The age of celebrity terrorism

The media and the blogosphere is filled with anger and vitriol. Perhaps, we Indians are too close to the scene of the tragedy and are mostly incapable of seeing the large ramifications of what just happened in Mumbai. In this volatile time, perhaps some of the best analysis of the situation can be depicted by observers who are sufficiently detached from the incident and are therefore not as affected with the emotions running in this country.

BBC has this brilliant analysis by Paul Cornish, who theorises about whether this is a new chapter of terrorism - “the age of celebrity terrorism”.

Quite apart from the scores murdered and the hundreds injured, what the Mumbai terrorists really wanted was an exaggerated - and preferably extreme - reaction on the part of governments, the media and public opinion.

In these terms, the attackers received as much attention as they could possibly have hoped for, and the Mumbai outrage can only be described as a very significant terrorist success.

Nothing too new there. The media frenzy about blame game, the war mongering by sections of the society. We all are reacting very predictably.

But wait, here is the part of the article which is interesting.

The character of modern terrorism is widely understood to have been shaped by a mid-19th-Century idea known as the “propaganda of the deed” - a strategy for political change in which the message or cause is contained within, and expressed by the violent act.

In a novel twist, the Mumbai terrorists might have embarked on propaganda of the deed without the propaganda, in the confident expectation that the rationalisation for the attack - the narrative - would be provided by politicians, the media and terrorism analysts.

If so, then Mumbai could represent something rather different in the history of terrorism, and possibly something far more disturbing even than global jihad.

Perhaps we have come to the point where casually self-radicalised, sociopathic individuals can form a loose organisation, acquire sufficient weapons and equipment for a few thousand dollars, make a basic plan of action and indulge in a violent expression of their generalised disaffection and anomie.

These individuals indulge in terrorism simply because they can, while their audience concocts a rationale on their behalf.

Welcome to the age of celebrity terrorism.

Read the complete article for a more detailed explanation behind the theory.

We still don’t have all the details of this attack to prove any of this. The only detail that we have are premature and constantly revised and denied press revelations by the administration. But even if a bit of the theory of the article is true, we are in for really disturbing times. And it is even more unsettling to know about this possibility and watch the media and the government take the country inexorably to where the terrorists want it to be.

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