The sensation of fear remains much the same throughout life: it is, after all, the natural response of our bodies to potentially dangerous situations. It is things we fear that change. These can be simple fears, such as the fear of the betrayal by our genes that might give us some nasty, potentially fatal disease. There is also deliberately induced fear: terrorism. This type of fear seemed much simpler back in the 1970’s. Living in the UK, we existed in the fear that we might be blown up by fundamentalist nationalist Irishmen in Britain’s pubs, shopping centres, parks or cinemas. Modern life is now a little more complicated. We currently have to fear that we might be decapitated, blown up or shot by fundamentalist Muslims if we are white, or blown up, shot or stabbed by fundamentalist white racist Christians if we are black. Whereas the terror in the 70’s was broadly aimed at groups of people gathered in public places, terror has now moved on and developed a more specific range: individuals in the wrong place, the wrong uniform, the wrong nationality, the wrong beach holiday. Terrorism, like advertising, has become much more targeted.
While we can make lots of choices, one cannot choose to be born in a specific place or to particular parents. We don’t choose our sex or sexual orientation. It’s not your fault that you were born in London, or New York, or Delhi, that your parents were a particular colour or that you are female or gay. Yet, nowadays you might be be targeted precisely because of that accident of birth, in order that your killers can proudly proclaim that they killed an American, a Brit, a black, a Hindu, a woman or a homosexual. Then there’s irony – British born Jihadists who proudly kill other Westerners when they could more usefully (and much more easily) kill themselves. Imagine: “I killed a Brit today. Myself!” Self decapitation, however, brings logistical problems of its own, would probably not work as well on video, and would require considerably more bravery than the current crop of cowardly slaughterers could conceivably muster.
The mass murder of unarmed civilians has become a sacrament to some perverted religious ideologies, both Muslim and Christian. It has also become mechanised by Western military powers, robotic drones disseminating death from on high, the language of death translated into Orwellian ‘newspeak’ so that the personalisation of extinction fades to statistics.
The way extremists disseminate fear has also changed. Nowadays, the power of the internet means that terrorist groups can use all the digital tools available to advertise their wares, promote their ideologies and recruit cannon fodder. The slick advertising of the British Armed Forces, “be the best”, has been aped and subverted in any number of slick, professionally produced Jihadist YouTube clips and Twitter campaigns which are the envy of Western advertising agencies.
The fact that ISIS and numerous right wing fundamentalist racists have adopted the techniques of global corporate marketing to spread their message is no accident; if you can sell a burger using a smiling clown and killing a cow, why not sell an ideology by wearing a balaclava and killing an aid worker, or a waistcoat bedecked with racist flags and killing a churchgoer?
What is intriguing is the way the media spin the two tales: killing Western tourists on a beach holiday is a terrorist outrage perpetrated by a globalised network of trained killers. The killing of black churchgoers in the US becomes the work of a lone psychopath. ISIS are ‘so called Islamic State’ (we are never ‘so called Great Britain’). The links of the lone psychopath to the established network of gun-toting loonies, fundamentalist Christian nut groups and the established terrorism and ideology of racist groups like the Klan and other neo-Nazi fuckwits is never investigated, publicised or properly understood.
America, of course, has nothing to gain by going to war with its religious nutters. Indeed, many of those self same bigots, misanthropes and homophobes will decide the makeup of the Senate, Congress and the identity of the President of the United States. The howls of outrage heard following the legalisation of gay marriage in the US will, in the opinion of many of these nutters, result in an angry and vengeful God carrying out massive retribution on those sinners who have the devilish belief that love transcends gender. In an irony-free zone, such as much of the US, retribution carried out by fundamentalist Muslims against American citizens will be viewed as divine judgement. We will find the ‘martyrs’ will seamlessly transmogrify into the sanctified agents of the will of God. Why not? They already share so much in the way they view the world.
America and her Western allies therefore go to war with the ‘enemies of freedom’ and the narrative becomes one of the defence of human rights and the proselytising of our particular brand of democracy. Democracy (™). As far as Western powers are concerned, human rights can only be defended by force of arms if the oppressed beings reside above vast lakes of oil. Hence Zimbabweans are left to languish under a psychotically oppressive and homophobic dictatorship, while democracy is exported at vast expense, both financial and in terms of human lives, to those lucky enough to have some natural resource in demand by Western economies. Should those newly democratically elected leaders not conform to Western notions of Democracy (™), then it is only fair that they should be subverted and replaced by more controllable puppets. By controllable puppets, of course, I mean ‘leaders who have the best interests of their people at heart’. Luckily for us, and for arms manufacturers around the globe, despots need not be overthrown if, alongside their repression of women and minorities, they also purchase weapons from us in huge quantities in order to repress said minorities, as long as they also promise to sell us their oil.
Fortunately for us and our arms manufacturing industry, these repressive states then become the breeding grounds of a new generation of ‘terrorists’, driven by their poverty and despair into the fertile recruiting camps of religious extremism. An examination of their resources shows that they have nothing to give us but fear, and they have learned to export that extremely well. Ironically, many of them have made the move from slavery to becoming global exporters of terror. A Western success story, poor kids made good. As a result, we are the ones living in fear. “That’s what it is to be a slave.”