Subject: Terrorism and terror

From: (Joe Cosby)
Newsgroups: alt.slack
Date: Wed, Sep 19, 2001 9:00 PM
Message-ID: <3ba93f99.63405428@News.CIS.DFN.DE>

>>Analysis: Why they did it
>>TORONTO, Sept. 18 (UPI) -- Why do they do it? Believe it or not, to influence
>>your mind. To understand why terrorists kill unarmed civilians and innocents,
>>one must understand the true targets of the terrorist attack. They are not
>>as they seem.
>>Incredible as it sounds, for the terrorist masterminds who design mass
>>murders, the ultimate targets are not primarily those who are murdered.
>>Terrorists see these immediate victims, even when they number in the
>>thousands, as kindling designed to ignite a greater blaze, which involves a
>>complete psychological transformation of the society they target, to break it
>>As terrorists make clear in their writings and statements, the ultimate goal
>>is to manipulate the minds of whole citizenries who survive the attacks, to
>>break their wills, so that they will be inclined to let the terrorists have
>>their way. It is to induce a kind of second-hand trauma in the onlookers, in
>>order to destroy their resolve. The basic tactic of terrorism is the use of
>>random violence on individual civilians to inspire terror in the many. This
>>randomness creates a sense in all those who survive the attacks that they too
>>might be affected at any time, and thus they can never leave the field of
>>battle. The sense of terror becomes unremitting, and the terrorist
>>organization appears even more powerful than it is. A Palestinian,
>>commenting on the triple skyjacking in September 1970, said: "It is a severe
>>entry into their minds; nevertheless it is an entry." Terrorism seeks to
>>cross not just physical, but psychological borders.
>>We learned most about how terror affects the mind during the 1970s, when
>>terrorism was at its height. When planes were routinely hijacked and people
>>were kidnapped, a bizarre phenomenon was noted. People who had been
>>kidnapped, held at gunpoint and forced to beg for their lives, dependent on
>>their captors for each breath, emerged to describe their captors as just,
>>merciful people who treated them well, and demanded that various governments
>>support the terrorists' demands. The unremitting terror gave rise to an
>>almost psychotic kind of wishful thinking. The psychological mechanism
>>involved is called "identification with the aggressor." A version of this
>>was seen in Stockholm, in 1973, when four tellers were held at gunpoint for
>>131 hours in a bank vault. Contrary to what had been expected, these
>>captives expressed more fear of the police than of their captors, and one, in
>>a phone call to the Swedish prime minister said, "The robbers are protecting
>>us from the police." After their release, they expressed no hatred for their
>>captors, and even said they were emotionally indebted to them.
>>The Stockholm Syndrome is not a conscious attempt to ingratiate oneself to
>>one's captors, but an automatic unconscious emotional response. The captive
>>gradually begins to try and paint the captor or terrorist as much more benign
>>than he is, so that they can feel less fear. He or she begins to feel more
>>childlike and identify with him, out of fear. But what has the Stockholm
>>Syndrome to do with the rest of us?
>>Terrorism seeks to create what one might call a second-hand Stockholm
>>Syndrome, with the goal of leading the larger population into an
>>identification with the aggressor. The goal is to make citizens fall back on
>>wishful thinking, and say, "Maybe if we appease the terrorists, listen to
>>their demands, they will stop. Maybe they can be reasoned with. Maybe if we
>>don't fight back, they will leave us alone."
>>The terrorist hopes to make the targeted citizenry progressively more passive
>>and confused. When terrorist organizations deny that they have committed
>>terrorist actions, but at the same time applaud them, as bin Laden has
>>recently done, they do so not only to escape capture, or to make
>>civilization's enemies appear greater than they truly are.
>>Confusion is an essential terrorist tool, because anxiety is elevated
>>whenever citizens feel the slightest uncertainty about who the enemy is.
>>This is also why nations that actively support terrorism have also been
>>lining up to denounce terrorism-in-general.
>>In fact, terrorism has already made significant psychological inroads in
>>influencing Western, and at times, American foreign policy. The West has
>>been far too casual about terrorists. Syria, for instance, almost at the top
>>of the U.S. list of terrorist nations, is next month being proposed as the
>>Asian and Arab nominee to sit on the U.N. Security Council, no less. That is
>>like nominating Al Capone to become FBI director. But, Western governments
>>have yet to come out strongly against Syria's nomination.
>>Another sign that terrorism has induced a dangerous passivity in us is when
>>we criticize those who defend themselves. Thus many European governments,
>>Canada, and even the State Department, all thinking themselves immune, have
>>criticized Israel for proactively raiding and killing known terrorists.
>>When the victims of terrorism are unknown to us, we also become tempted to
>>say, "A plague on both your houses," to both the terrorist and his victim,
>>implying there is a moral equivalence between them. When we do, we sound
>>even-handed, but we do so to decrease our own anxiety. It's like saying:
>>Since we never resort to violence, no violence will be turned on us. More
>>wishful thinking.
>>By this reasoning, we undermine our own ability to pursue terrorists wherever
>>they may be. These responses have been welcomed by terrorists as a sign that
>>their objectives are being met.
>>What are the weak points in the terrorist's psychology? While it is true
>>that many terrorists are old-fashioned religious fanatics, they are fanatics
>>with a flavor.
>>The typical terrorist is a grandiose-paranoid character. His paranoia
>>predisposes him to see his enemies not just as evil but also as fundamentally
>>weak in spirit, inhumane, and bound by necessity to lose. His grandiosity
>>predisposes him to see himself and his cause as all-good, all-powerful and
>>guaranteed of victory.
>>Yet that very grandiosity that allows him to imagine and execute the most
>>horrifying deeds often biases him toward certain kinds of tactical
>>miscalculation. In this case, the very audacity of these recent attacks of
>>which the terrorists are so proud, may make it hard for those forces prone to
>>denial to minimize the threat of terrorism.
>>Now only fools can deny that we have enemies who have the will, and the
>>means, to use chemical, biological, and soon, nuclear weapons against us.
>>That very knowledge may bring people together. It may also help a generation
>>reared in peace to develop a new level of intellectual and moral courage,
>>without which no civilization can long survive.
>> --
>>(Norman Doidge is a psychiatrist and a psychoanalyst at the universities of
>>Columbia and Toronto.)

Joe Cosby

The whole point of having a religion is to be able to do things on
longer time scales than a single human lifetime or a few generations.
- Josh Geller

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