There has been lots of debate the last few days about what motivates a person to become a terrorist. There are two camps on what causes terrorism: the “its all ideology” camp and the “it’s all unintended consequences” camp. Both groups are correct, because either can generate terrorists; I see unintended consequences as the symptom and fundamentalist ideology as the disease.
Terrorism is rooted with an ideology that sees itself in danger of extinction. Yesterday I mentioned the Boko Haram. It’s a militant Islamist group that basically sees western or non-Islamic education as evil. The followers of Boko Haram reject the notion the earth is a sphere. It stands to reason they feel they are being attacked by western science, because science has the innate ability to deal some serious damage to ignorance.
There are several parts of the world that are under “attack” from western science and culture. Baywatch was a popular show around the world and from some people’s perspective just flat-out anit-burqa. In truth, the views and ways of life all around the world are being challenged–but not intentionally challenged–by the west. Most people will speak up in defense when they feel their values are under attack and state the virtues behind their beliefs. Terrorist choose the violent path because they believe there is a sinister plot behind opposing views. They are the ones that see Baywatch as a western plot to destroy their culture. If you thought someone was plotting your demise, you might attack back too.
From the terrorist perspective–they feel that their way of life is under attack and those around them are slowly being corrupted–what should they do? Just follow the anarchy. Pull yourself out of the corrupt society and set up your own pure society. The regions with little or no government control are the best place for terrorists to set up shop. If everyone is armed with rifles to defend themselves, a terrorist won’t stand out. No government to monitor or crack down on their activities. From the protection zone of anarchy, you can start freeing the world from satanic plots. As long as there are regions of anarchy, terrorists will have safe bases of operation.
Dynamics of terrorism – how wars of terrorism are fought on both sides
Side A – declares war on side B but side A has little to no army.
Side B – is the opposing government or ideology of side A
Side A – can’t fight side B on an open battlefield because they would be wiped out and instead picks civilian targets to attack.
For terrorists, the justification for murdering civilians is that the values the terrorists are defending is more important than human life. If you are willing to die for these values then others should be just as willing to die, and if they aren’t willing to die for those values they weren’t a good person to begin with. For governments, the justification of stepping on civil rights is that all your civil rights are gone if a you are killed by a terrorist.
The side that does the most harm to civilians will probably lose hearts and minds. The harm isn’t measured only in causalities. When terrorists cause the public to be afraid of normal day to day activities, they become the bad guys. When governments crack down too hard, as in house-to-house searches, they become the bad guys.
The calculation often overlooked is how people view potential harm differently from real harm. You don’t normally sympathize with someone causing you real harm in order to prevent future harm.
Examples – The current group of terrorist argue their way of life is threatened by the opposing ideology or government. They are arguing that harm will come in the future whereas someone being killed by a bomb is a real and tangible harm. When the terrorists set off a bomb and people die, they represent the real harm.
The government argues for searching people and residences to protect the public from harm. If the government starts strip searches to prevent terrorist from blowing people up, it’s the potential threat of a bomb vs. the reality of having your privacy violated. When governments violate civil rights, they represent the real harm.
Blowback or unintentionally creating terrorists happens when in fighting terrorism the government does more harm to civilians than terrorists have done to civilians. Terrorist set off a bomb that kills 100 people–and while hunting down the terrorist, the government kills 500 people. The terrorists are still jerks; the problem is in doing even more harm, the government has legitimized the terrorists for attacking in the first place. From the uninvolved civilian perspective, the government is now the bad guys; their enemy appears to be the good guys, so where do I sign up?
I’m not empathizing with the terrorists groups, but I have to agree that western civilization is a powerful force and is corrupting civilizations around the world. I’m also very proud of “corrupting the world.” When I heard that Baywatch was a popular show in the Middle East, I felt a sense of American pride. Baywatch is no work of art in a literary sense, but its something to be proud of in that free people produce the things that people around the world want.
I too believe the world is slowly being conquered by western culture and technology. The culture of free societies will always dominate high-control societies for the simple fact we give people just want they want without any regulation. I watch news and documentaries from around the world and I see western clothing and technology everywhere. Hollywood and the media, through the use of technology, have become one of the most powerful forces on the planet.
So far the damage done to these fundamentalist groups ideology has been unintentional. The west has unintentionally created freedom junkies, because once you’ve had a taste of freedom you are hooked for life. I think its time to start intentionally damaging their culture with as much free and open access to information and entertainment as possible. The west is getting blamed for intentionally trying to corrupt other cultures, so why not start actively pursing their “corruption?” It’s time for governments to team up with the tech industry and entertainment industry to plan a bombardment of portable media players and laptops and highspeed internet access to all the information and entertainment deprived areas of the world.
Baywatch ’em back from the Stone Age!