I think the important difference is that while it is highly unlikely that I will be injured in a terrorist attack on the Underground when I'm on my vacation in October, it's far more unlikely that I will go to London and suddenly be struck dead by a heart attack or Stroke, or die of cancer, at least not in this decade. (Not ruling out the possibility of dying on vacation due to sudden respiratory problems or pneumonia.)
It squicks because it's familiar and seems both personal and random. I also thought at first it sucked because it was taking attention away from the G8 summit, which was likely the intention, but the more I think about it, the more I think your average joe (or your average me) is going to pay more attention to the content of the summit now than we would have if this hadn't happened, which is in a way -almost- a blessing. But not really.
I agree, playing it up doesn't help, but it's impossible for the media to avoid reporting on such an event. Even keeled and rational discussion of what's happening and it's impact transportation, the G8 program schedule, and so on (like I heard on the BBC this morning) is probably not what most of the media coverage is like. I'm guessing it's mostly "Ack! We're all going to die! They're after us! Don't go on the bus!! Stay home! Cost your company lots of money!"
I don't know because when I'd heard enough to know what was going on I just turned off the radio and listened to Cold Play really loud, while wishing I'd gotten a bigger iced coffee.
That is to say, I am a cold, heartless, coffee obsessed bastard.
It's the coffee. 37% of all people who drink coffee die of heart disease. Oh wait, how can you die of heart disease if you are heartness...
Good point. I should stop worrying about my cholesterol too...
I don't think that it is more likely that a terrorist will get you, even considering your age. Cancer and Heart Disease do strike those your age as well, and while it is unlikely to be a surprise, it happens every single day of the year, not just on one or two particularly bad ones.
Lak, while I grok the point you're trying to make, I disagree with it, especially your statement "And the more shock and terror we feel, the more we encourage them to occur again."
The shock or terror we feel at acts of violence committed against civilians isn't the reason why terrorism occurs (or re-occurs); the intention of terrorism is to intimidate and/or coerce governments into changing policy. Terrorists could care less if they kill one or a thousand, though higher numbers a) get more notice and b) eliminate more of the "enemy", though I do believe this is a coincidental bonus.
"But the more we play up the effects of terrorism, the more it will occur."
No, it's more that if we play to the effects of terrorism that they win. As others have pointed out, London is no stranger to acts of terrorism. We react because, we'll, we're human, and it sucks when people going about their day die in mangled wrecks of burning flesh and metal.
There are some in Israel who would say that terrorism in Israel would stop if we do X, Y, or Z (where the variables can be "pull out of Gaza", or "Pull out of the West Bank", or "Pull out of the Golan", or for some, "Die altogether"). There are others who say that we absolutely cannot change policy no matter what the terrorists say they want, because once the goverment changes it, the terrorists will just up the ante and find something else to blow us to bits over. Is their goal ultimately to kill us all? Possibly? Probably?
I don't have an answer. I get it that 40 deaths should be shrugged off, because we are killing ourselves without a second glance, and by our own hands, even. What I don't get is why we shouldn't be outraged.
We shouldn't be outraged because, in the family of world politics, the terrorist is the 2 year old who is breaking things to get attention.
There is no such thing as bad publicity. And we are giving them publicity every time we have another 4 page spread on how so-and-so blew up such and such.
Their goal is not to kill us all. If it was they would buy guns and shoot us, a much more cost effective way of killing. Instead, their goal is to make us afraid to take the bus, make us afraid to go to the mall, just make us afraid.
And like the two year old who is acting up, they thrive on the attention.
The damage they do is statistically insignificant. Sure, I feel bad for the families of those who died, but still, I feel more bad for the families of the thousands that die of Heart Disease. But we take the insignificant and make it significant by proclaiming out outrage, making it the topic of conversation at the watercooler. And they get to sit back and plan their next attack, satisfied that we Americans or Westerners or Christians or what have you are seething in our seats with outrage.
(A minor correction: They would like to kill us all. But they can't. They can't even out kill pnuemonia. They are insignificant save for the newspapers they sell and the FOX news special reports they inspire.)
2005-07-07 07:30 pm (UTC)
But what happens when the two year old goes from, say, breaking the nice china to feeding the family dog rat poison, or worse, cutting the breaks on the family SUV so that when Mummy goes to the store, she gets killed in a horrible car accident? Okay, so he's a sophisticated two year old...but he's a two year old who obviously wants *something*. It seems a little dismissive to say they're *just* thriving for the attention. You don't honestly believe that ignoring them will make them go away?
sorry, that comment was from me, forgot to log in.
2005-07-07 08:02 pm (UTC)
plenty of outrage to go around
How bad I feel for any family at the loss of a love one, if I actually think about it, has a lot less to do with how many other people died the same way and a lot more to do with the circumstances of the loss - and I would rather, when my family looses me, that I go in a way that is easier to wrap one's mind around than being a casualty of a terrorist attack. Losing someone to a disease, even if the onset is sudden, is still not something we never expect. We may not expect it today or tomorrow, but we're prepared for it eventually, we know our bodies will eventually stop working. When we lose people due to something so unpredictable as a bomb (or a motorcycle accident, or a meteor strike, or run of the mill murder) the lack of the person is no MORE painful than it is when we lose someone to heart attack or kidney failure, but the experience at the time of their death is worse for being more horrific and unusual.
To have unusual horror overlapped with a familiar place or activity is completely unnerving. I think I should be pissed about that, even if it only happens to one person. I also think if the media highlights it, but fails to highlight other struggles facing people accross the world on a grander scale, shame on the media. However, what I would demand of the media is complete balanced coverage of issues, and lack of emotional hysteria. On the other hand, I am completely accepting of individual people getting emotional and hysteric about a specific freakish thing that bothers them and ignoring the plight of, for example, the obstacles to health, education and security faced by people accross Africa, which the G8 is supposed to be focusing on right now.
What I'm less cool with is individuals turning a sensational news story into a hyped up and sensationalized plea for personal attention, but that's no different than any of the other egocentric crap we blog about.
I feel outrage that this event has shunted media attention from discussion of solving Africa's problems (and addressing climate change, which is less of a touchy subject for me than Africa but still a hot topic, pun intended).
I also feel outrage that I have friends who won't see doctor's for routine preventative care on the premise that they'd rather die young than have to find out about something being wrong with them, and the precious notion that it's their choice, as if they weren't a part of an intricate unmappable network of energy and beings and relationships that made the world work - it is so frakking irresponsible and selfish and cowardly and makes me want to punch something.
I am also outraged that anyone could be holding a piece of recyclable plastic, a fully tangible object, and idly toss it in the trash.
Some of my friends are justified in being outraged that I'm ignoring my doctor's advice about my cholesterol and that I've been procrastinating about seeing a nutritionist.
I'm generally outraged at most people AND pissed at myself for not getting enough exercise and not eating well.
I don't think any of these, including the outrage about the bombings and the G8, is in any way unjustified, nor is my personal gut reaction to the news, which was, simply, "Ack!"
"[I]n the family of world politics, the terrorist is the 2 year old who is breaking things to get attention." Assuming that is the case, is the proper solution to ignore the tantrum-throwing child? What is the analogous national action to giving the child a "time-out"? Taking away their toys? Corporal punishment?
How seriously can we take this analogy if some of those options are not available to the more "mature" nations of the world? And surely, other countries (and NGOs) would have differing oppinions about exactly how "mature" *we* are.
We do need to devote some attention to the tantrum-throwing child. We can't just ignore it. But we don't need to make it into something larger and more horrible than it is.
To push the analogy a little too far, our response is more like the following: A child throws a tantrum and breaks a vase. Our response is to lock up all breakable objects in sealed containers that the child cannot get to. We then announce to the family that our extreme action is all because of the child, and that if the child weren't so bad we wouldn't have to do it. Then we go about chasing the child around the room, spanking it if we catch it, but giving up if we get too tired to chase it any more, and thereby letting it know it can get away with it. No matter what, the entire family is now giving the child plenty of attention...
What I suggest we do is treat the terrorists like the criminals they are. 40 people dying in a terrorist attack in one day is no worse than 40 people dying in gang violence over a year in my book. It deserves a reasonable amount of attention and action, but not a public outcry and overreaction. Tony Blair could be doing good at a G8 conference, but instead he is spending his time getting in the way of the people whose job it is to catch these terrorists and clean up the mess.
On our maturity, that is rough... I think we have behaved rather poorly in a lot of ways. But just because we might not be as mature as we would like, it doesn't mean we shouldn't strive for maturity.
I think that freedom (liberty) is inherently not safe. I think we should accept that the world will never be completely safe, do what we can to make it a better place every day, and not turn into a hysterical mob very time we feel threatened. Because feeling threatened can be a survival instinct, but surviving isn't the same thing as living well.
I also think that in the history of time, talking down the villagers once they get into the pitchforks and torches phase is rarely successful. So I suggest reason, and a plan for a hasty exit, just in case.
2005-07-08 03:29 pm (UTC)
Thank you for posting what I find to be a very reasonable discussion of terrorism, and why Americans are bloody well overreacting. (Okay, granted, I'm an American. But please. Terrorists want attention and to shut things down. They are inspecting cars that drive onto Capitol Hill. This is healthy?)