Mexican army and police. (Image via)
Some more great news from Mexico's embattled streets: as well as the bloody trail of dismembered bodies left hanging from bridges by vicious paramilitary drug cartels, a bunch of presumably aggressively Luddite anarchists have been trying to blow up scientists all over Mexico in a war against technology.
The poetically-named eco-anarchists, Individuals Tending Towards Savagery (Individualidades Tendiendo a lo Salvaje, or ITS, in Spanish), are just one of a growing number of political terrorist cells operating in Mexico. They have a passionate hatred for nanotechnology, apparently wanting the world to revert to its troglodyte roots and shun any new developments in the field.
Despite the fact there are genuine concerns over nanotechnology's impact on the environment, sending parcel bombs to scientists and academics seems a little extreme. Plus – and don't tell them this – there are almost definitely other people working on nanotechnology outside of Mexico, so a couple of wanton murders probably aren't going to change a lot.
In their manifesto – found on the anarchist blog Liberacion Total and translated by Wired.com – they state: “Did those who modify and destroy the Earth think their actions wouldn’t have repercussions? That they wouldn’t pay a price? If they thought so, they are mistaken.”
The ITS' bombing campaign dates back a couple of years, when, in August 2011, Alejandro Aceves López from the Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education in Mexico City was maimed after a pipe bomb concealed in a parcel exploded. Shrapnel from it was fired into one of his lungs, while Armando Herrera Corral, who the package was addressed to, escaped with a burst eardrum and burns.
The ITS has reportedly already claimed responsibility for plenty more bomb attacks, twice targeting employees at the Polytechnic University of the Valley of Mexico in Tultitlán, where a security guard was injured, as well as the Polytechnic University of Pachuca, where a teacher suffered burns when a package exploded in her hand. In their most recent attack, a letter bomb was delivered to the Institute of Biotechnology in the National Autonomous University of Mexico last month, but it was a dud – suggesting they are either adopting scare tactics or just getting worse at making bombs.
Mauricio Meschoulam. (Image via)
When I spoke to Mauricio Meschoulam, a political analyst, terrorism professor and researcher based in Mexico City, he told me that Mexico’s problem with anarchist groups is a byproduct of the existing cartel violence.
“Besides those organised criminals and criminal cartels, you could say that there are a number of political groups – or you could call them anarchists – who have been using terrorist tactics specifically for political motivations," he told me. “Right now we're living under a state of psychosis, and if you have a population that is already under those conditions, then it’s easier to perpetrate a terrorist attack of whatever size you want. You can place a bomb, have an explosion and get everyone's attention, because we're already living under such circumstances.”
The desensitisation that stems from someone having their head hacked off down your street, the fact that 72 people are kidnapped every day or any other examples of the senseless violence that has characterised Mexico's drug war might explain why the ITS don't seem too fussed about sending letter bombs to support a cause they're genuinely passionate about.
But the terrorist psyche can also apparently be explained another way – by drawing parallels with taking 'shrooms, according to Roger Griffin, a political academic at Oxford Brookes university and writer of Terrorist's Creed, which provides a philosophical, psychological, political and social analysis of modern terrorism.
One of the parcel bombs sent by the ITS. (Image via)
“I call it the Alice syndrome,” he told me. “In Alice Through the Looking Glass, Alice takes mushrooms to get bigger and smaller. Once you’ve become your heroic avatar on a mission to fight evil, your reality principles self-destruct, so you actually think you’re on this divine mission. At that point, you adopt very disturbed reality principles and end up miscalculating like a sociopath. You have no real grip on rationality or the relationship with the violence you're causing and the effect it will have on reality.”
And these delusions not only numb the ITS to the fact that they're snatching away innocent lives, but apparently fool them into believing that their methods are actually going to work. They might see themselves as anti-tech freedom fighters, ridding the world of the potential side-effects of a definitely evil technology, but Roger reckons their attacks aren't really going to change anything.
“An awesome film to get this across to people is Fight Club,” he told me. “It points to the total amorality and madness of banking, but what the novel and film brings out is the total madness of the strategy to deal with it. By blowing up skyscrapers in New York you’re not going to get rid of capitalism, no more than 9/11 is going to get rid of the West – it’s counter productive and futile.”
Essentially, it's unlikely that anyone has ever watched a group of people blow up a load stuff, taken a step back and said, "You know what? Maybe we should side with these guys – they seem totally level-headed and rational." But I'd hope you don't need me to tell you that.
Activism against nanotechnology is apparently on the rise, with Nature noting that opposition to the technology is on the rise in countries other than Mexico. This has been seen most notably in France, where protesters have shut down debates on nanotechnology a number of times and held protests outside Minatec, France's flagship nanotechnology research centre. The ITS' manifesto pretty much guarantees more bombs, but unfortunately for them and the people they're intended for, it's likely that every single one of them will explode in vain.
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