What Does Terrorism Mean in 2013? An Interview with Glenn Greenwald
VICE: What do you think about the media reaction to the Woolwich murder? Glen Greenwald: Media outlets reacted pretty uniformly to the attack. They reacted the way that media outlets typically do to these kinds of incidents, which is by simply stating that it was a terrorist attack and channeling outrage about the unprecedented, barbaric act that everyone saw take place.
Do you think it was a “terrorist” attack? What the word terrorism typically means in reality, functionally, when it’s most commonly used by our media, is that the perpetrators are Muslim, and that they are driven by either religious or political motivations. I think that when it became clear that the perpetrators were Muslim (they said “Allah Akbar” during the attack), then media outlets instantly said that this was an act of terror, and politicians sort of did at the same time. The premise here is that if the violence is perpetrated by Muslims against the West, for a political cause, then by definition it’s terrorism, but not the other way around. It’s very typical to call this a terrorist attack without including all sorts of acts of violence that the US and UK has routinely engaged in over the last decade.
On May 3rd, a 36-year-old Iraq war veteran and college student named Maribel Ramos (pictured above right) was reported missing by her family, after failing to turn up to several events in Santa Ana, California.
A couple of days later, a friend of Maribel’s named Emily C started a Yelp thread called “My friend Maribel Ramos is missing!!” in an effort to track her down.
Somebody posted asking if Maribel’s roommate had been questioned by police yet.
This is where the roommate, KC Joy (who is pictured at the very top of this post with Maribel), joined the conversation. Posting that Maribel was his BFF, and giving details of the police’s search of the apartment they shared.
Then a user called Grant K joined the thread, pointing out that it was suuuuuuuuuper suspicious that KC was referring to Maribel in the past tense.
The Hired Murderers of Medellín, Colombia, Are Laying Low—for Now
The Russian was 13 years old when he first killed a man. He has no regrets about it; the man he killed had mistreated the Russian’s little sister. He built a weapon called a chupa chupa—a blade tied to a length of PVC pipe—and plunged it into his victim’s neck. “I learned a man’s most fragile area is his jugular,” he said, adding that he was arrested for the murder but walked free due to a lack of evidence.
In Medellín, Colombia, during the 80s, the Russian (who, like all of the criminals interviewed for this story, wishes to remain anonymous—“the Russian” is not even his real nickname) was recognized as a talented and valuable hit man. Pablo Escobar, the drug lord of drug lords, was in the midst of building his trafficking empire, which of course led to constant altercations with rivals and the police. The dirtiest of the work was carried out by gang members from the slums who came to be known as combos, so it was all too easy for someone like the Russian to land a full-time job as a sicario, or “hired gun.”
The Russian’s most striking features are his red hair and a series of burn scars on his arms, which he calls his résumé. He got them when he was a young man working in a cocaine-processing laboratory. “One day a container of sulfuric acid spilled all over my body,” he recalled. “I spent six days in a coma—I had second-degree burns and a broken arm and foot. It’s not easy getting out of such a place alive. But I was lucky enough for them to think I was dead and just throw me out. The following day, a passing mule driver found me.”
After a year and a half of recovery, the Russian gathered some money he had buried for safekeeping and went after the people who had left him for dead. “A friend gave me a .38,” he said, before pausing, as if he was reliving the scene inside his head. “I killed them all.”
Injustice in the Amazon: Brazil Lets An(other) Environmental Murderer Go Free
The city of Marabá was founded on April 6, 1913, in the southeastern edge of the Amazon rainforest on a narrow strip of land where the rivers Tocantins and Itacaiunas meet. For the first several decades of its existence, the city’s economy was dependent on the abundant Brazil nut trees in the surrounding forest, but starting in the 1960s, the forest was cut down to make way for pasture. Since then, Marabá’s main claim to fame has been as one of the most violent places in Brazil. Last week, as the town geared up to celebrate its centennial, it was also wrapping up the trial of the killers of environmental activist couple Zé Claudio and Maria do Espirito Santo, the case VICE covered in Toxic: Amazon. But instead of closing the book on this violent chapter of the region’s history, Marabá’s justice system has given the green light to those who think murder is the best way to solve a problem.
Zé Claudio and Maria came from generations of nut foragers, people who made a meager living selling Brazil nuts in Marabá while getting most of their food from the forest. In the late 90s, the couple settled in a newly created extractive reserve called Praia Alta-Piranheira. The reserve was made exclusively for extractivists like them; logging and ranching the land is illegal and its occupants are expected to make a living collecting rubber, nuts, fruits, and other forest products in a sustainable fashion. However, from its inception the reserve had been the target of loggers and ranchers hungry for one of the few remaining patches of forest in the region. As a result, Zé Claudio and Maria became increasingly active in protecting the area, constantly reporting illegal activities to the authorities, receiving threats from loggers, ranchers, and charcoal producers—and eventually being murdered for their defense of their land. Their deaths would have gone unnoticed had they not happened on the same day Brazil’s congress was voting on revisions to the country’s forest code, and the attention the case received led to unusually fast investigations by Brazilian standards.
In the days after Toxic: Amazon was made, investigators looked into the local loggers and charcoal producers who constantly threatened the couple, but found no evidence that they were responsible for the murders. Once those avenues had been exhausted, they started to investigate a rancher named Zé Rodrigues, who had recently moved into the settlement. Rodrigues had illegally acquired two plots of land in the area and forcibly removed the three families who had been living there. Those families came to Zé Claudio for help, and this is when the couple became the target of Zé Rodrigues’ rage.
Mother Teresa Was a Jerk, and So Were a Bunch of Other Saints
Anjezë Gonxhe Bojaxhiu, also known as Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, also known as Mother Teresa, was a colossal fucking piece of shit. That’s not me talking, it’s not even the notoriously anti-Catholic, anti-TeresaChristopher Hitchens talking—it’s a study conducted by Canadian researchers, who called her “anything but a saint.” They accuse her of running unhygienic, undersupplied clinics even though she had access to millions of dollars of donated funds, claim she thought it was beautiful to see the poor suffer, and say that the “miracles” the Vatican claimed she performed were fake. (You mean, she didn’t cure some lady’s cancer through magic?) According to them, the Catholic Church ignored all of her flaws and canonized her because it desperately wanted the PR boost it would get from turning a celebrity into an saint and that the image of Teresa as a model of selflessness and charity is just that—an image.
But it’s not as if sainthood has historically been reserved for perfect individuals. There are over 10,000 saints recognized by the church—no one seems to know exactly how many—and they got canonized for all kinds of reasons and for all kinds of achievements. Some became saints because they didn’t have sex and then died miserably; some converted entire continents of unbelievers; some saints are entirely fictional; and some saints were just gaping, distended assholes. Like these guys:
[Note: I’ve excluded those saints who were horrible people before they converted to Christianity and went on to do great, heroic things, because if I put them in, we’d be here all day.]
OLAF II OF NORWAY
Olaf II Haraldsson, aka “Olaf the Stout,” was a pretty goddamn effective king of Norway back in the 11th century. The problem is, being an effective king then meant being a brutal murderer and tyrant. During his rule, he banned the worship of pagan gods, seized property from non-Christians, burned down heathen villages, and tortured and killed those who disagreed with him. He lost his kingdom after starting a war with another ruler, got exiled to Russia, and was killed while trying to retake his lands. So he wasn’t a nice guy, but a year later, some people dug up Olaf’s corpse, found that it hadn’t decayed, and were like, “Boom! He’s a saint now!” That’s just how things worked in 11th-century Scandinavia. It was a simpler time.
In December, the massacre at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, threw the country into a deep depression, followed by a fiery debate about guns. As January brought the US six more school shootings, many “solutions” were proposed, from arming janitors to banning all guns, while companies hawking bulletproof blazers, suits, and even children’s clothes saw sales skyrocket. One of these vendors, Amendment II, has bulletproof backpacks starting at $300. I called company president Derek Williams to ask if business was still booming.
VICE: I assume from your company’s name that you really love the Second Amendment? Derek Williams: We’re trying to develop products that save lives, but we all are concealed-weapons carriers, and we all believe firmly in the right to bear arms.
Do you feel that selling body armor somehow encourages people to buy more guns? I can see that from outward appearances, it looks like we’re promoting the Second Amendment by selling body armor. But there is really no causal relationship between body armor and shootings other than the fact that the increase in shootings has caused people to want body armor. The reason I stress that is that we’ve had a lot of hate mail from those who say that we’re contributing to the problem of gun violence.
You sell something called “designer armor.” What does that mean? We can bulletproof anything you’ve got: jackets, dress shirts, things like that. Prices are high—some items cost $2,500. We sell to people like celebrities; anyone who wants to look good and be protected.
Could you bulletproof a beret? Or a cravat? Yep, absolutely.
Tell me about the children’s backpacks that have caused all this controversy. How did they come about? At trade shows I’d have people come up to me and say, “Hey, this armor is lightweight, I’d love to have a vest or a backpack for my kid so I can take him hunting,” or, “My kid was at Virginia Tech during the  shooting, I don’t want to risk anything else like that.” After the Connecticut shooting everything just exploded, and we now have a four-week backlog on orders for the backpacks.
In 1958, in a shitty neighborhood of Lincoln, Nebraska, Charlie Starkweather, a disgruntled teenage tough who was mad at the world, and his 14-year-old girlfriend Caril Ann Fugate, murdered Caril’s disapproving family and hit the road on a murderous two-month odyssey. They killed seven more people along the way (it is unclear just how complicit Caril was in the killings, as she claimed she had been kidnapped by Charlie), before they were captured in Wyoming. The story shocked the nation and became the stuff of myth and legend. The references to it in popular culture are far reaching. One of the most well-known examples is Terrence Malick’s Badlands.
It was via Badlands that photographer Christian Patterson discovered the case. Struck by the story, Christian subsequently made a photo series, entitled Redheaded Peckerwood, which was hailed by many as a shining example of the potential that photography books held. The series and the book are conceptual, highly ambitious, visually striking, and thematically absorbing. It loosely follows the storyline of the spree, using the story as a springboard to creative inspiration, blending fact and fiction, art and artifact, and the boundaries between conceptual and documentary photography. The book’s third edition will be released by MACK this month, so we sat down with Christian to discuss his work and the story.
Are Anti-Gun Murder Squads Killing Pro-Gun Campaigners? Of Course Not, but That Hasn’t Stopped These Conspiracy Theorists
On January 3, the producer of popular gun-loving YouTube channel “FPS Russia” was found dead in Georgia at his business. Keith Ratliff, 32, was discovered with a single bullet in the back of his head. Scattered around him were various weapons, some of which he’d modified himself. Some early articles also suggested Ratliff had been tied to a chair at some point before he was murdered and then found on a rural road, but those reports now seem to be false.
So far, the motive behind this execution is unclear. The police recently ruled out a burglary gone wrong, due to the fact that nothing was stolen from the scene, but—of course—with Ratliff’s line of work, there are now a few far-flung theories sending gun forums into a frenzy, and whispers that this was an arms deal that turned sour.
An example of the insane weapons and dodgy Russian accents on FPS Russia.
As the producer and business partner at FPS Russia, Ratliff reportedly provided the channel’s host (the guy with the corny fake Russian accent) with most of the rare, powerful weapons and explosives they demonstrate to their 500 million viewers. Getting hold of weapons like the Golden Desert Eagle, an AA-12 automatic shotgun, and a 40mm machine gun is something Ratliff prided himself on. Kitty Wandel, a manager at FPS Russia, commented on this a few days ago, saying: “Keith Ratliff has been with the FPS Russia channel for quite some time now, helping us […] to find almost impossible weapons to use in videos.” Ratliff managed to get most of these “almost impossible weapons” using his Federal Firearms License (FFL).
Now, if we look at various videos on the FPS Russia channel—the firing of an explosive crossbow; theassembly of a DRD Paratus-18, which is an assassin-type “suitcase machine gun;” and even the unloading of a rocket launcher—it’s fair to presume that Ratliff obtained these weapons with his “type 10” FFL connections. This type 10 license allows the owner to “manufacture firearms, ammunition, ammunition components, destructive devices, ammunition for destructive devices, and armor piercing ammunition.” It also permits the owner to deal in all the aforementioned items. The money to be made with one of these licenses is incredible if you have the right kind of connections—someone with a type 11 license, for example.
David W Dyson.
I spoke to David W Dyson, firearms consultant and barrister, about the type 11 FFL and FPS Russia’s extensive arsenal of weapons. He told me:
“Regarding the way in which FPS Russia got hold of the weapons, we know that someone with a type 11 FFL could import them.”
The type 11 allows the import of almost any weapon in the US. With these two connections combined, you can effectively set yourself up as an arms dealer who can import a weapon once and then reproduce or modify it to sell on a large scale. Modifying and designing guns was one of Ratliff’s specialities.
“If someone with a type 11 FFL imported the items [FPS Russia’s guns], and if Ratliff had a type 10 FFL, he could simply buy them from the importer,” says Dyson. “Any supplier trading with the US could be a potential source of the weapons. There seems to be quite a few guns that could have originated in the former Soviet Union, but I think a lot could be US produced.”
There is no specific evidence that Keith Ratliff or FPS Russia are involved in any kind of arms dealing—something I did try to contact them about—but considering the way Keith was killed and his very public connection to guns, it’s a clear possibility that can’t be ignored.
Ratliff was also unhappy about the amount of paperwork you have to get through to own a military assault weapon in America. Speaking on a YouTube video titled “Obama Vows to Ban All Magazine Fed Weapons,” he rants on about how it should be illegal for some people to have guns and not others.
Back in December 2011, while producing an article about the state of First Nations women in Canada we interviewed Anishinaabe activist Audrey Huntley. She gave us some valuable insights into Vancouver’s infamous crime and drug-riddled Eastside, then told us something we couldn’t believe: “I have a friend who went to the cops in 1998 and told them about Robert Pickton’s whole farm. They called her a ‘junkie ho.’” For the record, police didn’t catch Pickton, the so-called “Pig Farmer Killer,” until 2002.
Not only was her friend right, but now she’s backed up by the recently released missing women inquiry, undertaken by former B.C. Appeal Court Justice and B.C. Attorney-General Wally Oppal, which found some pretty damning evidence of gross negligence on the part of cops during the investigation of Pickton. As in, they were outright told about a psycho who was killing prostitutes on his pig farm in Port Coquitlam and they did absolutely nothing about it.
The report was spurred on by public complaints against the mishandling of the Pickton case by the Vancouver Police Department and the RCMP. After two years of proceedings it’s now a 1,448-page document (and obviously a total bummer), so we decided to give you some of Oppal’s more important findings to spare you the details:
Oppal delivering his report to the public.
Between 1998 and 1999, four people told police about Pickton’s alleged activities. Informant Lynn Ellingsen even said she saw Pickton butchering a woman in his slaughterhouse. Apparently Police didn’t act because these witnesses were potential drug addicts and often changed their stories.
Police failed to connect the huge and very obvious dots. When Pickton was charged with the attempted murder of a sex worker in 1997, an episode which somehow was not considered a warning sign for cops when he was then implicated as a serial killer by four people in 1998.
Some senior VPD officials refused to consider there was a serial killer in their midst even when their own officer, geographic profiler Kim Rossmo, theorized it as early as 1998 and wanted to warn the public about it.
When the families of missing women attempted to file missing person reports they faced what Oppal called “degrading and insensitive treatment” by police. In some cases they were told their daughters were transient drug addicts, probably perfectly fine, or on vacation and out partying. READ MORE
BATH SALTS, ORGIES, MURDER AND ANTI-VIRUS SOFTWARE
If there is one thing society can learn from the soap opera now engulfing tech zillionaire John McAfee, it is that rectal shelving is the best way to take the psychoactive drug MDPV, marketed and known colloquially as bath salts. “Measure your dose,” McAfee wrote on a psychonaut forum two years ago, under his Stuffmonger handle. “Apply a small amount of saliva to the middle finger, press it against the dose, insert. Doesn’t really hurt as much as it sounds. We’re in an arena (drugs/libido), that I navigate as well as anyone on the planet here. If you take my advice about this (may sound gross to some), you will be well rewarded.”
It was the sort of vain boast to which he was prone. But it wasn’t too far from the truth, either. More than 99.9 percent of anyone now living, John McAfee seemed to have spent every waking hour Carpe-ing the fucking Diem.
Here was a man who did sex yoga. Who practiced the ridiculously fatal sport of aerotrekking. Who ranged the world gathering sycophants around him, investing in power yachts, designer chemical labs, bodyguards and shotguns, and above all else, making his life a holy shrine to his penis, and his life’s work the putting of that penis into as many young ladies as would have it. His holy grail, according to reports from close friends reported by Gizmodo, was “drugs that induce sexual behavior in women”. He lived for pleasure. For the most simple, hedonic view of pleasure, and – if you squinted your eyes a bit – you could probably have seen him as a kind of deranged folk hero.
But now someone is dead, and it’s a lot harder to see the joke.