The despair people feel about terrorism today is at least partially rational* because these nihilists that attack beach celebrations and marathons and concert halls and gay dance clubs embody the real heart of terrorism: it’s so indiscriminate, so unpredictable that it really can happen anywhere. Don’t leave your house ever! These murderers with a cause are different from any other set of murderers with a cause because they make no bones about the targets having anything to do with their cause. We can say Isis is so much more effective than al Qaeda because they would sit around in caves planning attacks for months, because the target mattered at least a little. Not so anymore. Isis tells its naive and disconnected young acolytes to just go out and kill with whatever you can get your hands on. Gun, knife, car, whatever. Quite literally they say if all you have is a rock then hit people in the head with it. Which people? Doesn’t matter, just kill. This feels different. Even more pointless and doomed to failure, but doomed to failure while soaked in lots of blood.
So all of the western world is now on high alert at all times. We are all Israel now, on high alert everywhere at all times.We got used to seeing soldiers with automatic weapons in airports and railway stations since 9/11, get used to that in an ever expanding list of places.
* It’s partly still not completely rational because much perspective is lost in the mists of time. I hear people bemoan current events as if terrorism is new and worse than ever. The more nihilistic nature of it notwithstanding, there’s always been terrorism. There are ever changing groups and their causes that ebb and flow and disappear as other causes and groups emerge.
At all times in the post-WWII period there have been countries and regions that were besieged by terrorist groups and their guerrilla tactics. In the 50s and 60s Puerto Rican nationalists killed a Congressman on the steps of the Capitol. In the 60s and 70s the Irish Troubles reached our shores and kept London in a state of siege. Makeshift American anti-social actors tried to stop the killing in Vietnam by killing in Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, etc. In the 70s dozens of people were killed by a bomb at LaGuardia Airport. Bombings were every day occurrences somewhere, even before the Oklahoma City disaster 20 years ago. It’s not even new to have Middle Eastern inspired mayhem like the massacre of the Israelis at the Munich Olympics, or how France was beset by the uprising Algerian anti-colonists. I’m just talking about Europe, Asia, North and South America. Skyjacking was a thing with airplanes being commandeered and rerouted by force at a rate of 1 a week for years. Basque Separatists attacked Spain and Spanish interests. Anarchist groups like Red September and the Baader Meinhof Gang put a pall over Germany. Yada yada yada…
Some people in 2016 act like these horrific acts never happened and tragedy only began on 9/11/01. Call me Mr. Perspective.