Why Terrorism Works

Why Terrorism Works

Share & Comment
I was originally going to run a post this week about over-expression of emotion. But in light of the bombs exploding at the Boston Marathon yesterday, I’d like to take a moment and comment on that instead.

Terrorism is a form of psychological warfare. All of its power comes from leveraging the imperfections of the human mind and the tendency for people to make dumb decisions when they’re afraid.

The bombings yesterday killed three people and injured over 100 more. When all is said and done, probably about a dozen people will be dead. It’s tragic and upsetting.

But over 115 people die each day in the US due to car accidents. An estimated 125 die each day due to lack of access to health care. A whopping 1,162 die due to smoking-related illnesses. And 105 die each day due to suicide.

In the grand scheme of things, a bombing like this is a blip on the radar, gone as quickly as it came. Yet it generates a much stronger emotional reaction from us than anything else. Everyone is talking about it. It’s impossible to go anywhere on the internet without reading about it. Why?

Psychological research has shown that humans have a number of fear triggers, triggers that cause us to become far more afraid than the actual threat itself merits.

One is when an act of violence is random. If the act of violence is directed at a specific individual or group, it’s easy to brush it off as someone else’s problem. They may be dead, but we’re safe. But when it’s random, our minds have a beautiful tendency to always assume we’re next. It’s the same perceptual bias that keeps people buying lottery tickets, the self-absorbed notion that we’re always somehow the one in a million.

Secondly, terrorism is public. Terrorists intentionally target public places so that even if they don’t injure the most people, the most people will see it and be affected by it. There’s a symbolism to terrorism. The more significant the public event, the more magnitude the violence will be perceived to have. Had this bomb blown up at a retirement home in Wyoming, chances are it’d get far less coverage. And sadly, it would feel less significant, even if it killed more people.

Finally, terrorism takes advantage of the fact that fear sells. Humans are wired to feel like fear is more important than any other emotion, therefore we’re far more likely to share it, broadcast it, and yes, even view it. As a result, it spreads throughout society like a virus, reinforcing the idea over and over again to everyone who sees it: you’re next.

This is why we get everyone and their mom on Facebook and Twitter posting soliloquys about how upset they are. We get media outlets are pumping out article after article of unconfirmed “news.” And we get widespread voyeurism, as nobody can look away from the gruesome pictures and videos. Everybody buys into the drama. Everyone feels righteous in their horrible emotions. And everyone then continues to spread the disease of fear further.

The problem with indulging in this process is that it’s this exact process that makes terrorism powerful: our reaction to it. Terrorism depends on the victims to be too self-absorbed to look at the situation at a population-level. It depends on people becoming self-righteous and paranoid and on them becoming glued to the repetitive news coverage for 12 hours straight. It depends on people buying into the irrational belief, “I’m next.”

It’s drama on the highest scale, the ultimate reality TV show. And when you indulge in it, you open yourself up to disgusting beliefs. Apparently a FOX News employee tweeted to “Kill all Muslims.” People on Facebook are beginning to post long rants about US foreign policy or whatever their pet cause is, despite the fact we know absolutely nothing about who did this or why they did it. Tear-jerker stories abound this morning of some random dude who tried to pick up and carry another random dude who lost his leg, marathon runners who ran to the blood bank despite the fact that there was no need for blood, and of course the politicians’ obligatory platitudes about country, strength, justice, blah, blah, blah.

My initial reactions were no different from everyone else’s: shock, disbelief, fear, sadness. My cousin ran in the marathon and finished less than an hour before the explosion occurred (she’s fine). Many of my friends still live in Boston and in many ways I see it as my home town. Hell, I stood on that corner just six days before, waiting to meet a friend for dinner. It was surreal, and horrifying.

But that’s where it ends. This incident honestly doesn’t involve me. And it doesn’t involve you either. Unless you know one of the 100 and some odd people sitting in Mass General Hospital right now, or you were standing on Boylston yesterday afternoon when the blast happened; it’s not about you.

Mourn the tragedy. Feel the anger and sadness and confusion. But then move on. This isn’t about you, or me, or your aunt who used to live there and oh-my-god, my brother’s friend used to work in an office building like three blocks from there.

This is not even about country or religion. It’s about one derranged murderer, the victims, and the police.

That’s it.

Terrorism is a fact of our age. The internet and 24-hour media machine enable it. But it’s a psychological weapon. A home-made bomb does little. Hijacking a plane does little. Even blowing up an entire building does little. It’s the fear and paranoia and blame and hate of the millions of people who watch it that does something. And it does something insidious.

In World War II, the Germans attempted to bomb England into oblivion. The idea was to bomb the English population into making Churchill withdraw from the war on the continent. It was terrorism on the widest scale imaginable. People died like this every single day.

From this period, a famous English phrase came about: Keep calm and carry on. Death is only as scary as you make it. Horrible acts like this can only control you as much as you let them. Feel the emotions, express the emotions, but don’t indulge them. Don’t indulge in the pointless news stories. It will only make you more upset and less able to cope. Educate yourself. Don’t be corrupted by the fear. Don’t buy into the hate. This was a crime and we already have systems in place to deal with criminals. Just keep calm. And carry on.

Print Friendly

Did you like this article?

Every couple weeks I send out a newsletter with new articles and exclusive content for readers. It's basically my way of keeping in touch with you and letting you know what's going on. Your information is protected and I never spam.

Subscribe below to stay connected.

52 Comments

Leave a Comment

  • Reply

    Pliskin

    2 months ago

    Nice article man, as always. Courageous and well thougt out. It might not always be well received (I already can see in my head some people I know freaking out if I bring out some of the arguments you’re talking about the next time the topic pops up!) but as I wise man once said “if you have not pissed off someone at noon, you’re having a bad day.”. Thanks for your great work. It’s very inspiring, I’m studying psychology and planning on working in the self help industry (on a therapeutic level) and everthing you talk about in your articles is food for thought for me, big time. So really, thank you, and keep up the awesome work. (excuse my language, I’m not a native english speaker)

  • Reply

    Taylor M.

    2 months ago

    I guarantee you’re going to get some negative comments about this essay. FWIW, I think you’re spot on. The Music City Marathon is happening soon here in Nashville. I’m sure people will drop out because they’re afraid it could happen to them. That’s not a wholly bad reaction I suppose, but it’s useless and it’s giving into fear. Better to acknowledge the fear, choose to not let it affect you, keep doing your thing, and give a giant middle finger to the people who would do this sort of thing. What’s the other option? Sit and wait to die? Keep calm and carry on.

    Nice one, Mark.

  • Reply

    Mike

    2 months ago

    A really well-written and thought out article. I already know it’s going to generate a lot of controversy and debate by people who feel the need to justify their fear and involvement with the whole thing.

    100% agree with the notion that until something strikes close to home and that people believe “I’m next”, nobody gives two shits about this sort of thing. Bombs go off all over the world, and nobody in the Western world thinks twice about it because it simply doesn’t affect them. About 40 people were killed in a bombing in Iraq yesterday/today, yet you won’t see a word about it on the front page of Western news sources because we’re too busy mindlessly absorbing the same news about the Boston Marathon over and over again. There’s been a magnitude 8.0 earthquake in Iran, but I had to dig through news sources to find out about it.

    Before I go to post “sympathy” messages all over social media, I think of two things:

    1) Regardless of how tragic the events in Boston are and how sorry I feel for the victims and their loved ones, just because they happened to be on the East Coast of the U.S. does not mean they deserve more public mourning and global media attention than, say, the innocent people that were blown up in Iraq on the same day. I frequently get the impression we’re subtly telling the world we deserve more sympathy than any other country facing recent tragedies.

    2) Again, I feel sorry for the victims and their families, but tweeting and Facebooking my deepest sympathies isn’t going to change anybody’s life. When I see someone plastering sympathy messages all over social media, I see a person trying to get on the bandwagon of alleviating their own fears and being perceived as a good person.

    • Reply

      Celestial

      7 weeks ago

      So true!!! I agree with you wholly and completely!!

  • Reply

    theo

    2 months ago

    Good post, much needed.

    A greek journalist tweeted: 2 dead in USA today, 42 dead in Iraq, and 22 in Afghanistan yesterday.

    It probably feels like an anti-USA thing to tweet about, but if it’s true, it must mean something.

    Let’s not buy into the fear they sell!

    • Reply

      aceofhurtz

      2 months ago

      I have similar opinions on terrorism. It almost got me in trouble at work today.

      A coworker late in the day mentioned offhand that he might need a drink after “the events today.” I knew of the marathon bombing but I assumed what he was talking about was work related, since that had no bearing on him. Curious about whether there had been office drama, I asked him and he replied incredulously, as if I of course should have heard about the bombings. It wasn’t even on my radar. In retrospect I should have taken him up on his offer to educate me about the bombing I obviously hadn’t heard of, since he would have loved that and I’d come away looking less thoughtless.

      At home later I was on the internet and, for the first time in months and on a complete whim, I decided to look up what was happening in Iraq: 42 dead, 200 injured in bombings.

  • Reply

    theo

    2 months ago

    By the way, the guy who hates Muslims is black. Historical thinking span of less than 35 years, oh the irony.

  • Reply

    Zelazny

    2 months ago

    I agree wholeheartedly. That’s all I can say. Arguments such as “Terrorism is about fear, if you accept the fear, you allow it to succeed” feel kind of empty when framed next to the argument above.

    It still sucks for those involved though.

  • Reply

    Mighk Wilson

    2 months ago

    Thank you.

  • Reply

    mtza

    2 months ago

    Mark, if you have time, watch the video of the origin of the Keep Calm and Carry On slogan/poster
    It’s a great video. 3 minutes. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FrHkKXFRbCI

  • Reply

    João Antunes

    2 months ago

    Offtopic: I would like to see your toughts on how the concept of social value hurts people

  • Reply

    Cindy

    2 months ago

    I agree that your message needs to be said and practiced by everyone, including the media who are the guiltiest of all of spreading the fear. However, I can’t help but wonder how differently this news would have all played out had it gotten just a little blurb on the bottom of the news page. How would the terrorist/s react to this? Anger? Perhaps even a stronger act? Would he/she/they just keep going until they got the attention they were seeking from the start? I’m torn in this respect (not as if this scenario would play out, anyway).

  • Reply

    ak

    2 months ago

    Well I do know someone injured at the Boston Marathon and I know many trauma survivors from war and terrorism who will tell you that each attack is about THEM and about all of US. If you have a friend who lost someone in 9-11 or was there… I do…or any attacks in the US or abroad either perpeturated by the US govt or another government THIS IS about YOU. Your point is just too simple… Keep going, go ahead and take the emotion out of it. Calculate how many more women die of heart disease than breast cancer…How many more people die in car accidents than at the Boston marathon. Throw a sentence in there about how you were sad but now you have things in perspective… OK great. Now get real. Live your life with as little fear as you can. Just be human and feel whatever it is that you feel. But no need to rationalize it or think this is not about you. We are all connected. The world is so small now. And people are really suffering. That’s what connects us all.

    • Reply

      Mark Manson

      2 months ago

      So real people are suffering and that’s why it’s about us. OK, so the flood victims in southeast Asia? The civil wars in Africa? Sorry, but no. First of all, we know nothing about this attack. Second of all, spreading the fear and indulging ourselves by thinking it’s about us makes the attack more powerful, not less.

    • Reply

      Alpheus

      8 weeks ago

      I would have to agree with this sentiment, but I want to add that there is a good reason why we don’t feel for those in Iraq, or Afghanistan, or Africa; indeed, I would even go so far as to expect that those in Iraq wouldn’t be paying too much attention to the Boston bombing, even if Iraq didn’t have any bombings that day, that year, or that century.

      Several years ago, my father fell down the stairs of our home, hit his head, and died. The blood thinners he took because of a stroke several years before that contributed to that death: there was no way to control the bleeding. I felt intense pain for several weeks, and still feel a twinge of pain even now, when I think about it. If I feel that pain for every person I know who died, and for every event in the world where people die, it would completely and utterly destroy me.

      This isn’t to say that we shouldn’t mourn for those who die; because I feel a twinge of sadness when I stop to think about anyone who died, was injured, or lost a loved one from these types of events; if anything, it’s merely a reminder to do as Mark Manson recommends: acknowledge the sadness and the terror, but don’t get caught up in the fear. There’s too much to live for to do that!

  • Reply

    Ed

    2 months ago

    Spot on!

  • Reply

    Damian Thompson

    2 months ago

    Well said Mark.

    Of course this is sad for the people directly involved and I feel for them, but the jingoistic, over proportional responses being thrown around and the religious chest beating occurring by the masses is worrying.

    Famed security expert Bruce Scheiner had a great article in this vein in the Atlantic also worth a read: The Boston Marathon Bombing: Keep Calm and Carry On – http://ow.ly/k8bTN

  • Reply

    Elly

    2 months ago

    Thank you for putting so clearly the thoughts my brain has been drowning in over the past two days. We’re never going to make any movement toward the end of violence until we stop treating some deaths as more important than others.

  • Reply

    Leslie

    2 months ago

    I’m afraid there is something far more troublesome in this story, and many others like it, that is not captured with simple cynicism. I would argue that the problem is not that we feel curious and perhaps deeply (or superficially) affected, that is only human; the problem is that unless we are physically affected, or are intimately involved with someone who was, we ALL live in such a way to allow this heightened awareness of senseless tragedy to leave our active thoughts after a few days; and that, I would argue, is only American. If you disagree, think about what happened for you after 9/11, or Katrina, or any other grisly human-caused or naturally occurring disaster in the past decade: we all continue to live in nearly the same, if not exactly the same, way as we did before, because most of us are lucky enough to be afforded this luxury. I’m not saying this is wrong or right; I’m just saying that once an event loses it’s stronghold in popular rhetoric, we all in some way choose to give up not only our curiosity but also our compassion. Mark, I do not disagree with you in most of your points, I would just ask you to consider whether you are mad at people as individuals for having feelings or whether your critical remarks would be more productively aimed at the value system by which we all abide. I ran the Boston Marathon in 2008 and have been a spectator nearly every year since 2007. I was there yesterday, and am fortunately safe and sound as I write this tonight. While it seems easy to be mad and cynical about the many people who have never been to Boston, or even to a marathon, and their desire to pry any and all information out of myself and others, I’m not convinced that this is the most constructive way to feel. Instead, I would encourage people to avoid being simple-minded about such a complex and enigmatic event, and try to focus on feeling thankful and thoughtful today and everyday. Thank you.

    • Reply

      Mark Manson

      2 months ago

      I actually agree with you Leslie. And I’m not really mad at anybody. I just see a lot of people getting emotionally-absorbed in the unimportant details of the event, and aggrandizing their own feelings and making irrational decisions or statements.

      Basically I’m just calling for people to take a minute and get some perspective on the situation before going off and posting 20 news stories to Facebook and watching CNN for 12 hours on repeat.

      • Reply

        Aries

        2 months ago

        Yea, summa these people are just so horribly bored and tired of the countrys situation that they just need something to obsess about and enjoy the hysteria.

        I dunno about other people, but Im really busy, man. I mean I dont have time to watch biased news channels and make fb posts.

        It all ties into the public feelings…if there is a feel good factor then people can take things like this in stride and carry on, but in Obama Hell 2013 things are different (yes, its all his fault).

      • Reply

        Matt Aaron

        2 months ago

        Here is what bothers me: those who were not part of it; that look for some type of ego boost/sympathy via Social Media. A FB post that says something like:

        “I cannot eat or even fathom how sick people can behave. This is causing ME to have a horrible day. The Boston tragedy has made me more fearful. Now I can’t do X activity without feeling fear.”

        Then they look for likes (the currency of FB) and support to be brave and carry on, to not be afraid to go to the movies/happy hour etc.

        “We need to support and love each other” is a great message .. if it’s really genuine. but often times it is needy and approval seeking. Fake vulnerability

        • Reply

          Aries

          2 months ago

          Yes very nicely put.

          Fake vulnerability. The tool of the attention seeking weaklings online.

  • Reply

    James

    2 months ago

    Word.

    Terrorists to this country have won beyond their wildest imagination.

  • Reply

    ziman

    2 months ago

    Great Article!! I love you (your thinking that is :) )

  • Reply

    GFJones

    2 months ago

    Fear? No. Empathy? Very much so but not overpowering. Maybe it is because I am older and have had time to think these things through over a lifetime of carnage. I can still see the image of the little Vietnamese girl running down the road crying, burned by napalm and the killing of a prisoner in the streets of Hanoi. Images from my youthful years. I remember Kent State, JFK, MLK and Bobby. I remember too much. When have we had any real chance at peace in this world? Fortunately, I have not become callous or cynical. I feel for the victims but I also have to continue to move forward with my life and calculate my own odds at being victimized. How do I explain this world to my children and my four grandsons when people have been shot down within a few blocks of my home? I could be gone tomorrow either by health or carnage but my friends and family will know that I have loved them from the deepest places of my heart. I guess that this will have to be good enough but I will not let fear be the dominant factor in how I face this world.

  • Reply

    Chris

    2 months ago

    I agree 100%. The day after it happened I think I saw it like 5 times just attempting to pull up my email so I changed it. It’s the repetitive information exposure with technology that screws with our brains.

  • Reply

    Tom

    2 months ago

    Great post as usual!

    “Don’t be corrupted by the fear. Don’t buy into the hate. This was a crime and we already have systems in place to deal with criminals. Just keep calm. And carry on.”

    This would be also an excellent way to soothe an anxious child who witness this kind of tragedy in real life or simply on TV. It is never easy to comfort kids wondering about what they see on the news.

    What would you tell your kids (regardless you have or don’t)?

  • Reply

    Ori

    2 months ago

    Totally agree. Coming from a culture (Israel) where news has essentially become the official new religion. It was worse here, because we the bomb would go off 2 minutes away from you, or on the street where you grew up. It was scary. But ultimately, you learn that life isn’t something to be taken for granted and it makes you MORE motivated to make your mark/difference in the world. My family has a yoga shala in Israel, and they had a yoga bus program on a bus route in Tel Aviv that was the most targeted by bombers. I thought it was silly when I was younger, but now I’m convinced that gentle but firm reminders like that and this article to breathe, stay calm, feel sympathy but then make the most out of life is the most rational, optimistic response.

    Things ARE getting better. Murder is down, car accidents are down, terrorism is down. It’ll never be perfect, but to not be optimistic about the future because of the psychic knife that terror instills, however that manifests (checking news obsessively, re-clicking on pictures, messaging friends in Boston repeatedly, googling to see if they’ve found the group/person responsible), can only be to your detriment.

  • Reply

    aron

    2 months ago

    dead on the money, but this isnt about terrorism. it’s about “news”

    Read this is you want to make a significant change to your psychological health today

    http://dobelli.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/Avoid_News_Part1_TEXT.pdf

    this was harder than giving up sugar for me! But so worth it

  • Reply

    Jack

    2 months ago

    Great article Mark. Terrorism is sad but it really doesn’t kill that many people compared to heart disease, diabetes etc and an American life is not worth more than an Iraqi or Afghan life. I remember Einstein said:

    He who joyfully marches to music in rank and file has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would fully suffice. This disgrace to civilization should be done away with at once. Heroism at command, senseless brutality, and all the loathsome nonsense that goes by the name of patriotism, how violently I hate all this, how despicable and ignoble war is; I would rather be torn to shreds than be part of so base an action! It is my conviction that killing under the cloak of war is nothing but an act of murder.

  • Reply

    ak

    2 months ago

    I commented earlier and how could I ever know this would situation would become even more 1st person to me. All day long on lock-down in Watertown. SWAT team came to my house, guns loaded telling us to get out, politely, mind you, while they looked through the yard, garage, house and basement. I promise you, you don’t want the feeling of SWAT team surrounding your house and coming in. But at least we knew the suspect had not broken in and was not hiding some where. They didn’t bust through like on TV. They knocked and told us they had to search the house to wait outside. They searched, but they left each closet opened and went through the basement exiting the bulkhead. After they left, a HUMV went down the street. Helicopters were overhead all day until about midnight. Then after lock-down ended (we didn’t leave though), more helicopters and sirens. Watching TV seeing this unfold about 3 blocks from my house.

    I am glad they got him, glad it’s over and glad that we are safe. It’s a new day. But it wasn’t a rational day, but rather a real, emotional, and scary day.

  • Reply

    boo

    2 months ago

    I think what you’ve written here is generally fine. In fact, it’s probably an accurate assessment of my thoughts about the Boston bombings. That being said, your approach– and conclusions– are somewhat wrongheaded. What you’re suggesting is that people shouldn’t react how they are supposed to in light of an external threat that is, fundamentally, unpredictable. Culture is predicated on consistency and cooperation, and as such, an act of terrorism disrupting the status quo makes the impersonal personal.

  • Reply

    LostFavor

    2 months ago

    Kudos for being so blunt (yet tactful) about an issue that is likely sensitive for many. I hear about various updates to the situation from family members and discuss it with them, but I only ever skimmed one article about the bombing and that was it. I have no desire to get absorbed in a situation that I will never fully understand, and that I will never fully care about.

    I’ve seen a lot of conspiracy theories thrown around and I think that in many cases, the conspiracy theories are themselves attempts to avoid accepting the bombing as something inherently random and uncontrollable. I mean, it’s not like conspiracies never happen, but the elaborate nature of some of the theories people concoct is just absurd.

    I honestly think that some people would love to believe that every bad thing that has ever happened is some kind of conspiracy. It would give them comfort in the sense that it’s something quantifiable they can fight against. In short, it’s an enemy they can see.

    But we can’t see random acts of violence coming. The people who plan them don’t want us to see them coming. Undercover agents might see them coming sometimes but that’s about where it ends. We can, however, take comfort in the fact that we’re probably about as likely to be a victim of terrorism as we are to win the lottery. And if we’re being honest with ourselves, those are some pretty good survival odds.

  • Reply

    Tom Richards

    2 months ago

    Interesting angle, but one can only claim that terrorism ‘works’ if you define what you mean by ‘works.’ Terrorism is ultimately political – the 9/11 bombers and Bin Laden wanted several things, although I can’t say I know in which order they would rank them: 1. The U.S. to withdraw support for Israel. 2. The U.S. to withdraw our troops and bases from Saudi Arabia. 3. The U.S. to stop combat in and withdraw our troops from any and all muslim-majority countries, and 4. The establishment of Islamicist governments across the world. If terrorism really worked, you would think they would have achieved at least one of these goals, but they have not. Palestinian suicide bombers want Israel to withdraw from the West Bank, stop building settlements, and negotiate a two-state peace treaty based on UN borders. Despite years of bombing, none of these things have been achieved. The IRA spent years bombing London with the goal of having Northern Ireland returned to Ireland, and lo and behold Northern Ireland is still a part of the UK. I am hard-pressed to think of a terrorist action or campaign that actually achieved its goal, so I would ask you this – in what sense does terrorism work?

    • Reply

      Peter

      2 months ago

      my dad teaches a course on terrorism.

      he invites his students to assume a fictitious terrorist identity. they have to state what state they would attack, the methods they would choose, what retaliation they could expect, and whether they could realistically achieve a political goal.

      then they realise that terrorism is patently ineffective.

  • Reply

    Peter

    2 months ago

    terrorism works?

    name one instance in which a terrorist has achieved their stated political objectives or aims.

    • Reply

      LostFavor

      2 months ago

      I think the subject is meant as “why terrorism works” on a psychological level. Unless you’ve captured and interrogated terrorists, I seriously doubt you know what their political objectives are, so it’s kind of a moot point.

      • Reply

        Peter

        2 months ago

        i agree that the author chose to focus on the psychological angle. i wanted to open another perspective.

        your point on me having to capture and interrogate terrorists in order to know their political objectives is a really dumb thing to write.

        • Reply

          LostFavor

          2 months ago

          Peter: It seemed you were interested in challenging the topic, not discussing a new one. I was responding to what I thought was a challenge to the main premise.

          Tom: I definitely think there’s some minutiae in the words being used here that could make a discussion confusing. That said, I don’t believe that a publicly stated anything from a group whose basis of action is secrecy and conspiracy is something you want to trust by virtue of it being public.

          I’m delving into fiction here, but consider the movie The Dark Knight Rises: Bane, the prominent villain, played it like he was trying to create anarchy and liberate people or some such nonsense (those were his publicly stated goals) when the whole thing was a front for something more sinister.

          • Peter

            2 months ago

            Why would you refer to a hollywood movie rather than cite a factual historical example instead?

          • LostFavor

            2 months ago

            Clarifies the hypothetical a bit without needing to do research. I do enough of that formal stuff in college.

      • Reply

        Tom

        2 months ago

        You really don’t have to interrogate these people – the IRA, Al Qeada and the PLO all made their agendas perfectly clear and public before and after the terrorist acts were committed. While I stick by my assertion that terrorism really doesn’t work, there certainly would be no point at all to a terrorist action unless you made it clear what your political goal was.

        Some would argue that my definition may be too tight – if you really use my definition then Timothy McVeigh’s attack and the Boston Marathon bombings really weren’t terrorism, they were just criminal and evil. I do think it is useful to distinguish acts like this that are done for a publicly stated political goal whether you use the world ‘terrorism’ or something else. I would freely admit that we will probably never understand the motive behind the Boston Marathon bombing, as I doubt the two brothers understood their own motives. I also don’t think it would be useful to lump 9/11, which was committed for clear and publicly stated political goals, and the Boston Marathon bombing together as ‘terrorism.’

  • Reply

    Andrew Paul Schettino

    2 months ago

    Mark, another great and thoughtful article. It turned out to be two idiots, not one. And probably only four people will end up dying as a result. It still sucks and the people who were maimed will be changed forever. But the emotional trauma will, as you point out, only encourage more terrorist acts. The paradox of modern life is that as people get materially more secure, they get fatter and stupider and more easy to frighten. Fear doesn’t just sell, it works. Every right-wing Republican knows this, as do the corporations and the filthy and merely Rich. That is how Middle Class Americans can be convinced to hate or blame The Poor, not the filthy rich or corporations, for their declining standard of living. It is also why America is doomed. The rich and multi-national corporations wrongly assume that their obscene wealth will protect them. They don’t know China’s history or its people. Wait until they own us and are our overseers. Idiot American adults who can’t figure out their simple tax returns and children who can’t master simple pre-Algebra are going to love trying to learn Mandarin Chinese to be able to talk to their new masters…

  • Reply

    Ian Woooosnam

    2 months ago

    Sounds to me like Mark felt a couple of “controversial” posts were required to drum up some interest. The problem with psychologically healthy, well-adjusted, post masculine mindsets is, they are rather boring. Am I right ladies and gentlemen??

    Roissy is much funnier, and more on the ball to boot. Mark has correctly identified the risk to his rep of his PUA past and has made it clear he is a good little lefty on the issues that you aint allowed to disagree with. Its a sensible approach cos he needs his face on the internet to drum up business.

    My favourite part of this blog is the “chilled out winner” photo he has on the front page, or wherever it is. Head to the side, so PUA strong, so chilled, so DHV. You can be like me!!! If you try!!

    The whole self help industry is a big lie, he’s just a far more sophisticated version of it. Gets brownie points for me for being top of the class :)

    • Reply

      Andrew Paul Schettino

      2 months ago

      Wow, dude, restart your meds. I had to Bing PUA and DHV to see what the hell they were: “pick up artist” and “demonstration of higher value”; awesome. Don’t be a hater…

      Mark is definitely a fellow lefty. That just means he’s an intelligent human being. I don’t agree with him 100%, but I rarely do with anyone. I know a couple of thoughtful conservatives but they distance themselves from modern day right-wingers. If Mark’s a reformed pick up artist, so what? He’s a successful guy, no crime there. He is anything but boring. Like most thoughtful committed people, he has a distinct preference for people who share his values. Me too. I deliberately associate with a few people who disagree with me. But only a few, and only people who can defend their position without being needlessly defensive or abusive about it.

      Mark’s a mature guy. He doesn’t need me to defend him. Just left like commenting because I can and didn’t want your comments to go unchallenged…

      Have a productive life and chill out!

  • Reply

    C

    2 months ago

    You’re a frikin star, man! Thanks.

  • Reply

    Travis

    2 months ago

    Osama Bin Laden’s chief complaint with the U.S. in the 1990s was the presence of U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia. The U.S. had the permission of the dictatorship that rules Saudi Arabia, but if the Saudi people had democracy and could have voted on the matter, those troops definitely would not have been there. Bin Laden and others like him were furious that they had no way to get those troops out — the dictators of their country refused to honor their demands.

    So 9/11. It worked. In 2003, while the front pages were consumed with the Iraq war, the Bush Administration quietly pulled those troops out of Saudi Arabia. Bin Laden achieved his objective.

    Today, virtually all Muslim terrorists who attack or attempt to attack the U.S. cite the ongoing U.S. violence against the Muslim world as their motivation. A solid majority of the American people say that they are fine with U.S. drone strikes so long as they kill only foreign people on foreign soil. But change the “suspected terrorists” to U.S. citizens on U.S. soil and the rate of support drops to 14%. We matter, they don’t.

    So the U.S. kills the foreign people who don’t matter in faraway places, inevitably provoking a response from the victims that reaches all the way back home. Terrorism is the only language available for them to speak — the only one with a history of working, at any rate.

    Many Americans likely believe that the terrorists would attack no matter what the U.S. does. This is a delusion. The terrorists are very plain about why they attack. And eventually, after great suffering on both sides, it will probably work.

    • Reply

      19 weeks ago

      ‘A solid majority of the American people say that they are fine with U.S. drone strikes so long as they kill only foreign people on foreign soil.’

      and who says this isn’t terrorism? Watch ‘Dirty Wars’. And don’t even get me started on Israel/Palestine and who are the ‘terrorists’ there. I agree not to buy into the fear mongering of bullshit like Fox News but this article is a little simplistic on its world view. Its not taking into account what we’re doing in places like Yemen on a daily basis, things the US does that we would never stand for if it was done on own soil. What if Yemen send a drone to the US, bombed a wedding party of innocent people, and then claimed that it never happened, claimed that they don’t even have a drone program? The US would react by bombing them into oblivion. Lets be real here. There is a huge double standard with the west. Settler/colonialism mentality.

  • Reply

    petr

    18 weeks ago

    Islamic terrorism is a big problém. Maybe more in europe. Problém is that the holy book, Kor an itself is a criminal book inciting muslims to “kill jews, christians and non-belivers’. Just read parts of it. Yet still not banned and give the religious nut a good cause to carry out. Another problém is islamisation. It has been admitted repeatedly by muslim communities….actually they are committing sins by not have islamic government and having non-believers rule them.
    But dont believe a single word i just have said.
    Check out independent news: http://europenews.dk/

    every caring Citizen should have the right information and protect our freedoms of speech and rights for women.

  • Reply

    Eric H

    9 weeks ago

    In my opinion, the most effective terrorists in recent times were not any of the well-known groups, but these guys:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beltway_sniper_attacks

    They really scared the hell out of people while they were active, because:

    1. It wasn’t a single incident, but an ongoing process where they moved around.
    2. Until they were captured, the authorities seemed to have very little information on who they were or their motivation.
    3. Their victims were apparently chosen completely at random.

    My definition of “effective” (since obviously, others have both claimed more victims, and gotten whatever manifesto was behind their actions more widely distributed) is the amount of raw fear they caused — the feeling in your mind that “they could get YOU next.”

Leave a Comment