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Thursday, January 15, 2015

The Failure Of Terrorism

In July, 2009, I wrote a quick blog entry entitled "To What End?"

When I heard about the bombings in Jakarta yesterday, my first thought was, what do these terrorists hope to achieve? Long term, I mean.

If you look at the various terrorist acts in the last decade or two -- the World Trade Center, the Madrid train station, the hotels in Mumbai, any place you wanna pick in the Middle East -- they have not been effective at all in changing policies of the companies and/or countries they have attacked. I know that most of the people recruited to carry out these suicide missions are poor and desperate, but somewhere up the chain, the supposedly-smarter decision makers had an agenda they hope to achieve.

These Muslim extremists must not have a rearview mirror because, while they're very good at blowing things up and instilling fear in the short-term, the long-term policy-change failure rate seems to be 100%.
I've been thinking the same thing for the last few days in light of the Charlie Hebdo attacks.

I wonder if the terrorists think they accomplished anything besides killing 17 innocent people. After all, if the idea was to stop the satirical newspaper from printing cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed, that was proven a failure when the new issue came out this week, produced by the surviving staff members. Not only that, but the attacks made a not-that-well-known publication famous around the world.

Last week's issue sold about 60,000 copies. This week's print run will be five million. Air France bought 20,000 copies yesterday and gave them to passengers for free. Parisians and others across France lined up before dawn to buy a copy from newsstands, which quickly sold out. Charlie can't sustain those sales numbers, but meanwhile millions more people have been exposed to the very images the attackers supposedly find so offensive they want them (and their creators) erased from the planet.

Moreover, the Charlie Hebdo cover cartoon and other illustrations have gotten free media worldwide. Some media outlets haven't shown them over safety concerns that they might be targeted next, but lots of others have and, when you include all the internet sites that have posted the images and all the Twitter and Facebook users who are using this week's Charlie cover as their profile photo, the exposure has been enormous.

If last month's kerfuffle over "The Interview" proved that there's no such thing as bad publicity, the global response to the Charlie Hebdo attack takes it to another level. Does that frustrate the terrorists who so despise those images?

If the intent of the attack was merely bloodshed, it succeeded. If the intent was to increase Islamophobia in France, the rest of Europe, and here in the US, it succeeded. But if the idea was to crush the free (if tasteless) expression of religious criticism, it failed miserably, just like so many others in our lifetimes.

Previously on Harris Online...