The ideas of intellectuals have changed the world in many profound ways. The ideas of the Greek philosophers have influenced all of western thought. The ideas of Rousseau and Adam Smith helped to bring about the great capitalist revolution which brought an end to the old ideas of feudalism, and helped fuel revolutions in both France and America, the ideas of Lenin fueled revolution in Russia and Mao in China and many other places. Religious intellectuals have speculated on the nature and disposition of god and his/her/sits relation to man and atheistic intellectuals have challenged their conceptions of the world and even elevated the ideas of enlightenment to make the world a better place. The role of the intellectual within society should be examined from every angle as their influence on the myriad parts of society is great and not to be underestimated. But what happens when those ideas are used to justify violence? This has always been true of many movements, intellectuals have been used and they have used/ endorsed violence as well in order to lead what they would consider to be justified revolutions against oppressive forces in Russia, China or elsewhere these revolutions were lead by intellectuals and conceived by intellectuals (Kagan, D., 2002). The same can be said for terrorist organizations as well, these are usually lead by intellectuals who funnel frustration away from everyday life and funnel it towards those in power. This paper will attempt to examine the role of intellectuals in the leadership and commanding roles of revolution and terrorist action, for that is where they always are to be found the educated intellectuals are not the ones who blow up buildings and plant bombs in cars, those tasks are left to the underclass, and the lower grade recruits who are not fit to be the directing minds of the greater order. The intellectuals provide strategy logistical ideas and probably most important of all the philosophical and ideological underpinnings for the use of violence in a given situation, without these backings it is very probable that many of the revolutions around the world would not have happened (Kagan, D., 2002). They are not the ones carrying out the violence; they are the ones telling the other people why they should be carrying out the violence and why the current order must be changed in order to make greater strides in “equality”, “justice”, or whatever else the current order is not providing to the people of a given area. Examining their role is crucial to understanding their function in revolutionary doctrine whether in terrorism or otherwise (Rubenstein, R., 1987).
A point must be made here to define exactly what is meant by an intellectual within the context of a revolutionary/ terrorist apparatus. An intellectual is a person within a movement who is usually in a leadership position, though not always, who has had what we in the west would deem to be a formal education. That is they are usually highly educated and have usually attained some form of degree, or even a PHD (Kampf, H., 1990). The schooling is actually usually done in the west and then they carry this education back to their home countries where they put it to use helping their own people to realize goals of nationhood or independence (Kampf, H., 1990). Please note that as a rule an intellectual does not necessarily have to have left his home country, the intellectuals can have received an education in their own country as well. We saw this with extreme European left-wing terrorists in the 1960’s and 1970’s (Kampf, H., 1990). It is through this education they come to know the principles through which they lead their movements. Another point here which should be addressed in the ideas of these intellectuals and their failure as individuals (Kampf, H., 1990). Many of these intellectuals become radicalized in their higher education in western countries where they receive their education (Kampf, H., 1990). They gain very radical world views and come to see the only way to help their nation is to go underground and found terrorist movements because their views on society are usually so radical that they have little to no chance of actually influencing their society through normal channels (Rubenstein, R., 1987). So, in turn, because of their failure to be able to operate within the system as it is designed leads many of these people will try to influence and radicalize others and get them to join their movement in order to restructure the society along the lines which they think are proper. The types of groups these people form can vary depending on the leanings of the intellectuals backing them. Left wing ideological terrorists tend to be more urbanized and operate within cities again this was seen with groups like European terrorists or the Weather Underground in 1960’s and 70’s (Kampf, H., 1990). Those who are more right leaning tend to form what can be called paramilitary groups this was seen with groups like the Contras in South and Central America in the 1980’s (Rubenstein, R., 1987).
There are many distinctions which must be made when discussing the role of intellectuals and terrorism. But probably the most important distinction to make is between intellectuals and prophets. Many will think of the idea of prophets as being strictly a religious practice, for groups like Muslim terrorists or those who shoot abortion doctors and quote the bible to justify their actions (Crenshaw, E., Jenkins, C., Robinson, K., 2006). However, while many terrorist groups do use religious underpinnings to justify their violent actions, this is not always the case many revolutionary intellectuals would use the writings of other figures like Marx or Rousseau to fuel their revolutions, while certainly influential these men were not religious figures, and would probably have been deplored to be called such (Crenshaw, E., Jenkins, C., Robinson, K., 2006). Here the definition of prophet is as the originator of an idea, which is subsequently taken and stretched or otherwise repurposed to fit the message of intellectuals who are sponsoring violence. The most readily available of these is probably Karl Marx; while Marx could be considered quite the revolutionary he did not himself lead revolutions (Crenshaw, E., Jenkins, C., Robinson, K., 2006). Others such as Lenin and Mao took his writings and used them as the philosophical underpinnings to bring about their communist revolutions and establish their rule (Crenshaw, E., Jenkins, C., Robinson, K., 2006). For a better point about this it should be shown that intellectuals are always highly educated whereas prophets often are not. For an example of this you need look no further than Jesus of Nazareth who was a poor uneducated carpenter’s son. And then you look at all the harm that others have done in his name, shooting abortion doctors, protesting soldier funerals, and many other things. Prophets are the ones who make societal recommendations and give ideas on ways to better humanity. Intellectuals pick up that ball and run with it in order to actually bring about change in their own lands (Rubenstein, R., 1987). Again the example of Lenin is worth bringing up; he was an educated man who became a leader and articulator for much of the revolutionary ideas which were going on at the time. However Lenin’s ideas were firmly grounded in permutations of Marx and those informed his revolutionary doctrine to try and change his society (Crenshaw, E., Jenkins, C., Robinson, K., 2006). This can also be seen in the doctrines of other revolutionary idealists like Mao and Ho Chi Minh. The other point for the distinction is that, as the term prophet implies, the figure is treated with almost a religious air to them even if they themselves are not a religious figure. This can be seen again in the almost religious fascination with which some revolutionary intellectuals treat Karl Marx and his writings (Crenshaw, E., Jenkins, C., Robinson, K., 2006). In another case of a prophet’s writings being taken out of context we can see how the ideas of capitalist writers like Adam Smith are used to justify much of the Laissez-Faire capitalist ideology of today especially the ideas of deregulation which are present in today’s society (Crenshaw, E., Jenkins, C., Robinson, K., 2006).. Smith was a capitalist and an advocate of the capitalist system of economics but even he advocated the businesses should have morals to them. Other intellectuals like Ayn Rand took that ball and ran with it basically classifying altruism as a bad thing (Crenshaw, E., Jenkins, C., Robinson, K., 2006).. We can see here how intellectuals will have their own ideas and will take the words of previous philosophers, even out of context, to try and for a better backing of their ideas.
Another point must be made on direct versus indirect influence when referring to intellectuals and violence/ terrorism. What is meant by this is that there are intellectuals who directly lead violent movements and endorse violence and then there are those whose writings and perspectives have are taken by others and used as a justification or philosophical underpinning for violent or terrorist actions. For a concrete example of this probably the most pertinent case is that of Nietzsche and the Nazi party of Germany (Rubenstein, R., 1987). Nietzsche died in 1900, however his writings, especially the ideas of the death of god and the dissolution of all moral horizons, were very influential to the ideas of the Nazis since there was no religious backing to the world and no moral ideas anymore then there was no reason not to kill off six million innocent people and perform cruel experiments on them (Rubenstein, R., 1987). Nietzsche’s writings helped to influence these ideas with rhetoric about the rule of the strong over the weak as the natural course of the world. Though Nietzsche was not an anti-Semite himself, his writings were appropriated by his sister and her husband in order to give greater articulation and philosophical underpinning to their ideas and thus give their ideas legitimacy (Rubenstein, R., 1987). The context should also be seen here since this is a case of state terror rather than terrorist action carried out by non-state actors. Specific circumstances such as already existing racial tensions and the collapse of the German economy in the early 1920’s fueled an atmosphere which was conducive to the anti-Semitic rhetoric language of Hitler and those who followed him. As such Nietzsche certainly was not the beginning of these ideas however his writings were used in order to help justify what was going on and to give philosophical backing to their policies and regime (Rubenstein, R., 1987). We can see here how the subsequent writings of individuals can be lifted away from their intended meaning and instead be used in an indirect way to influence or justify violence.
This can then be contrasted with the direct influence and calls to violence by intellectuals. The point must be made that intellectuals drive movements. George Orwell once said that movements do not come from the lower classes (Place, T., 2003). This can be seen in that those that lead movements are usually very well educated and furthermore are usually not part of the lower classes. The inspiration for revolution almost always comes from above, but not from the ruling class these men are usually form a background which lands them somewhere in the middle. They are not trapped by the never ending drudgery which holds the lower classes but nor are they part of the ruling elite and as such they cannot attain the influence they desire within society (Rubenstein, R., 1987). These men, because it is men most often, are the ones who provide the catalyst for dissent against oppressive regimes or other governments. The lower echelons of a society lack the cohesion necessary to both mobilize on and vocalize their dissent, this is in part because of the poverty and lack of resources available to them but also it is a matter of logistics since the downtrodden usually make up the greater majority of a society the problems of organizing such a large mass into action (Rubenstein, R., 1987). The other large factor is educational, the lower classes of society are usually far less educated than those higher up as such the lower parts of society usually lack even the basic language necessary to articulate the nature of their suffering (Rubenstein, R., 1987). This is the vital role of the intellectuals in one capacity they are able to introduce the concept to those who are less fortunate that their lot is not fair or justified and that they can change the circumstances of their living.
The directive function of intellectuals is paramount within the idea of revolution or terrorist violence (Payne, K., 2009). Many believe that it is suffering or injustice directed to the greater mass of people in an area ruled by a certain government. However this is not the case, there has never been a historical example where the infliction of pure misery on the people has produced revolutionary ideas or change (Rubenstein, R., 1987). The directive for revolutionary movements and terrorist ideals comes from without, from a different group. As stated previously these are usually among the more educated middle class of a given society (Payne, K., 2009). The statement must be made her that the middle class has always existed; it has simply changed membership overtime. The directive function of intellectuals is that they provide the necessary logistics for violence, while there are some cases of uneducated individuals aspiring to the higher ranks of the directorship of movements, we see such a case with Ali La-Pointe in The Battle of Algiers, this tends to be more of a rarity on a twofold front (Payne, K., 2009). Firstly it is much more difficult for those without an education to understand the subtleties necessary in waging this kind of campaign and the necessary organizational structures involved to successfully carry out this sort of campaign (Payne, K., 2009). Secondly and perhaps most importantly of all, the intellectuals do not want those below them getting any ideas as to their station, allowing those form the lower class to take up leadership positions might give the lower classes the idea that they can do this on their own and then the intellectuals would either be tossed aside or relegated to a subordinate position, such as an advisory role, below the new leadership. This is simply unacceptable to most intellectuals since they were usually the ones that crystallized the movement to begin with (Epstein, G., Gang, I. 2007). The other reason for this is because, while most of the intellectuals do want to change the lot of people it is their own lot they are most interested in changing. Remember the intellectuals who fuel these movements are outside the power structure of the main government and are looking for a way in. If the structure of the current regime will not accommodate them then they will change the structure in such a way that they are in charge (Kagan, D., 2002). This is not to say that they don’t care about their fellow man and want to help them have a better life, it is just that they don’t want the lower classes getting the wrong idea, which is that they can lead themselves (Kagan, D., 2002). Instead it is to be left to the new reigning intellectuals, in the case of a successful revolution, to guide and administer new laws, because the lower classes obviously could not lead themselves (Kagan, D., 2002). Here we see the directive function of intellectuals when the lead revolutionary movements or terrorist organizations they are there not only to lead but to also keep the lower masses in line and make sure they stay with the program and do not get out of hand.
The command position is another aspect to the directive function which should be analyzed in that intellectuals normally do not inhabit the lower ranks of revolutionary movements (Rubenstein, R., 1987). They fill out the leadership positions within the upper ranks of these organizations. Why is that? Well the main reasons were highlighted above but another has to deal with wealth. Normally the intellectuals have access to much larger amounts of money than the lower echelons of a given society and as such possess the funding necessary for things like bribes, but they also usually possess more power and greater access than those below them and as such it is only natural that they would take up leadership positions within a given movement (Rubenstein, R., 1987) . A practical example would simply be Osama Bin-Laden, who was a very wealthy and highly educated man who, until his death last year, led the terrorist organization of Al-Qaeda (Farall, L., 2011). This man fulfilled all of the above listed conditions under which intellectuals normally lead terrorist organizations, he provided financial backing and logistical support to various terrorist cells throughout the world and provided the philosophical backing for their operations and serves as a sort of real world boogey man in order to keep scaring the west (Farall, L., 2011). In this context we see again a distinction between the role of an intellectual in actually leading a movement and his use of the prophet Mohammed and the Koran in order to back his philosophy up (Farall, L., 2011). So in this context you can see the natural inclination of intellectuals to rise to the upper echelons of revolutionary movements and terrorist groups and guide these movements onwards.
Philosophy was briefly touched on but needs further elaboration. The ideas and philosophical underpinnings of a movement are often expressed through its intellectual leaders; this is mainly done through re-articulating points which had been previously brought up by others. The permutations of ideology can be seen in their doctrine and the philosophies on which the government is structured. More on how a government is structured, in the event of a nationalist terrorist movement, like the ETA in Spain or the FLN in Algeria, if the movement ends up achieving its goals for independence how is the government going to be structured? Along what ideological lines? What will the constitution look like? These are all huge logistical questions which are usually answered by intellectuals. It is the intellectuals who design governments after a successful revolution as what was seen in Algeria after the expulsion of the French forces and the victory of the FLN the exiled leadership returned to Algeria and began to restructure the government, a leadership which was primarily composed of educated men (Kagan, D., 2002). To use an even more famous example, the founding fathers of the United States were all intellectuals’ men who designed the government to work a certain way after the British had been kicked out (Kagan, D., 2002). The logistical points of creating a proper administration are left to intellectuals for two main reasons the first being that they are the ones with the educational training necessary in order to actually place laws and institutions in order to help govern a population. This is essential it takes people of learning to be able to understand the minutia of day to day law and how to run and also design systems of government which can help to stabilize a government and keep it in place and protect it from counter-revolution (Rubenstein, R., 1987). These measures need to be implemented with care and thought and knowledge of how these systems work and as such it require a person or group of people to configure the logistics of how to set up such a government t(Kagan, D., 2002). The second reason was discussed earlier once the intellectuals behind a movement gain power they do not want to share said power and as such they will take said opportunity to design a government in which they are the source of power and legal authority, this is done primarily so that the uneducated masses do not get any strange ideas about their place in the hierarchy. This can be seen in the original intentions of the founding fathers that were said to originally believe that only their class, land owners, should be allowed to vote. Again we can see here that the intellectuals not only take leadership positions for ideological or logistical purposes but also as a method of safeguarding there power so it is not taken from them when they do win (Rubenstein, R., 1987).
The legal and legitimate aspect must be discussed when talking about intellectuals. Legal authority, that is authority of law, holds with a government in this day. However legitimacy is something entirely different, it is the rightfulness of the government’s authority in the eyes of the people. In other words do the people agree with the government’s authority and allow them to exercise that authority freely (Payne, K., 2009). An intellectual backing helps in both cases especially in revolutionary terrorism and if the revolution succeeds. Firstly the intellectual underpinnings of a revolutionary movement are, as a general rule, not recognized by a governing authority. This is usually because the revolutionary says that the government is illegitimate and therefore has no right to rule (Payne, K., 2009). Obviously no ruling party is going to recognize such a movement. However a proper intellectual backing can lead the general populace to also regard the current government an illegitimate regime (Payne, K., 2009). This is incredibly important for without the backing of the majority of a population the revolutionaries will have a hard time holding onto power. The philosophies of a revolutionary movement will usually appeal t sense of nationalism and group solidarity along with addressing the perceived “injustices” that their people are currently suffering under and telling them that supporting their movement will help them solve those problems (Payne, K., 2009). Whether or not this is actually true or not is beside the point. This language is attractive to those who feel they have been wronged and that the current movement could help to redress those wrongs. In this context it is possible for a non-governmental agency to shift the legitimacy of a government from the actual governing body onto itself, we see this in the case of the battle of Algiers (Payne, K., 2009). The FLN contains most of the legitimate authority in the eyes of the Algerian people, this is how they were able to order and enforce a general strike and the French authorities were helpless to stop it (Prochaska, D., 2003). The legal ramifications are also present here, though the FLN had legitimate authority in the eyes of the people and the French government did not. However the FLN did gain legal authority after the French withdrew from Algeria (Prochaska, D., 2003). The recognition of the FLN was done by other nations after they set up a government. This government which would have been designed by the intellectuals within the FLN movement (Prochaska, D., 2003). The other good example of this would be modern China, after the successful communist revolution and the fleeing of the Chinese royal family into exile, the western powers, up until the 1970’s, refused to acknowledge the Communists as the legal government of China and instead the seat at the U.N. was filled by the government in exile in Taiwan (Crenshaw, E., Jenkins, C., Robinson, K., 2006). The United States government opened up trade relations with China in the 1970’s and was recognized by the west as the legal government of China. This was due in no small part to the effect of Mao and his ideas which had spread across the globe (Crenshaw, E., Jenkins, C., Robinson, K., 2006). And also the demonstration that the Communists could support their government and have a stable rule benefitted them in getting recognition as the legal government in place of the dispossessed royal family.
Glory and credit are to points which are not often explored when dealing with intellectuals and terrorism/ revolution but those points must be brought up. The intellectuals who represent these movements for better or for worse receive the greater portion of the credit when the plans they make are carried out, they serve as figureheads and focal points for all the operations which go on they get the glory when things go right even though the soldiers/ grunts often go unrewarded. The intellectuals are the ones who are usually credited with formulation of strategy or implementation of certain actions, it was the directorship of the FLN which was blamed for the general strike not the individual low level sympathizers because it was the directorship of the FLN which put together the idea of the strike in the first place (Prochaska, D., 2003). Serving as figureheads and examples is a two sided coin however, for as they may take credit for the successes of their movement they also take the blame when things go wrong. This is where you sometimes see leaders removed after a major screw up. The glory aspect is a big point as well, we see this with a man like Osama Bin-Laden who serves as a figurehead for the Al-Qaeda network and subsequently served as a focal point for the hatred of the west. The glory of this is that this was his goal the whole time (Farall. L., 2011).
The speech act nature of terrorism can be very attractive to intellectuals in terrorist movements. These acts are bold statements against the established order of things. As previously alluded to in earlier in the essay most of these intellectuals can be termed as failed individuals and as such their ability to get their message heard is quite limited. For this reason the speech act nature of terrorism is quite appealing as it draws immediate attention to them and their group as well as their ideas on society and what they are trying to accomplish (Soares, J., 2007). The great example of this comes from Al-Qaeda and the 9/11 attacks. Before these attacks very few in the world, especially the west, actually knew of Al-Qaeda or its goals. However, after the attacks the whole world stood up and took notice of them. Now there was a large degree of backfire to this plan since Al-Qaeda’s greater goals of deposing the royal house of Saud from rule of Saudi Arabia and the removal of all American military presence from the Middle East in general and Saudi Arabia in particular were not actually articulated after the attacks and this was instead translated into a message mongering campaign about the terrorists “hating us for our freedom” (Farall. L., 2011). This action was also meant to show that the United States could not just intervene wherever it pleased and not suffer any consequences for their actions. Again this backfired as an idea because the United States portrayed it as a completely unprovoked attack (Farall. L., 2011). So while the act of attacking the World Trade Center certainly did draw international attention to them it did not aid in the spreading of their message. After all many people in the United States would prefer to entertain some utterly ridiculous idea that the government of their own country executed the attacks in order to use them as an excuse to invade the middle east, rather than think that Al-Qaeda might actually have had a goal in what they did (Farall. L., 2011). So while the speech act nature of terrorism may certainly be appealing to the intellectuals who lead these movements it does not in any way guarantee that the proper message will get through. The other issue is that while the message may get across there is also no guarantee that the world at large will heed such a message. The good example of this would come from the FLN of Algeria, while the café bombings and attacks on police officers did earn them the notice of the wider world about their plight and their quest for independence from domination by French authority, there message was ignored by the wider world (Prochaska, D., 2003). As such the intellectual leaders of that movement had to learn that they could not look to the outside world to help address their concerns and desire for nationhood and recognition and so they could only look to their own people if they were to address their concerns (Prochaska, D., 2003).
Extremism as a concept is necessary to be analyzed when dealing with intellectuals in terrorist movements this is because most of these people ascribe to what we in the west would term extremist views on the world (Payne, K., 2009). The goals of many of these movements would be considered extreme because many of these movements do not just sponsor themselves in the ideas of aspiring to statehood or influencing governmental policy through violence. Many of these movements define themselves in opposition to certain people in addition to their other goals. Though the FLN did oppose French rule and desired their own state they also ascribed to a much more extremist view that the French and Algerian people could not actually live together and as such they bombed civilian targets in order to not only gain attention but in order to drive a wedge between the French people and the Algerians and force a crackdown by French authorities in ordered to drive this viewpoint home (Prochaska, D., 2003). They were not interested in peaceful coexistence, they wanted the French, all the French not just the military regime, to have to leave Algeria and as such their campaign was driven by this idea to remove the French and force them all to have to leave (Prochaska, D., 2003). Another good example would be the IRA before the cease fire; the IRA was fighting for a unified Ireland but was not only battling against British forces but also against the Ulster Protestants who were fighting to keep Northern Ireland as part of the British government. They did this because they were afraid of what would happen to them as Protestants in a majority Catholic nation. You can see here again then extremist side view being that, even if they are both Irish, the Protestants and Catholics simply cannot live together peacefully (Payne, K., 2009). You see this as well with the PLO and Israel underlying each ideology, an ideology which was formed by intellectuals, that these peoples simply cannot live together in peace and as such require a state apparatus of their own.
As a final point the distinction between religious terrorism and nationalist terrorism should be made with regards to intellectual influence. This is directly because the goals of these organizations are usually very different. This is not to say that nationalistic terrorists do not have some religious motivations, the IRA was devoutly catholic and the FLN based many of their policies around their Muslim heritage the religious ideas are not their primary backing when it comes to their movement. Instead most of these ideas are grounded in statehood and in this independent culture group to have their own state. As stated previously this is based around the idea that the two culture groups simply cannot live together in peace, you see this reflected in the writing of intellectuals who support such movements. However with religious terrorism those ideas take a back seat towards demonstrations of religious fervor against those who have differing beliefs. Al-Qaeda might come to mind when primarily thinking of religious terrorists, and they do have a stated goal of wanting to set up a global Islamic republic this is more of a “pie in the sky” idea that does not have a real chance of realization and furthermore Al-Qaeda has practical political goals it wishes to achieve (Cook, D. 2009). For the true ideas behind religious terrorism the lens should be focused on the extreme fringe of the Christian right-wing in the United States, specifically the people who shoot abortion doctors and bomb abortion clinics, these people do not really have practical political goals they wish to achieve, beyond the repeal of Roe v. Wade in order to make abortion illegal again (Payne, K. 2009). This is not done for practical political reasons or because they aspire to their own nation, their primary motivation is taken from a literal interpretation of the bible as they see it. Though again this is being interpreted because the bible does not specifically ban the practice of abortion. These people believe they have a god given mission, which is backed by the rhetoric of right-wing Christian intellectuals like Pat Robertson or the late Jerry Falwell in order give them coherence and guide them on their path to violence (Payne, K. 2009). These people’s goals are markedly different than those of revolutionary terrorists mainly because the revolutionary terrorists are trying to work toward a practical goal of statehood/ independence the religious intellectuals will charge their followers with “missions from god” which are to be carried out. The influence of the intellectuals can be seen in both cases just going in different directions. And as a distinctive point here extremist Marxist terrorists also count as religious terrorism because they are not seeking independence or statehood from a government. They are trying to enact religiously Marxist viewpoint in order to change their society (Kagan, D., 2002). This distinction may seem strange because they are not on a “mission from god.” However, they are it just happens that their “god” happens to be Karl Marx.
In conclusion, it can be seen that intellectuals play a heavy role in revolutionary movements. They take the ideas of previous men and interpret them for their own purposes. Whether it be for the desire of gaining independence and international recognition or a divine mission from god these intellectuals form the philosophical background for revolutionary and terrorist movements. But it is more than just philosophy that backs these movements for which they are responsible. Indeed in many cases it is the movements themselves which have been set up and organized by these intellectuals and as such they are the ones who are directly responsible for much of their conduct. Many of these movements would never have existed in their cohesive forms if not for the influence of the intellectuals upon society (Rubenstein, R., 1987). So it can best be seen as a mixed blessing. However their influence is undeniable and their impact on society, for better or for worse, cannot be argued. These movements will continue into the foreseeable future as long as these feel the need to express their views through violence and to have others carry out that violence. And so the influence of intellectuals can be seen at every level within these movements and groups and will continue for a long time to come.
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