Photo credit: Nicolas Maeterlinck/AFP/Getty Images
By Simon Jenkins
Think like the enemy. Let’s suppose I am an Islamic State terrorist. I don’t do bombs or bullets. I leave the dirty work to the crazies in the basement. My job is what happens next. It is to turn carnage into consequences, body parts into politics. I am a consultant terrorist. I wear a suit, not explosives. A blood-stained concourse is a means to an end. The end is power.
This week I had another success. I converted a squalid psychopathological act into a warrior-evoking, population-terrifying, policy-changing event. I sent a continent into shock. Famous politicians dropped everything to shower me with cliches. Crowned heads deluged me with glorious odium.
I measure my success in column inches and television hours, in ballooning security budgets, butchered liberties, amended laws and – my ultimate goal – Muslims persecuted and recruited to our cause. I deal not in actions but in reactions. I am a manipulator of politics. I work through the idiocies of my supposed enemies.
Textbooks on terrorism define its effects in four stages: first the horror, then the publicity, then the political grandstanding, and finally the climactic shift in policy. The initial act is banal. The atrocities in Brussels happen almost daily on the streets of Baghdad, Aleppo and Damascus. Western missiles and Isis bombs kill more innocents in a week than die in Europe in a year. The difference is the media response. A dead Muslim is an unlucky mutt in the wrong place at the wrong time. A dead European is front-page news.
So on Tuesday the TV news channels behaved like Isis recruiting sergeants. Their blanket hyperbole showed not the slightest restraint (nor for that matter did that of most newspapers). The BBC flew Huw Edwards to Brussels. It flashed horror across the airwaves continually for 24 hours, incanting the words “panic”, “threat”, “menace” and “terror”. Vox pops wallowed in blood and guts. One reporter rode a London tube escalator to show possible future targets, to scare the wits out of commuters. It was a terrorist’s wildest dream.
With the ground thus prepared, the politicians entered on cue. France’s President Hollande declared “all of Europe has been hit”, megaphoning Isis’s crime. His approval rating immediately jumped.
David Cameron dived into his Cobra bunker and announced the UK “faces a very real terror threat”. An attack is now “highly likely”, according to the security services. Flags fly at half-mast. The Eiffel Tower is decked in Belgian colours. President Obama interrupts his Cuba visit to stand “in solidarity with Belgium”. Donald Trump declares that “Belgium and France are literally disintegrating”. It is hard to imagine what could more effectively promote the Isis cause.
Source: The Guardian