One of the aspects of terrorism that is more likely than any other to have me gnashing my teeth in frustration is the stubborn persistence of the media in using language that inflates the issue beyond what it is. It is as bad as another truly infuriating aspect of terrorism that belongs in a separate post: the gross simplification of the causes. Separating these issues from the outset is an important first step in a long, delicate, perhaps arduous (certainly in terms of patience testing)journey towards truly demystifying a truly unglamourous beast.
Terrorism (as defined by Dictionary.com) is:
- Use of violence to intimidate or coerce, especially for political purposes.
- The state of fear produced by terrorism or terrorization
- A terroristic method of governing or resisting a government
I approach this issue by inverting logic, because there is no other way to explain the rationality of the thinking of the people, organisations or governments that use this phenomena to achieve an end. It is morally and legally wrong in so many ways. Most criminals when committing an offence seek to hide their intentions, lest the police or the victims or any observant bystanders or organisations get suspicious. Terrorists do not. How many times have you seen in the news “a chilling new video has emerged….” from militant groups purporting to be Islamic?
But that does not necessarily automatically mean an attack is imminent, which many people think is the case. It is a bit like a person sending a death threat to someone. They might not necessarily be intending to kill that person, but they are certainly looking to scare them.
Of course Governments cannot sit back and ignore the threat, because there is always the risk that the threat is real. However that does not mean they should necessarily run about introducing laws that allow indefinite detention of suspects without trial. It does not mean that free speech should be crippled by a fear of printing a cartoon or commentary that might be offensive. It certainly does not justify the xenophobia that media outlets such as Fox openly engage in. All of this just stokes the militant and emboldens them further.
Terrorism has no glamour. It never did and it never will to the very vast majority of people. But for a few people, not least militants with an agenda, terrorism is sexy. It is cool. It is the thing to do. Men wanting an adventure or action, but perhaps not willing to do it in a respectable way, such as joining the military or the police force, being a militant is good.
Except that it is not. Just ask anyone who lost relations in the 11 September 2001 attacks. Innocent people going about their daily lives dying because a few militants who despised America decided to commit what was nothing more than a frankly shocking act of extreme violence.
But, as Time noted after the Boston Marathon attacks, it does not stop people trying.
Militants want notoriety. Why do militant groups claim responsibility for attacks? Because it is their way of trying to gain prestige.
Perhaps they will still gain it even if the individual militants are caught, tried – and if found guilty – punished, but before a court of law in a country that represents all they despise, is hardly an act that is going to bring them the glory they want.
The sooner we understand this and act accordingly, the sooner terrorism will die the totally glamour lacking death it deserves. The “how we beat terrorism” post is one for another day.