Terrorism has evolved to thrive in the environment we have created. Understanding that evolution is the first step in combating terrorism, the second is the change the environment we have created in which the terrorism thrives.
Original, ‘primary’ Terrorists
Original terrorist movements had defined goals and desired outcomes. The terrorist organisation existed for the sole purpose of achieving these goals or desired outcomes. Achieve the goal, and terrorism is no longer required. For example:
‘End of British rule and the establishment of a republic in northern Ireland (IRA)’.
Overthrow a corrupt and non democratic government (contras and others).
Create an independent Tamil State (Tamil tigers).
These previous terrorist movements sought a desired change in a specific jurisdiction and then the need for terrorism would be over.
The motivation of primary terrorists: fear of oppression.
If we consider ‘what should we fear’, the analysis quickly results in a motivation of either fear or material gain. In other words, fear or greed. The reality is for all of these primary terrorists, the motivation is fear. Fear of oppression. There may be cases where authorities who oppose the terrorists see the demands from the terrorists as unreasonable and greed, but in every case, reasonable or not, these primary terrorists are motivated what is from their perspective, the fear of oppression.
Evolution to secondary terrorism: Global Terrorism
Whilst the global terrorism facing the world today may have evolved from origins such as the example of primary terrorist discussed above, the global terrorism we see today has become an end to itself.
I suggest that terrorism has now taken on a life of its own. Like a living creature in nature, this ‘living’ terrorism survives not to achieve some primary terrorist purpose, but simply to harness, recruit and manipulate primary terrorists. This is all driven by ‘secondary terrorist’, who actively seek power and and wealth as parasites who exist on the back of primary terrorist.
The secondary terrorist does not need the fear oppression that motivates primary terrorists, only primary terrorists need fear oppression. In fact, not only do these secondary terrorists not necessarily fear the oppression motivating their troops and underlings, the primary terrorist, secondary terrorist take actions that increase the perceived oppression. Whether by accident or design, the terrorist organiser who continues to take steps to increase the perceived oppression will prosper, and all others become extinct. The more people that feel oppressed, the more recruits they have. So the opposite of a primary terrorist who seeks the end of oppression, secondary terrorists take steps to drive more oppression.
Like a living organism, the new secondary style terrorism movement seeks simply to survive and multiply. The only cause is recruiting more terrorists and supporters, and to drive more support and more recruits, they desire more oppression, not less. Their message is simple “if you feel oppressed, join us and strike a blow against you oppressors.
How the response to terror drives the evolution.
Primary terrorist fear oppression of themselves and those like themselves. This fear is the motivator for the hatred necessary to commit terrorist acts. But how can we respond to terrorist acts? Well, as discussed in ‘what should we fear’, there are two possible responses: mitigate the fear the terrorist harbour, or remove their capability to inflict terror.
Which do we choose? We attempt to remove their capability to inflict terror, and in doing have a huge risk of increasing perceived oppression. Any time our steps to remove capabilities of terrorists can have any impact increasing oppression, the primary terrorist has a victory. It is not necessarily the steps by the government itself that creates this perception of oppression, the media and rouge commentators can certainly play a huge role in delivering a win to the secondary terrorist needing the perception of oppression.
The mixed messages of secondary terror.
Secondary terrorist seek power, and more oppression gives them that power. The secondary terrorist needs and feeds on perceived oppression. But the primary terrorist, who are the troops on the ground committing the actual acts of terror, is sees themselves as fighting the oppressors. The first mixed message is ‘stop oppressing/i challenge you to oppress’.
The next confusing message is identity. If society oppresses the terrorists as a response to act of terror, then this will not spread terrorism. Terrorism only spreads when societies oppresses people not already terrorists to such an extent that some of those people will now become terrorists. So the terrorist must identify with a group that includes more people than themselves. By insisting that all terrorist simply identify as Muslim, there is some chance of spreading oppression to Muslims not previously involved in terror. If the terrorist clearly identify as only themselves, the spread of oppression will fail.
The outcome of the evolution.
Recruit the disenfranchised to strike back against society they see as oppressive.
The disenfranchised see society as the oppressor, and see any strike against society as a blow against their oppressors. The ’cause’ is reduced to simply striking a blow against society. However the terrorist require that whoever wishes to seek a blow against society is seen to have an identity (currently Muslim) which can result in some blaming or oppressing more people.
The Two Factors to the current success of terrorism.
To succeed with these vague goals an act of terror has only two tests for success.
1: Those who identify as oppressed see the terrorist act as striking a blow against the society they see as oppressing them.
2: The reaction of society may result in more individuals seeing themselves as oppressed.
These two goals become sufficient, and any additional goals irrelevant and a distraction. I invite consideration that if these two goals are a correct analysis of what helps this new terrorism thrive, then much of societies current response is assisting the terrorists.
It is my suggestion that terrorism which has found this formulae, thrives in the environment of the modern world, not necessarily because someone planned this formulae, no more than dinosaurs planned to grow feathers. The environment determined the dinosaurs with feathers would survive.
Isis and supporters are not necessarily a homogeneous group and many may harbour different ideologies and goals, but provided they appeal to the disenfranchised, such additional goals are superfluous.
Our current approach to terrorism creates the environment in which these two factors thrive.
Media sensationalises terrorist attracts to attract attention to the media but at the same time gives sensationalised attention to the terrorist acts.
Media, some politicians and spokespeople vilify the groups that the disenfranchised have arisen from, and in turn create more disenfranchised within those same groups.
We elevate that status of suicide terrorists to the martyr status they desire, instead of viewing these pawns as also weak victims who have been used.
I will post more discussion on how we are helping the ‘survival of the fittest’ in terrorism rather than eliminating terror in future posts, and the pretence of ‘fundamental Islam’ in the gang culture of ISIS.