The word extremist has been used to describe violent people for a long time. It is usually attached to a religious movement that has taken its faith to the limit of human decency. Less often it might be an ideology that has gone from ideal, to violent demand.

In other instances it can be turned around in a subversive attempt to paint innocent people as extreme because they do not conform to the reigning theory of society.

This is most common today in the social and environmental movements. People advocating for services to be extended fairly to all are derided as “socialists” and “communists” as if a universal service is an existential threat reminiscent of Stalin’s gulags. Meanwhile, liberal democracies extend needed services to all their citizens all the time.

People advocating for environmental protection or action on climate change are accused of “extremism” or even of being “eco-terrorists” if they dare to organize against prevailing fossil fuel and other interests.

What is terrorism and terror? Mariam-Webster describes terror as:

violence or the threat of violence used as a weapon of intimidation or coercion

a regime that rules by terror

especially violent or destructive acts (such as bombing) committed by groups in order to intimidate a population or government into granting their demands 

an act of terror

Are people who believe we should all have homes, or healthcare, or a sustainable and healthy ecosystem really violent fanatics? Or is this just gaslighting by a powerful set of corporate and political bullies intent on excusing their own destructive practices by insisting anyone who challenges them are the extremists?

Those who profit from the death of people, destruction of our natural world, and suffering of our communities should be the ones deemed dangerous.

It is time we see these common refrains from those who oppress our society and endanger our planet as what they are; misdirection and an admission of guilt.