Saturday, 10 March 2007

Why are we obsessed with terrorism?

Throughout this month, I will be posting excerpts of my lengthy paper "The War on Terror and the Fire Paradox", as mentioned in this post. Here is one such excerpt...

One underlying cause for the terrorism/counterterrorism culture is the public’s obsession with terrorism.

Do you want the ultimate in political change tactics, whether it is terrorism or counterterrorism that causes that change, using fear as a tool? To be able to do so, one must first understand why people are so drawn to terrorism.

Global health, the environment, climate change, poverty, AIDS, water, and other issues are far more pressing than terrorism. It kills relatively few and should be minor in the eyes of the public, right?

Like plane crashes, terrorism is unpredictable, sporadic, spontaneous, sudden, often human-caused, mysterious-seeming; and, unlike plane crashes, unscientific. It has no rationale — or so observers think.

People's obsession with terrorism helps explain why politicians use it against their own people — whether in original terrorism or a spin on the original (i.e. some form of counterterrorism) — and why extremist rebels use it in the first place.

Here is a (partial) list of why people, and their news media, are so attracted to terrorism:

  • Abstract in nature (like politics and religion);
  • People cannot grapple with terror like other health/sociological threats;
  • It is political; ties into human emotion and politics;
  • Violence and fear (like some crime stories);
  • Personal attachments (could this happen to me?);
  • Some sort of sexiness (from all the hype);
  • Shocking, spontaneous;
  • Deep connection to inner-psyche (exact cause is unknown, explaining speculation);
  • Does not develop (like a disease or something like that), unpredictable (things that happen suddenly produce more attraction, coverage);
  • Human interest (goes psychologically deep);
  • Accomplishes motives of fear and attention, like martyrs do;
  • The act of understanding why people use terrorism, or trying to leads to more obsession with terrorism itself;
  • Superficially evil, perfect villain, but more layers lie beneath (like with an onion);
  • The change it creates, human obsession with change or lack thereof;
  • I.e., deals with change — a constant source of human interest;
  • Unlike many other crimes;
  • I.e., often committed with no specificity (can have a target, but no intent on target like with a common murder, for instance, in which which the killer has a reason for the death of the specify person they kill);
  • Just the word "terrorism" is extremely political and emotional, holding strong connotations depending on one's subjective, often political view of the word and the related semantics.

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