Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Terrorist sell.

Judging from the comments, I wasn't really expressing myself very well in my last post. Here's what Joe Brean posted in rebuttal to it:
Kelly, you sound like a faith healer. Terrorism is not "in the mind," and we cannot wish it away. It is not "just theatre," and its purpose is not just to create fear.
To al-Qaeda sympathizers, blowing up the CN Tower would have accomplished a whole lot more than buying a truckload of baking soda from the Mounties.
Fear is a subjective emotion. Terror, as in terrorism, is an objective, goal-directed process. Fear is felt, terror is dealt. Fear can be beaten by delusion. Terror can't. You can be afraid of something that doesn't exist, but you cannot be falsely terrorized.
So even if Torontonians are scared, "terrified" even, there has not yet been an act of terrorism.
Terrorism may be famously hard to define, but I think we know it for sure when we see it.
Let me attempt to clarify what I meant. I certainly did not mean to say that terrorist attacks do not have concrete, horrific effects, or that we can "wish away" the all-too-real problem of political and religious terrorism. I do think we can "wish away" terrorism's power, though.

When I use the word terrorism, I'm thinking of something along the lines of the United States Department of Defense's definition of the term: "the calculated use of unlawful violence or threat of unlawful violence to inculcate fear; intended to coerce or to intimidate governments or societies in the pursuit of goals that are generally political, religious, or ideological."

By this definition, a threat of violence is as much an act of terrorism as violence itself. One is more horrible than the other, obviously, but they both terrorize.

While we might not be able to help being scared, we can stop ourselves from being coerced or intimidated in doing something we wouldn't normally by that fear.

Let's return then to my question in the last post: If a terrorist cell is caught before it launches an attack, but people get scared when they learn of the thwarted plans, did an act of terror occur nonetheless?

The answer to the question, upon further consideration, is no -- an act of terror did not literally occur. But, in the case of the Canadian "homegrown terror" plot, if we change our political direction because we are scared by the revelation of the thwarted plan, then I would argue that we are essentially furthering the agenda of the alleged terrorists.

I don't mean that we shouldn't discuss, debate and be influenced by the news. Just that making political decisions out of fear, instead of rationally, is a bad idea and essentially what the terrorists intended.

CSIS and the RCMP can track down terror cells and prevent terrorist attacks. All we can do to join the fight as a private citizen is to say: I will not make decisions out of fear.

If we all said something similar, we would disarm the terrorists. They may still try to blow up buildings and kill innocents. They may even succeed. But as long as we refuse to be guided by fear, it will be in vain.

Warren Kinsella has an idea that we should demonstrate that we won't be scared into keeping from doing what we would normally by going to a Jays game at the base of the CN Tower. But if I went to a Jays game, then I'd be changing my routine and the terrorists will have won!

Instead, I will go check out a show at Second City in the same area. Their new revue opens on Thursday and is called Bird Flu Over the Cuckoo's Nest. It should be a good chance to laugh at some things that are frightening.

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