Saturday, July 30, 2011

The New Terrorism, Part 2 – Countering

In the first part, we identified that terrorism is widespread, but in the guise of 'anti-terrorism'. In this part, it's time to discuss how to deal with things.

Terrorism is bad, we can all agree on that, but many people fail to see that their actions and wishes against terrorism, are themselves, terrorism. Terrorism is Terrorism, it doesn't matter if your intentions are 'good', or 'for the greater good', because that's the same justification all perpetrators of terrorism use.

One of the better examples of how to deal with terrorism comes from the UK. Not the UK now, but the UK in the 80s and 90s. The answer was to not let it change anything. When the purpose of an action is to make you afraid, and act in a panicked way, the best thing you can do is NOT panic, not be afraid, and not change things.

Growing up in the UK in that time, we would hear about IRA, (or the Provisional IRA, or any one of the other splinter group's) and their latest action. I lived near some busy shopping areas, and the set of Brookside, I went to school near a famous landmark (Penny Lane) and I spent a lot of time on buses and trains in the area. There were a few bomb scares, but it was usually thought of, and then it would drop from the consciousness a week or two later.

I was even at a bombingonce. In March 1993, I was in Warrington, and walked past a one of the bombs, moments before it went off, killing two. I remember hearing it explode behind me, and while the experience shook the 12 year old me, I didn't let it stop me, or change anything I did. The experience will stay with me, it helps define me, but it does not lead my thinking, cloud my judgement, or remove any sense of reason from me.

I remember 9/11 as well. I was at work in Liverpool, and remember my (American) wife calling me when it happened. I came home as soon as I could, and we collected information via IRC. The end of October 2001, I went to the US, to work on the TV show Battlebots (the 4th time I had done so) in San Francisco. The change was incredible. The best way to describe it is to imagine if a hypochondriac had been knocked down, and then had their wounds tended to by a homeless person. The panic was palpable, Millitary, guns, checkpoints everywhere, and any sort of dissent was 'supporting the terrorists'

The result has been a vidication for the attack. Had it been dealt with calmly and rationally, it would have been an 'attack' and by now would have drifted from the public attention. Instead, a frenzy was whipped up for political gain, which we've already shown to be terrorism. In fact, the US (and UK) reaction to 'terrorism' over the last ten years has been exactly wrong. In attempting to milk it for political gain, they have not only given the terrorists everything they had wanted, but much much more as well. The fear and insecurity of the governmental leadership has led to perhaps the worst possible reactions to terrorism. Actions have led to the creation of more terrorists, rather than making the existing ones give up. The general populace is ever more afraid, and trusts less than ever, and people are LESS safe than they are before.

That's why the reaction of Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg fills me with hope. “We are still shaken by what hit us, but we never give up our values. Our answer is more democracy, more openness and more humanity, but never naivete.” This is the kind of reaction that America should have had 10 years ago, rather than a blank expression followed by panic and fear.

The blank stare of panic

The solution to terrorism is to avoid the temptation to succumb to the terror. Disband the TSA, they do no good anyway. Put checks and balances back in, reinstate accountability. Most of all, though, the leadership that authorised these actions need to come clean with their fellow citizens. Admit they were afraid, and that, when the time came for their leadership to be tested, they failed miserably. Instead of thinking about the good of the country, they thought about the good of themselves – it's easy to sell a police state to a populace that is kept scared, it takes a real statesman (or woman) to stay calm and rational and do the right thing, and calm the populace.

The last thing the victims of a terrorist attack need, is their own government acting like terrorists. If Mr Stoltenberg had been President of the US in 2001, perhaps the world would be a lot safer.

This piece was first published at and is released under a CC0 license

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