Terror is as Terror Does

This whole terror attack in Paris is nothing new. Terrorists terrorize because that’s all that they can do, and will continue to do so while they feel like Here security expert Bruce Schneier nine years ago with Refuse to be Terrorized:

The point of terrorism is to cause terror, sometimes to further a political goal and sometimes out of sheer hatred. The people terrorists kill are not the targets; they are collateral damage. And blowing up planes, trains, markets or buses is not the goal; those are just tactics.

The real targets of terrorism are the rest of us: the billions of us who are not killed but are terrorized because of the killing. The real point of terrorism is not the act itself, but our reaction to the act.

And we’re doing exactly what the terrorists want.

History may not repeat, but it rhymes:

How to Stop ISIL


There are loads of people calling for non-hateful, non-warring responses to the Paris attacks. This one from Waleed Aly in Australia is excellent in showing how ISIL wants us to draw clear lines in our us and them narratives.

“We” is Problematic

There’s a lot more I could have said in Us and Them but I wanted to keep it simple. Had I wanted to say more, it would have sounded a lot like Andrew Klager’s What should WE have done? Undermining the Myth of ‘Us’ and ‘Them’:

People regularly ask me the question (often in an attempt to trick me without taking the time to find real answers to it first), “What should we do in the face of ISIS?” … But this implies that our side is the good side and their side is evil; it perpetuates the “us” vs. “them” myth that not only fuels animosity and rivalry and dehumanizes the Other so that their lives—and therefore deaths—have less value, but it also forces us to choose one of only two options, however deplorable they both are, while distracting us from considering other legitimate options more seriously.

Klager puts the Paris attacks into perspective:

Given the much more destructive impact of Western involvement in the Middle East—too much to get into here in any great detail, but civilian deaths of approx. 170,000 in Iraq, 140,000 in Syria, 45,000 in Afghanistan, etc., etc.; billions in transnational corporate profit from blatantly exploitative economic incursions in oil-rich countries; taxpayer-funded billions in profits by munitions and armaments corporations in what Robert Reich has called (riffing off Eisenhower) the military-industrial-congressional complex; allied with some of the most notorious human rights violators (Saudi Arabia, esp.) who are also the biggest financiers of the same terrorism we apparently want eliminated—what should these impoverished Middle Easterners do in the face of us? And, perhaps more importantly, why—again—should we align ourselves with this “us” when the damage we’ve caused is near infinitely worse than what they have caused?

There’s also some good bits that undermine the commonly-held narrative of WWII as a “noble” war where “we” were good and “they” were bad.

Us and Them

The Paris attacks were brutal and unforgivable. The drone attacks throughout broad swathes of the Middle East are also brutal and unforgiveable. This list could go on and on, and unfortunately it is doing just that. Everyone is a reactionary—“they” always started it, “we” are only defending our interests against “them.”

Every moment of violence is an opportunity to break this cycle; a chance to get off of the eternal treadmill of retribution and hatred. Remove the retribution and the flames of hatred will exhaust their fuel.

We must expand the circle of “us” to include everyone. This planet is too small to continue with our primitive “us” vs “them” tribal mentalities. I think that the teachings of Jesus are useful in extending the circle of “we,” but I think that everyone has resources available to them to choose love over hate, trust over fear.