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The Sparks that lit the Fire: on the Utility of Triggering Events – Part VI

VI.       Historical examples which have been attributed “triggering events”

14 July 1789: The people of Paris storm the Bastille prison in order to oppose absolute monarchy and to arm themselves.

26 August 1789: The National Constituent Assembly publishes the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, monarchy is abolished and popular sovereignty strengthened. The French Revolution is under way.

23 March 1819: Karl Ludwig Sand, a liberal, yet militant German fraternity student, stabs the conservative dramatist August von Kotzebue to death in Mannheim, Germany.

20 September 1819: At the instigation of Klemens von Metternich, Austrian foreign minister, the Carlsbad Decrees are issued by the German Federal Assembly, banning student fraternities, cutting down the freedom of speech, boosting censorship of the press and removing liberal professors, resulting in a complete paralyzation of all democratic reform movements in Germany for two decades to come.

12 April 1861: Troops of the newly formed Confederate States of America under the command force the surrender of Fort Sumter, South Carolina, which is held by the United States.

15 April 1861: US President Abraham Lincoln issues a proclamation (not a declaration of war) calling for 75,000 additional troops to restore order, which is followed by the secession of another four states that join the Confederacy. The Civil War begins.

28 June 1914: Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, heir apparent to the Austro-Hungarian throne, is shot dead in Sarajevo by a radical Bosnian Serb.

28 July 1914: Austria-Hungary declares war on Serbia. Germany subsequently declares war on Russia and France. World War I breaks out.

16 April 1917: With the support of Germany’s supreme army command, Vladimir Ilyich Lenin is sent from Switzerland to Russia in a sealed train which is granted extraterritorial status to discreetly arrange for a separate peace agreement between Germany and Russia.

7 November 1917: Lenin and the Bolsheviks seize power. The October Revolution leads to the creation of Soviet Russia and marks the start of the Russian Civil War.

7 December 1941: The Japanese navy conducts an aerial attack against the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, leaving some 2,400 US troops dead.

8 December 1941: The US declares war on Japan, and, subsequently, on Germany and Italy, entering the theaters of World War II.

5 September 1945: Igor Gouzenko, a Russian cipher clerk, defects, fleeing the Soviet Union Embassy in Ottawa, Canada, with a cache of stolen documents exposing the biggest espionage ring ever revealed in the Western world.

3 February 1946: Drew Pearson, a US talk show host, publicly reveals the spy ring, provoking a new ‘red scare’ ultimately dissolving any solidarity between the former wartime allies, which now believe that atomic secrets may have been compromised by the USSR, shattering the balance of postwar power. The case symbolically marks the ignition of the Cold War.

3 June 1982: An unsuccessful assassination attempt on Shlomo Argov, the Israeli Ambassador to the United Kingdom, is carried out by members of the Abu Nidal Organization.

6 June 1982: Israeli troops invade southern Lebanon, the Lebanon War unfurls.

3 March 1991: Rodney King, a black US motorist, is stopped and excessively beaten by the police after a high-speed pursuit in Los Angeles. The incident is videotaped by a private citizen and broadcast on television.

29 April 1992: A jury acquits the three white and one hispanic police officers accused of the beating. In the immediate aftermath, the Los Angeles Riots will rage for six days with 54 people being killed, 2,382 injured, 7,000 fires set, over 12,000 people arrested, and over USD 1 billion of damage being done.

11 September 2001: Four coordinated suicide attacks, carried out by al Qaeda operatives hijacking commercial passenger airliners, hit the World Trade Center, New York, and the Pentagon, Washington, D.C., with a death toll of circa 3,000 civilians.

7 October 2001: The War in Afghanistan – and, at the same time, the Global War on Terror – begins with US and UK aerial bombing campaigns.

30 September 2005: Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten publishes a series of 12 editorial cartoons depicting the Islamic prophet Muhammad in a derogatory fashion.

14 October 2005: Peaceful demonstrations against the mockery are staged in Copenhagen, followed by boycotts of Danish goods and an escalation of violence throughout the Arab World over the coming months and years, resulting in a death toll of over 140 and numerous, so far unsuccessful terrorist plots in Western Europe.

17 December 2010: Mohamed Bouazizi, a Tunisian fruit merchant, sets himself on fire in protest of having been humiliated by the authorities in Sidi Bouzid.

18 December 2010: The Tunisian Revolution – and, consequently, the Arab Spring – unfolds.

4 August 2011: Mark Duggan, an alleged drug dealer and gang member, is shot dead by the police in an attempt to arrest him in Tottenham, London.

6 August 2011: For four days, the England riots with five fatalties, several hundred injuries, massive rioting, looting and arson, causing an estimated GBP 200 million in damages, are touching off in London, Manchester, Bristol and other places.


VII.     Sources

[1]        Badiou, A. (2007) Being and event. London; New York: Continuum.

[2]       Bennett, J. F. (1988) Events and their names. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company.

[3]       Davidson, D. (2001) Essays on Actions and Events. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press.

[4]      Dipert, R. R. (1997) The Mathematical Structure of the World: The World as Graph, in: The Journal of Philosophy vol 94(7). New York: The Journal of Philosophy.

[5]       Faye, J., Scheffler, U. & Urchs, M. (2000) Things, facts and events. Amsterdam: Rodopi.

[6]      Fisk, M. (1965) Causation and action, in: The Review of Metaphysics vol 19(2). Washington, D. C.: Philosophy of Education Society.

[7]       Galton, A. (2008) Experience and history: processes and their relation to events, in: Journal of Logic and Computation vol 18(3). Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press.

[8]      Ibe, O. C. (2005) Fundamentals of applied probability and random processes. Amsterdam; Boston; Paris: Elsevier Academic Press.

[9]      Kanzian, C. (2001) Ereignisse und andere Partikularien. Vorbemerkungen zu einer mehrkategorialen Ontologie. Paderborn; München: Schöningh.

[10]    Landman, F. (2000) Events and plurality. The Jerusalem lectures. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic.

[11]     Lieb, I. C. (1991) Past, present, and future. A philosophical essay about time. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.

[12]    Lombard, L. B. (1986) Events. A metaphysical study. London: Routledge.

[13]    McEntire, D. A. (2001) Triggering agents, vulnerabilities and disaster reduction: towards a holistic paradigm, in: Disaster Prevention and Management vol X(3). Bingley: Emerald Group Publishing.

[14]    Meixner, U. (2001) Theorie der Kausalität. Ein Leitfaden zum Kausalbegriff in zwei Teilen. Paderborn: Mentis.

[15]    Mucciolo, L. F. (1972) Causal relations and the individuation of actions, in: Australasian Journal of Philosophy vol 50(3). Oxford; New York: Taylor & Francis.

[16]    O’Connor, T. & Sandis, C. (2010) A companion to the philosophy of action. Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell.

[17]    Pearl, J. (2000) Causality. Models, reasoning, and inference. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

[18]    Pötter, U. & Blossfeld, H.-P. (2001) Causal inference from series of events, in: European Sociological Review, vol 17(1). Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press.

[19]    Rieser, M. (1940) Causation, Action, and Creation, in: The Journal of Philosophy vol 37(18). New York: The Journal of Philosophy.

[20]   Romano, C. (2009) Event and world. New York: Fordham University Press.

[21]    Sinay, J. (2011) Security Research and Safety Aspects in Slovakia, in: Thoma, K. (Ed.) European Perspectives on Security Research. Heidelberg: Springer.

[22]   Stoecker, R. (1992) Was sind Ereignisse? Eine Studie zur analytischen Ontologie. Berlin; New York: W. de Gruyter.

[23]   Svensson, L. E. O. (2003) Optimal Policy with Low-Probability Extreme Events. Cambridge: National Bureau of Economic Research.

[24]   van Inwagen, P. (1983) An essay on free will. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press.

[25]   Weick, K. E. (1988) Enacted sensemaking in crisis situations, in: Journal of Management Studies, vol 25(4). Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell.

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