Yesterday a major event happened in the country where I live. Terrorism was all the rage again. It was horrible. People wouldn’t shut up about it. I’m not sure what exactly went down, but this is what I know from the news:
• A car was driving really fast, trying to hit pedestrians
• Luckily all of them were able to avoid getting hit by jumping away in time
• The driver’s name was Mohammed (this is of major importance)
• He was asleep
• He was drunk
• It was a terrorist attack
• He was not a terrorist, but has been convicted in France for illegal weapon possession
• He had illegal weapons in his car
• It was possibly a terrorist attack, but we’re not sure
• All access to public areas is closed because of the terrorist attack we might have prevented.
• An eye-witness says he was driving really fast but definitely not aiming to hurt pedestrians, even though that was clearly a risk. Because he kept to the middle of the road everyone was able to drive away. Later he slowed down for a traffic light. 2 military guards approached the car. One of them drew a gun, and in response the terrorist put the pedal to the metal again and drove off.
• He has been arrested and didn’t resist arrest. He’s charged with attempt at terrorist murder and illegal weapon possession.
• The court says it’s too early to decide if it was an act of terror or not.
There are a lot of things horribly wrong about this situation. First of all, I do recognize that the event must have been extremely scary, and possibly traumatizing for the pedestrians who had to avoid this speeding car. But I don’t want to get into that because I have no clue how that feels.
One thing I do know, is how it feels to be around everyone who wasn’t there. So let’s talk about that for a moment. How can we deal with an event as horrible as this?
How Terrorism Works
Terrorism is a very effective and cost-efficient warfare strategy when you think about it. You don’t need an army any more. All you need is to brainwash a couple of guys with low self-esteem and empower them to take revenge on the society they loathe by committing an act of senseless violence while you stay safe in your ivory tower and make a YouTube video to claim responsibility for the horrible event.
But much more important than the physical violence, is the psychological violence of terrorism. Terrorism preys on the fact that when people are scared, they make dumb decisions, start to become more selfish and less tolerant of others. When we think it’s a matter of life and death, our decisions become a lot less rational and loving. And the scariest thing about terrorism is that it’s random. You are no longer safe in the places you used to feel safe any more. People can fly planes in your office, drive cars in a crowd and gun down the crowd at a concert.
Terrorism is about spreading 2 messages. First of all the terrorists try to divide and conquer (make non-muslims hate muslims, make the Muslims hate the “original locals” because they constantly treat them bad). And of course they try to spread the message that you have to be seriously fucking afraid of them.
The Terrorist's Powerful Marketing Division
Think of a time when you tried to get some project off the ground. Or tried to spread a message. Maybe you wanted to sell cookies to raise money for a new class room in your school. Or you wanted people to look at your music video. Whatever it was, it was pretty hard isn’t it? Without a solid team of marketeers or friends who actively promotes you, it is pretty fucking hard to get the world to even notice your existence.
Luckily for them, most terror groups have a very diligent team of marketeers who even work for free. Instead of having to pay millions of dollars for commercials, the television broadcasts their videos for free during the hours everyone’s watching. It's a win win deal. If some white guy goes bananas and shoots 30 people, it's just a lunatic. But if he's Islamic, we have the privilege of calling it "terrorism", which attracts much more viewers/readers to our channel.
So the media is part of that team. But there are millions of more people who are much more important. People like you or me. We share that news on Facebook with as much enthusiasm as if it were Michelle Obama’s leaked nudes.
Because fear sells. When we are afraid of something, it becomes the most important thing in our world. We will not rest until that scary spider is out of the room. We will yell and gather all the other people in the house to tell them there’s a spider so we can all yell and panic together until one person is brave enough to realize it’s just a spider and put it outside.
News that there’s a terrorist in the country works the same way. We all yell terrorist on social media and pray someone will do something so we can stop yelling. We are all acting as free marketeers for these terrorists groups. Every time they make a move we share that commercial video so quickly that Nike or Coca Cola would pay millions of dollars to get them on our time. And they do, only ISIS or Al Qaeda can use our services for free. So that they can reach everyone. We even share the messages in which they call out for more people to commit acts of violence.
But Isn’t It Important That We Stay Informed?
You are 100% right. If there is an imminent threat, we need to warn each other. But the problem with terrorism is that it's so unpredictable. You never know when or where it’s going to happen. So what point is there in being informed for us? Only the secret services can act on that information. If you want to avoid a terrorist attack, you can play chicken and avoid all public places like they’re your mother in law, but then again, they might just drop a bomb on your bedroom one day.
Does that thought scare you?
Well, it shouldn’t.
Because the images we see are so vivid, terrorism feels so scary that we blow the chance of those events happening way out of proportion. And in no way do I want to diminish how horrible these events are. I wouldn’t wish for it to happen to any single person, and I almost can’t imagine people are actually willing to carry out such acts of evil. When you or I hear about these things we are shocked, horrified, and feel sad for humanity that it has come to this. We may think “oh my god, my niece’s best friend’s mom was in that very same place just 2 months earlier” and feel even more afraid.
When viewed in isolation these events are horrible and tragic. And we see them enough to think about them all the time because we see their free commercials on the news every day. But let’s take a step back and be rational for a moment:
In 2015, there was a big peak in deaths by “Islamic” terrorism in Europe. Between 150 and 200 deaths happened that year. In the USA the average number is 3.2 deaths.
In comparison, every year on average:
• 176 people die when a television falls on their head
• 450 people die from falling out of bed
• 2.8 million people die from being way too frikkin’ fat
Now what can we do to avoid acts of terrorism from happening to us?
Nothing, that’s the sad part. You can’t predict it. If you are in the wrong place at the wrong time, you’re screwed. It’s like losing the death lottery instead of winning the money lottery. You walk in public places every day, and every single time you have that 1 in a 3.6 billion chance to die from a terrorist attack. And when it happens, good luck trying to avoid it. Winning the lottery may even be easier as it happens more often.
On the other hand: Television can be avoided. Cookies can be avoided. Cheese burgers can be avoided. But most of us don’t. Even though they are really bad for you. And you know what? The majority of people who eat a cookie survive. Which is downright heroic. Because the chance of dying from them is much higher than dying from a terror attack. And they risk it any way.
So if you are going to do free marketing for ISIS, please be considerate and do some free marketing for Oreos and Burger king as well. Don’t discriminate.
The Answer to the Question That’s On Everyone’s Lips
Was the driver from the start of this article a terrorist or not?
Maybe. Depending on what terrorism even means. Because when white people do it we label it differently. But looking at it objectively, this is what we're sure about:
Some dude was driving way too fast because he was drunk as fuck and possibly very tired. It probably wasn’t the most friendly dude because he kept weapons in his car. He stopped for the stop sign instead of crashing into the other cars. An official drew a gun at him. He knew he was doing illegal shit (guns in his car), so he did what people do when someone draws a gun at them: Drive off. Then he got arrested and he though “fuck, I’m screwed”.
Yes, he could be a terrorist on some other day. It’s also good that he got arrested and was sent to trial. He deserves it. But other than that I can’t help but be amazed at how loyal we behave to our beloved terrorists:
We are such a bunch of helpful marketeers than when a drunk driver with an Islamic name is behaving very recklessly and dangerously, we turn it into a full on commercial for ISIS.
Again, I’m not questioning the severity of this incident for the people involved. But for everyone who was not there it simply doesn't matter. Even if you were there just an hour later or earlier. I was too. But at some point we have to think:
Maybe the reason the number of young people in Europe joining terrorist groups might just have a little something to do with the fact that we promote those groups every single day. I'm not saying it's the root cause (the situation is way too complex). But at the very least, we're being helpful and willing when it comes to promoting them.
If you want these people to stop gaining momentum, stop being a part of their free promo and recruitment team. Stop sharing those stories that appear in every newspaper before any facts are checked. You are not helping anyone besides the people who commit those horrible crimes.
Terrorism needs your response to be effective. So stop helping them. Help the victims and promote the people who do something about it. Start teaching people how to be more loving and less afraid instead.
And stop giving these glorified high school bullies the attention they so desperately crave.
Receive Pepijn's new articles by email.
While there's enough articles here to fill a couple of books and sell them, keeping them on this site where you can read them all for free would be much more awesome! And it's amazing people like you who make that possible. If you feel like these posts have helped improve your life, please consider making a donation.