to see anyone waterboarded, held in indefinite detention without trial, or subjected to extraordinary rendition and torture.  I think the accurate and consistent use of the terrorism label can ultimately reduce the desire to inflict excessive punishment on terrorists.  That may be the area of actual disagreement. 

  • Dave Jenkinson

    thanks for the summary, I fully agree. Patriot Act, NDAA and more to follow as media and gov use terrorism against us. Which is mainly why I was ranting as elements of our own society are no better than what we are branding elsewhere.

  • LunaticFringe

    Thank you for explaining it much more calmly and generally better than I could have.

  • Wade

    >I’m pro-life. I believe women should have lives, and that they should
    be trusted enough to have control over their lives and their bodies.

    I never understood this idea that it’s “the woman’s body”.  It’s not like a fetus is an organ or even comparable to one; it’s a separate body.  A separate person’s body.

  • Wade

    Just want to be clear that this guy did a reprehensible thing in his own right and that I have no intention of defending him.

  • Oh Jesus fuck not this “separate person” thing again.



  • Dan Audy

    Even if you credit personhood to a lump of cells or developing fetus – something that many people disagree with – you are left with the fact that this person is involuntarily occupying the woman’s uterus.  Just like I don’t get to appropriate your kidney just because you are a donor match to me without your consent because it could impair your health, mental wellbeing, your work, your goals, and your family – neither does a fetus get to do so to a woman without her consent.  Even if you are of the opinion that morally a woman is obligated to do so – again something widely disagreed with – legally* there is no basis on which to obligate involuntary organ donation from pregnant women.   To be at all consistent on this issue you would have to be willing disregard everyone elses bodily integrity and desires too if any other person would like to do so.

    *Our legal system recognizes several facts relevant to abortion.  No one (except in a very few specific professional duty cases) is obligated to take lifesaving actions and much inaction (unless one has a duty to do so) is also protected both criminally and civilly.  This means that if someone collapses in front of me that I am not obligated to perform CPR on them, donate blood if they need it, or even call an ambulance.  If I see a speeding hybrid rushing towards a crosswalk that a blind person is about to enter I am not obliged to warn them of the danger.  In these cases I might be a morally bankrupt asshole if I did so and people could condemn me**, but no criminal or civil action could be taken against me.

    **I haven’t seen any suggestions that people be denied their first amendment rights (or national equivalent) to loudly condemn abortion as being wrong, only that they can’t outlaw it or restrict it into non-existence.  In Canada despite having no first amendment, and in fact laws that restrict hate speech, no one has ever been stopped from saying abortion is murder (though we do moderately restrict their ability to harass and threaten women who are going to receive abortions).

  • Dave Jenkinson

    Its fair to have that opinion, but if all ‘pro-lifers’ were to go on a list and should this list be the majority women that don’t want their babies go through with the birth. Then after birth a ‘pro-lifer’ is selected at random and legally obliged to care for the child whether financially or mentally convenient or not. would you be happy with that decision? and if you are would every ‘pro-lifer’ be happy with that decision and stay on the list or sign off and hope everyone else keeps it that way for you?

  • Anonymous

    “That’s a good point, and also why it’s odd to link to the Shakesville
    post instead of directly to the article, sop I’m guessing that Fred
    isn’t well acquainted with their reputation.”

    And what “reputation” would that be?  Besides the “reputation” of being a site LunaticFringe does not care for?

  • Anonymous

    “DID YOU

    I like to put it this way:  “Persons do not live inside and batten on the bodies of other persons.”

  • Dan Audy

    Please make an effort to read the thread before asking for something that is already there.  I provide a brief explanantion of what is wrong with Shakesville up-thread that LunaticFringe basically agreed with a couple posts later.

  • Anonymous

    Ah.  When I read, and wrote, the word “reputation” I was interpreting and using it to mean “reputation”, not “Dan Audy’s opinion”.

  • Dan Audy

    I thought that providing some information on why it has the reputation it does was better than just saying ‘many people think Shakesville is X’ given that much of its reputation is extremely similar to how the feminist movement in general is frequently slandered.  I feel that offering something more substansive than ‘some people say Shakesville…’ he-said-she-said still discourse is part of having full faith discussions and something that this community is both capable of handling and aspires to.

  • Anonymous

    But neither you nor LunaticFringe have offered any evidence that Shakesville does have such a “reputation”.  I realize that “reputation” is a difficult thing to quantify, but it’s rather disturbingly easy to smear a site (and in the interests of full disclosure I should say here that I’m a regular reader and infrequent commenter at Shakesville) by conflating “personal opinion” — which, bluntly, is all you offered — with “reputation”.

  • Anonymous

    I’m also a mostly-lurker/sometimes poster at Shakesville — actually, I’ve seen a lot of crossover between S’ville and here and S’ville and Ta-Nehisi Coates, and some between TNC and here. There are a *lot* of people actively participating in two out of these three communities, a few actively in all three, and probably a ton of lurkers in all three; it’s likely that either a slim majority or a very large minority of the posters and lurkers here have not had your experiences with S’ville.

    The thing is, it’s very clear about not being a 101 site. There are a ton of READ THIS FIRST BEFORE POSTING links, a ton of warnings about what is and is not up for debate, a ton of guidelines about the things that are to be taken by all active posters as first principles. In my (5? 8? I know I’ve been lurking there longer than here) years at S’ville I’ve seen a handful of dramatic overreactions to innocent questions, and 1.278 metric assloads of fully justified banhammers coming down on posters who violated the clearly stated community standards. Often they did so without obscenity and without hostile or aggressive language; but the fact remains that they did so.

    If you don’t like the way it operates, you don’t have to post or even lurk. But, of all the communities at whose edges I’ve hovered over the past 1-2 decades, Shakesville is probably in the top 3 for very, very crystal-clear publicly stated, adhered to and enforced community participation standards. Which does make it something of an echo chamber, but, damn, at least it owns its echo-chamberness. They are explicitly interested in certain kinds of discourse, and explicitly closed to certain others. AFAICT, that’s how they’re known, too: a somewhat closed system, but an entirely consistent one, and one that has flogged out many of the same 101 issues over and over and is just done with a whole host of them. Rigid, but not remotely irrational or unpredictable.

  • Anonymous

    It’s not easy to label every nut a terrorist. Words have meanings. Terrorism is defined in the U.S. Code. This “nut”‘s actions were terrorism, therefore he is a terrorist. See? 

  • Anonymous

    ‘real’ terrorism is perceived as requiring a certain…. uppityness.
    I.e, it requires that the violent act in question be an attempt to upset
    the established order

    Probably true.  Also ironic, since much Islamist terrorism is justified as an attempt to restore the established order, when there was a unified caliphate and Muslims were free from Western influence and secular corruption and everyone agreed on how to interpret the Quran and the Hadith.

    Everyone’s got their own version of the Good Old Days.

  • Anonymous

    I never understood this idea that it’s “the woman’s body”.  It’s not
    like a fetus is an organ or even comparable to one; it’s a separate
    body.  A separate person’s body.

    Well, if you really don’t understand and would like to understand, perhaps you should make an actual argument as to what “separate” means and why it applies to a pregnant woman and her zygote/embryo/fetus?  Then you might get some responses that would help you understand.

    Alternately, if you’re just being Mr. Disingenuous, feel free to drop zingers like this and vanish into the night!

  • JohnK

    Careful who are you talking to there — based on his argument here, he must be none other than Dallas County District Attorney Henry Wade, of Roe v. Wade fame.