If there’s one thing that’s really been getting on my tits recently it’s how the word Terrorism is wielded. In truth it always has done. Terrorism, if we take its literal meaning, and ignore its widely implied use by politicians and the current shitty vogue of news coverage masquerading as opinion in its post eleventh of September hysteria, incites ‘intense, overpowering fear’, and causes ‘panic or dread’. Through constant use, in conjunction with the attention paid to Terrorism, this has re-contextualised the word as a euphemistic device. Now it only needs to be said to imply that the momentary panic and fear that occurs during an attack should linger, and that our dread over it happening to us should be omnipresent.
Thankfully, even if we’ve accepted this implication we haven’t adopted its psychology. Our response to the continuous reporting of the government’s cynical raising of the ‘threat level’ is to blithely shrug our shoulders. Odder still, once you break things down, we find a diametrically opposed consensus – the terrorists and the politicians all agree of Terrorism’s importance and their (Islamic State’s) influence, while we do not.
The reason is obvious – nobody wants to be scared and only a masochist would choose to be. Witnessing many acts of its ilk over the past twenty years hasn’t made people more afraid, or dread being the victim of ideological or religious extremism, as they’ve become as commonplace as campus or high school shootings are in the US. Better yet it hasn’t made anyone who directly witnessed and survived a terrorist attack in person more scared either. If anything we accept that these violent reactions will randomly occur, as it reinforces a truth – that living in countries that are democratic and diverse is preferable to living under a theocracy or military dictatorship sustained by subjugation and the persecution of minorities, the kind that Islamic State wishes to emulate. I’d argue that people in western countries are far more likely to dread not being able to repay their mortgages or that they’re more scared of getting cancer than being shot by a Jihadist or blown up by a suicide bomber.
Even better, as the trite, highly selective, piece of terminology it’s become, it causes another problem – just what should the likes of Anders Breivik be branded as? Allow me to ask the question whether he should be at all? Nonetheless, it was noticeable that while Breivik’s attack was initially described as an act of terror – before it was established who was responsible (not who was first suspected) and why he claimed he did it – very few now describe him as a terrorist, or his acts as terrorism. It’s a sickening hypocrisy, as Breivik’s goals were no different to that of Islamic terrorism, nor suitably, due to the frequency of the attacks and the saturation of the word Terrorism, was the meagre impact of its legacy. Breivik was driven by a pathological hatred of secular values that tend to encourage change, strip social and religious traditions of their relevance, emancipates choice, increases minority rights and protects freedom of speech, the kind of stuff that invariably leads to artistic expression, volatile and fluid attitudes towards sex and identity and the one religious ideologues hate the most, materialistic hedonism.
Given that’s what Terrorism is really trying to destroy, I suggest we call acts committed in the name of an extremist, highly selective interpretation of religious or ideological doctrines what they really are – fascism (or something daft, say Bombdogs). It would successfully quarantine and side-line Terrorism’s new meaning and blunt the subsequent self-harm its affords; whether it’s the opportunity for the brazenly racist and xenophobic to counter-punch (like Breivik), its use by those pitifully pious pseudo liberals to attack western interventionism as being to blame, or attacks and the threat of Islamic State attacks being used by governments as an excuse to erode our rights with authoritarian laws passed ‘for our own safety’.
Because let’s face it, we’re not scared, there’s no dread before or after, and I think we’re starting to get tired of being told that we should be, and above all, using the word the way we’re using it is giving these dickheads too much credit.
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