“These people are precision planners.” - CNN “The terrorists behind this are obviously highly intelligent.” - FOX “The intelligence community has failed in the case of Paris’ latest terror attack.” - CNN “Given the state of things, we’re in big trouble.” - MSNBC
No. No. No. Yes.
I’m sure you’re all familiar with the above quotes. They’ve been expressed every few minutes for the last handful of days since Beirut and Paris were attacked. Well, with statements like these, I think it’s safe to say that the media is dangerous.
The problem with archaic formats like CNN, MSNBC and FOX (as apposed to podcasts or other forms of free communication) is that all the talking heads need talking points. Their job is to draw in a listener or viewer with compelling statements, speculate, and ramp up the drama. Back in the day, it was the job of a reporter to present the facts as they are known, but in this world of reality TV, social media social avengers, and political races that have turned into popularity contests, the media adjusted to become speculators and sensationalists.
Furthermore, when Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert started pulling ratings from serious news outlets, that’s when we saw a huge difference in the way information was presented. Major media has become satire without the disclaimer or the humour.
To put things into perspective, I’m going to debunk the first three statements I listed at the opening of this blog.
Here are eight fictitious names:
Now, imagine that these eight people don’t know each other, but as they grew up, the mentors and adults in their lives all hammered one simple principal in their heads—the developed world must die (much like get a good job, marry a good person and have kids is hammered into ours). This is an ideal that these eight people grew up on, researched, and developed as a code, similar to how we are presented the ideals that Muslims are terrorists and they need to be stopped.
Now, at some point our eight randoms become friends, united by these ideals. Every day, they talk about how evil modern science, modern living, and those that don’t follow their strict rules are. They hang out together discussing it, read books that reflect it, and the violence around them becomes somewhat of a catalyst for them becoming radicalized.
Enter opportunity. This can come in the form of finding a supply of weapons, a humanitarian mission that they can become a part of (using it as camouflage), or a powerful member of their community giving them the time of day to call on them. They’ll be promised many things like “72″ virgins, and all they have to do is take the fight to the modern world.
So, these eight friends get together in a cave one day and set out to plan their attack. They’ll break up into groups of two and move within hours of each other. They are assigned targets, and agree on a date/time based on what is happening in the world. They take the opportunity [from above] and go on their mission, never to speak to each other again.
In public, the friends are seen as happy, courteous and quiet. They laugh at everything a regular person would. They drink at the same coffee shops as a regular person would. They even make sure to denounce Jihad amongst their new “friends”. Weeks, months or years later, the date has come. Some of the friends will use guns, some explosives. When guns are used, one will shoot, one will monitor the crowd. When explosives are used, they will push the button when they are close to as many people as possible. They simply walk into unsecured public places and create chaos.
I have just planned a terrorist attack. Now, to be clear, I have no interest in doing so. I love humanity, my planet, and I’m pretty happy to be a Canadian (except when it’s -40). But, I’ve planned an attack with very little thought. I didn’t use any technology. Maybe, I might have mailed a letter or two, but I’m not on anyone’s radar because it’s simply been a couple of conversations between friends in a part of the world that is extremely hard to track.
You see what I’ve done? I didn’t have to be a precision planner or highly intelligent to take this on. The intelligence community didn’t fail anyone, because short of monitoring everyone’s every movement, they were never privy to these conversations. The media would tout my terrorist plot as masterful, when in reality it’s just common sense. The media has to stop making these guys look so good; intelligent and near genius. It’s a fear tactic, and it’s a gross misuse of their position. Hell, I might not even be a member of ISIS/ISIL, but if I can tout my attack as such, then I have painted another scary stroke (again, I don’t have to be a genius to do so).
However, yes, given the state of things, we are in big trouble. It’s not for reasons one would think, based on these news broadcasts, though. It’s because we as a people have become so lost in sensationalism, and so desensitized to tragedy, that we have truly lost our way.
We bomb them, they bomb us. We rely on humans, which by nature, error on both sides. We get angry, and so do they. What do we expect will happen? The Holy Wars, Julius Cesar, the Mongolians, WWI, WWII, the search for weapons of mass destruction … all of these wars created a system dependent on violence, and worse, enemies where there may not have been any. Who even knows if the Paris attacks were actually carried out by ISIS. Part of their schtick is that they will proclaim being a part of any terror to create a complete us vs. them mentality, and guess what? You stupid mother fuckers are letting it happen. Every time you say Muslims are evil, ISIS has won. Muslims live in other places besides Afghanistan and Syria, ya know? Ever heard of a place called Turkey?
As an event coordinator, I know what it takes to plan something, and I also know that the day of discussions are the most important. All the planning in the world can’t prepare you for what comes up out of the blue. It would be nearly impossible to track an event if you don’t know the venue, and all of the organizers are silent partners. It’s just reality.
So What Happens Next?
We take the fight to them. The coalition armies go out and kill in the name of justice, which happened a few hours ago when France bombed Isis. The soldiers become jaded and detached from reality as they witness unthinkable things. They make mistakes, and do things they would have never done back home. Maybe they rape someone, get trigger happy and kill a bunch of civilians, or develop a blood lust and torture a village. Even if every soldier doesn’t go off script, they’re still over there killing our enemies, leaving innocent civilians to build their ideals based on what they see.
We’re in trouble because our response to violence is more violence. Think about it this way. Let’s say you’ve been married to the same woman for 10 years, and you come home to find her cheating with another man. You demand answers but the guy just says, “Fuck you! She’s mine now.” This guy is brave. He’s ¼ the size of you, and still telling you where to go. What do you do?
In all likelihood, you beat the crap out of him. You’re arrested, but feel fully justified in what you have done. The cops, your lawyer, and most people agree with you too. That guy was an asshole and deserved what he got. BUT the law doesn’t agree and you are put in jail, where you witness and are party to unthinkable acts. Upon your release, you are expected to just assimilate back into society. No one’s watching. Can you?
Chances are there are factors that led to her cheating. Maybe you and her didn’t get along that well, maybe there was abuse, or there were other factors. If there were, you should have dealt with them, and not let it all get to the point where you find her cheating in your bed. If there weren’t, and somehow you were perfect, I guess you drone his ass. That’s the standard set by our military state.
Now scale that up. You’re the husband, and your village is bombed, your wife is killed, and those that did it get away. Your neighbour has the same thing happen to him. Are you angry? What do you do?
I’m not saying terrorism is always reactionary, but radicalism is. We’re all born with the same blank slate not wanting to kill each other (unless experiential genes hold more weight than we think, but that’s for another blog). It’s the chicken and the egg debate. All we’re doing is fighting wars because of the war before, and who knows where it all started? As long as we, the people, continue to let age old debates and capitalism dictate our policies, we’re doomed. There will never be an end to this. The violence will continue, and as I’ve presented, it doesn’t require a massive amount of planning, or genius.
So, when intelligence can’t stop all this violence, what are we to do? 9/11 was an example of precision planning, but terrorists learned very quickly that they don’t need a 9/11 to disrupt the world. They just need to keep hitting us, and with all that has happened in the past couple of decades, we’ve created plenty of enemies.
This is not to say that intelligence gathering and vetting refugees is somehow an unimportant asset in fighting terror, but we can’t hold world leaders accountable every time an attack is perpetrated. Bad things happen and there’s no fool proof way to stop them. Think about your own lack of perfection in tasks and then relate that to the search for attackers. Holding people in positions of power to standards higher than what we can expect of ourselves is unreasonable. They’re human, thus flawed.
Terror or War
The reason that terror is a part of our lives (outside of those already mentioned) is books. All of this violence over the ages comes down to words written on a page by men far less sophisticated than us today, probably while high. The Bible, The Quran, The Tanakh … whatever book you believe in, most of the wars fought are over these poorly written, contradictory books full of plot holes. Hell, Hollywood has now written better tales. But, the 7 billion people are governed by differences that start with these books. Storytellers from Christianity to Scientology put stories down on paper, and as a result millions have died. These books and religions also promote peace, but are the justification for war. The books represent an insane vision of the future based on dated principals of the past. Not all Muslim countries are created equal; Pakistan vs Turkey. However, people’s creative licensing + books that have several grey areas make for disaster. How insane does that sound based on what we now know of the universe?
It’s absolutely ridiculous. Out of these books have come more difference; race, class systems, and the list goes on. We fight over differences that really don’t matter, and that’s what should be taught. Warriors should not be held up as Gods, but instead as perpetrators of horror. If we weren’t teaching these divisive ideas to our children, whether we be from Canada or Syria, the system of violence would break down. If we broke our borders, and shared in abundance, the violence would break down. If we stood up to racism and stereotypes to create a better world, the violence would break down.
The answer is not more fighting, but unfortunately, we will likely never see great change in this area because we’re in the middle of what could potentially become one of the most violent times in history, and we’re going to be too mad to stop it.
There are good Christians, good Muslims, good Russians, good Americans … good people. But, when governing our lives by difference we are simply a part of the cycle whether we want to admit it or not. It’s the disgusting truth of humanity.
We’re spinning around on a planet amid space we don’t understand. The sun shines bright, and we rarely question why. We’re made of cells, all the same, but never really think about it in those terms. NASA has travelled to Mars, and discovered things about our universe that no holy text had accounted for. We’ve challenged every single ideal created by men so many years ago, whether through religion or otherwise. We know the ocean is important to our survival. We get that trees are needed. Truth and wonder stare us in the face every day, but here we are fighting over petty differences.
I look at my social media feeds only to find the broken system continuing. Eight people create chaos and an entire race or religion is blamed. That’s simply pushing archaic ideals forward. We hate the eight, and go blow up their cities because of it, then a new eight are created, and the wheels on the bus go round and round.
How does that make any sense to anyone?
WRITTEN BY JAMIE HALL Writer, Entrepreneur & Fan of Superman from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada