Terrorism. What is it good for?

So, we’ve had a recent attack of what might or might not have been an act of terrorism. At the moment we can’t be too sure how much it conforms to the accepted definition, but in the public mind it’s already a terrorist outrage because of the randomness of its choice of victim and because, unlike the acts of pointless carnage that America’s gun culture is so famous for generating, the perpetrators weren’t taking obvious pleasure in the realisation of their murderous fantasies like the now almost routine high school massacre that attracts  progressively less outrage.

Obviously, it goes without saying that I’m very sorry for the families and friends of the dead and of course for the often-forgotten survivors of the Boston Marathon Bombing. But it still needs to be questioned as to who or what ever benefits from an act of terrorism.

From the point of view of the terrorist, I guess there’s probably a moment of satisfaction when something that’s been plotted and planned reaches fruition. I’d have thought that very few terrorists really believe the nonsense that might have been inculcated in them or which they might have half-digested in their private research. I suspect in most cases it’s all about that final blaze of glory and a perverse wish to be remembered in some way. And let’s not forget that there may well be some terrorists who get some kind of orgasmic pleasure from killing or harming other people. It’s been an aspect of humanity for a hundred thousand years or more that,a proportion of the population get a real kick from hurting others so it’s something that’s unlikely to have changed now. And no doubt the worse the violence, the bigger the turn-on.

Who benefits in the long run?

The most obvious beneficiaries are those in positions of power who now have a very good excuse to further ratchet up their repression of the greater population. And as we know from countries like contemporary North Korea, the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany, when there aren’t enough terrorist acts to justify the repression they wish to apply, then just invent the risk and torture people until they confess to it.

It’s unlikely that terrorism ever actually furthers the nominal causes that the terrorists subscribe to, which are generally noble and Utopian ideals such as world  peace, the universal adoption of one religion or another, or better understanding of one community’s plight over another. It might generate debate in generally liberal countries like Britain or Sweden or the Netherlands, where intellectuals agonise over an acceptable solution, but it’s usually the breakdown of civil society that best appears to benefit the nominal cause (whatever it might be) by strengthening the grip that a handful of people who guide the ideology (such as imams, party secretaries or charismatic leaders) have on the movement so that when they take power, if the society they are threatening is sufficiently weak or stupid,they can become the Khomeini, the Stalin, the Kim Jong-Il or Mao Tse-Tsung of that movement.

And to illustrate the type of person who most benefits from terrorism, here’s a picture by the Chinese artist Liu Dongzi, otherwise known as East Monkey:

Pig and his Girl

Pig and his Girl

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