February 4, 2007

To Err is human

The goal of terrorism is to terrorize. I don't think I have heard a single person point this out anywhere in the news once in the past 6 years. Killing people is the strategy: you murder 100 people to scare 100 million. Then you induce an over-reaction that makes everyone think about you all the time. If you freak out at the drop of a hat and make everyone's life inconvenient you are doing their job for them. Vigilance is half of the anti-terror response, the other half is refusing to be terrorized. Only traitors try to make us afraid of terrorists.

That is why last week's fiasco in Boston is so disturbing. Not merely because our crack police forces shut down the city for an hour because anything with "wires" and "batteries" is an incendiary device (I know if I was making a bomb I would try to light it up and put it in conspicuous places). Or even because as a they are now attempting to scapegoat the two loopy art-house types who planted the ads, to cover up their own incompetence and shame. But because we have now reached the point where we are flying off the handle when anyone even hints at the idea of a terrorist plot--which of course, gives terrorists exactly what they want without even lifting a finger. During last summer's thwarted, and probably overstated liquid bombing freak-out the worst thing I heard anywhere in the news was some guy they interviewed while chucking his souvenir maple syrup saying that it was "better safe than dead." Not only is this an obviously false dichotomy, it is a pathetic, surrendering attitude. You know what the right attitude towards terrorists is? That they should go fuck themselves. That we're not changing anything (other than smart security measures), or obsessing about them. I don't care "why they hate us," or how they decided that violent tactics were a justifiable method of forcing their medieval religious views on us, or what some dipshit retired CIA pion thinks their next target might be. I don't want to hear about how they have a "warped" belief system, that doesn't represent the "real" Islam. All I care about is not giving them what they want, which is for old ladies to be forced to pour out bottles of wine at airports and for everyone else to consider this "necessary."

Nothing is more helpful than broadcasting our reactionary hysteria and fear to show them that they are accomplishing their objective. This might be the best thing I have read on this topic so far. Back after the 9/11 attack I remember thinking that there was something not quite right with all the weepiness on soft news programs. I couldn't put my finger on why it didn't seem quite right then, but I get it now. Obviously some sentimental stories were necessary and cathartic, but generally speaking, your assignment as a citizen after a terrorist incident is to be unshaken and unterrorized, to show the criminals that their tactics are a failue. To be defiant and unmoved. As for sensationalistic news coverage that overstates the danger and importance of these people, you get an F.
This Egyptian magazine article is dead on. "Keep terrorists out of the headlines: If we can agree that the goal of terrorism is to terrorize, nothing suits the murderers’ purposes better than horrific images rehashed again and again on page one. If you work in media, be responsible." Look at how London reacted to that bus bombing, carrying on normally despite their anger. Stiff upper lip and all that.

But back to the phoney incident. It just illustrates how everyone, even all this time after 9/11 isn't getting the point. Oh, and the way the media and the embarrassed Massachusetts authorities are throwing around the word "hoax?" Maybe they should look at a definition of the word, since it has to include, you know, an intent to make people think those lite-brite's were bombs. As a silver lining, it seems that the advertising worked, if not in the way it was intended too, and the whole event has produced some decent comedy. At least this incident might throw some light on the ridiculousness of this type of knee-jerk overreacton...but I'm not holding my breath.