Thursday, July 05, 2007

Terrorism as Farce

Two recent themes on this blog (farce and terrorism) seem to be converging. The Register describes the attacks in London and Glasgow using the language of slapstick:


Journalists and politicians described the offending vehicles as car bombs, but this is inaccurate flattery. (Some people may have motives of their own for talking up the security threat.) The vehicles were indeed loaded with gas canisters and petrol and nails, but without a decent source of oxygen there was no chance of an explosion.

On the assumption that the plotters actually wanted to produce an explosion, the Register characterizes the plotters as ignorant, incompetent and/or lazy for failing to do any research or test. The plotters eventually managed to set fire to a jeep at Glasgow Airport.

Did the plotters really want to kill and maim the British public? (Apparently several of them were hospital doctors. They could possibly have done more damage by staying at work, if we imagine that more people die from medical incompetence than from terrorism.) Or did they merely want to produce some dramatic pictures for the television news?

As I've pointed out before, it is not necessary for terrorists to kill and maim people every time. In the past, some plotters have sent warnings so that the relevant area can be evacuated, and television cameras set up, before the bomb goes off. Presumably the idea is to get maximum media coverage for your cause without alienating the more ambivalent of your supporters.

A burning vehicle is certainly more photogenic than an explosion, and much safer, which is why there are so many petrol fires in action movies. But the plotters certainly don't come out of this particular episode with the style and glamour of a James Bond, or even a Che Guevara. The Register characterizes them as ignorant or incompetent. Or were the plotters themselves ambivalent about their actions - unconsciously sabotaging their own drama - rushing around making fools of themselves, like the characters in a well-scripted farce?

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1 comment:

Scribe said...

Manual trackback...

http://intothemachine.blogspot.com/2007/07/idol-given-whole-new-meaning.html