Posts about Terrorism

A media attack

The attack on the Boston Marathon was designed to maximize media coverage: a popular event with cameras everywhere and a narrative that will be sure to follow about innocent enjoyment henceforth ruined by danger.

For years, we’ve been told to fear this: an attack on a football game or at Disneyland or in a mall, someplace without fear before. Instead, it happened at the marathon. No matter who committed this crime, a precedent is now set for those that unfortunately will follow. Now every time there is a popular event with many cameras that is open — not easily contained like a stadium — we will be taught to worry.

A few weeks ago in New Delhi, I stayed in a hotel that happened to be owned by the same company that suffered the terrorist attack in Mumbai. Every car coming in was searched; every guest went through a metal detector; every guest’s bag went through an X-ray. We’re accustomed to such circumstantial security in America: If a shoe is used to make a bomb, all shoes are dangerous. In India, hotels are dangerous. In America, not just office buildings and airports but now public events are threatened.

But the new factor this time — versus 9/11 or London’s bombings or Mumbai’s attacks or even the Atlanta Olympics’ — is the assured presence of media cameras at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. This was the media-centered attack.

But here’s a touch of irony: On prime-time TV, the three major networks didn’t alter their programming to continue covering this event.* That tells us that terrorism is worth wall-to-wall coverage somewhere between two and 3,000 deaths. Boston, apparently, wasn’t big enough.

But at least on cable news, there is plenty of video of the blast and its immediate aftermath to loop over and over and over again.

* Correction: I should have complained that the broadcast networks did not preempt primetime. When I wrote this, I turned to all three networks and each had entertainment programming. As fans of an NBC show pointed out to me, their show was indeed preempted later in the night.

Bringing a friend to terror

I haven’t written anything about the Mumbai terror because I didn’t know what I had to add and I couldn’t grasp the 60 hours of horror there. I did write about Twitter and witnesses taking over news and — though I wish we wouldn’t make 9/11 the touchstone for all terrorist crimes henceforcth — I could not help recalling my 9/11:

Ever since I survived the 9/11 attacks, and later saw the coverage the world saw – smoke spied from rooftops miles away – I have made sure to always have a camera with me, as the view of the story from the ground was so different from that seen on TV. Now I carry a mobile phone that can capture and broadcast text, photos and video immediately. If I’d had that then, the image I would have shared would have been the image I most remember – not of smoke and helicopters, but instead of black tear-tracks on the face of an African-American woman covered in the grey dust of destruction. Such will be our new view of news: urgent, live, direct, emotional, personal.

And then I read this column in the Times of India and realized that I had perpetuated the same mistake: I was seeing Mumbai’s tragedy from many miles away, rooftop and satellite high. Bachi Karkaria writes about the tragedy from eye level and it is all too personal: the story of a wedding party brought to an end by phone calls with news of the tragedy as one guest decided to go back to her hotel — to the Taj.

“I hadn’t known till then that she was in the heritage suite which we had seen aflame all day,” the columnist wrote. “We pleaded for a miracle, for hope had turned out to be a perfidious ally…. I had brought Sabina to this situation, and I alone was responsible.”

That is how terror is suffered, a tragedy at a time.

DLD08: Terrorism & environment

After the last session on the problems facing the economy and world, a few of us were stunned that terrorism did not even come up. The talk was about markets.

Now Hamid Karzai reminds us of this forgotten priority. He calls it the war on terrorism. “The terrorism we are fighting is an existential force,” he says. “It has nothing to do with religion because if it had anything to do with religion it would not go to kill people in a mosque.” He urges us to eliminate all sanctuaries for terrorism. “The law can only be won if local populations are empowered to confront it.”

Now Rajendra Pachauri, head of The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, reminds the group at this official opening ceremony about his issue. It is a stultifying laundry list of their standard talking points. Oh, for some PowerPoint.

No more angry young men

Following up on the post below about the well-educated, well-to-do albeit, thank goodness, incompetent murderous doctor-terrorists in the UK, Gallup sends me a 2006 Gallup World Poll article for Foreign Policy that throws Friedman’s theories on their head. From a poll of 9,000 people in Muslim nations, Gallup found that Muslim radicals are no more religious than moderates. Radicals earn more money and stay in school longer. Radicals are not hopeless but in fact “more radicals expressed satisfaction with their financial situation and quality of life than their moderate counterparts, and a majority of them expected to be better off in the years to come.” Do they hate us? And if so why? They don’t. “Both moderates and radicals in the Muslim world admire the West, in particular its technology, democratic system, and freedom of speech.”

So what do we do? How do we win the war on terrorism? Says Gallup:

Although almost all Muslims believe the West should show more respect for Islam, radicals are more likely to feel that the West threatens and attempts to control their way of life. Moderates, on the other hand, are more eager to build ties with the West through economic development. This divergence of responses offers policymakers a key opportunity to develop strategies to prevent the moderate mainstream from sliding away, and to check the persuasive power of those who would do us harm.

Friedman, wrong again

Well, so much for Tom Friedman’s oft-stated theory that Muslim terrorism springs from fetid wells of angry, poor young men. The latest attacks in London and Scotland came from damned doctors. They’re not poor. I don’t give a damn if they’re angry. They’re just insane and dangerous.