Two weeks, eight attacks, 247 lives
July 27, 2016 6:47 AM   Subscribe

"There is something of a journalistic routine each time terror erupts. Cover the news, of course, and put it into geopolitical context. Capture the drama of the scene. Pursue every tidbit about the attackers. And, perhaps most wrenchingly, try to showcase the human suffering... It never feels like enough. During what seemed like a particularly intense spate of attacks back in March, we decided it was not enough... We decided not to move on but to look back... to show terrorism’s human toll."
posted by ChuraChura (36 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
 
That hurts.
posted by bitslayer at 6:57 AM on July 27, 2016


Thus doing the terrorist's work for them.
posted by sfts2 at 7:06 AM on July 27, 2016 [2 favorites]


How about we stop using the word 'terror' as if it describes some coherent, planned pattern of activity?

How about we start talking about these things as they really are: largely uncoordinated, individual crimes carried out by marginalised people, often with mental health problems. Of course there are groups willing to take credit for the actions of these people after the fact, and to prey on vulnerable adults with the aim of pushing them over the edge into radical actions. But at the core these are vulnerable, ill people, not some nebulous evil.

It's human nature to want to see patterns in events, but by pushing this particular narrative, politicians and the media are creating a bogeyman out of something that is, ultimately, largely random. And by doing so, they are complicit in every copycat murder spree that follows.
posted by pipeski at 7:10 AM on July 27, 2016 [20 favorites]


French newspaper Le Monde will no longer publish photos of terror suspects

Jérôme Fenoglio, the editor in chief, called it a "first act of resistance" against Islamic State attempts to unleash civil unrest in France.
[...]
“Following the Nice attack,” he wrote, “we will publish no more photographs of the authors of these killings, to avoid the effects of posthumous glorification."

posted by infini at 7:16 AM on July 27, 2016 [21 favorites]



How about we start talking about these things as they really are: largely uncoordinated, individual crimes carried out by marginalised people, often with mental health problems.


That describes a number of the recent attacks in Europe and some in the US, but isn't descriptive of many other attacks here and around the world that are coordinated and political, and I think it would be a mistake to base too much on this one aspect of the broader phenomenon.

One of the things that makes this article stand out is their effort to find and document the human toll in places outside of the US and Europe, instead of just giving the number of dead and moving on.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:17 AM on July 27, 2016 [12 favorites]


Nothing about the attack in Munich? It's...odd how quickly that one got buried once it was revealed that the attacker wasn't with ISIS or any other Islamic terror group, but was a right-wing gun fanatic who was emulating Anders Brevik and targeting immigrants.
posted by zombieflanders at 7:18 AM on July 27, 2016 [10 favorites]


No. The attack in Grand Bassam were carried out by an active Al-Qaeda affiliate. The attack in Nigeria was part of a long and protracted campaign by Boko Haram in Nigeria and Cameroon. The attacks in Pakistan were conducted by the Taliban. The attacks in Iraq and Brussels were conducted by Islamic State. There have certainly been recent attacks in the US and Europe which are likely isolated, perhaps conducted by mentally ill people, and don't have more overt political reasons behind them. But there are political, planned, coordinated attacks happening around the world, and to wave them off as media-driven bogeymen is bizarre.

Zombieflanders, unless there was an attack in Munich in March that I'm not remembering, this article wouldn't mention those victims. They're specifically focusing on victims of the 8 terrorist attacks that occurred between March 13 and March 27.
posted by ChuraChura at 7:25 AM on July 27, 2016 [20 favorites]


It's human nature to want to see patterns in events, but by pushing this particular narrative, politicians and the media are creating a bogeyman out of something that is, ultimately, largely random. And by doing so, they are complicit in every copycat murder spree that follows.

It's not "largely random." Random presupposes that this could happen anywhere, at any time. But these crimes are always committed by people who society has failed.

There's always a lot of talk about how it's not a weapon issue, it's a mental health issue. But then we don't take the opportunity to address mental health. We don't give people resources, or take it seriously.

There's always a lot of talk about how these organizations hate America, hate freedom, whatever. But then we don't take the opportunity to discuss why they do, and how to prevent that from continuing. We know that education and prosperity prevents people from being desperate enough to join these organizations, yet we build more bombs than schoolhouses.

There's always a lot of talk about how it's a lone wolf, it couldn't have been predicted. But the patterns are there, and our laws haven't caught up to the way media works today, and how stochastic terrorism works. Enough people screaming on TV and radio that Planned Parenthood needs to be shut down by any means necessary? That's inciting violence. They're hiding behind the fig leaf of free speech and "I didn't want THAT to happen."

So yeah, there isn't one single terrorist organization that's some sort of shadowy cabal behind all of it. But a lot of this stuff has similar roots, even if it appears quite disparate at first.
posted by explosion at 7:40 AM on July 27, 2016 [4 favorites]


It's not "largely random." Random presupposes that this could happen anywhere, at any time. But these crimes are always committed by people who society has failed.

I don't think I believe this anymore. Many of the attacks are carried out by engineers, who have a good education and could probably find a job in their home countries eventually. The San Bernadino shooter wasn't marginalized in any way I can tell. Society failed a good chunk of them, but not all of them. Something else is needed to explain the motives of the rest.
posted by Mitrovarr at 7:42 AM on July 27, 2016 [5 favorites]


Random presupposes that this could happen anywhere, at any time. But these crimes are always committed by people who society has failed.

You appear to be drastically underestimating the prevalence of people failed by society.
posted by srboisvert at 7:49 AM on July 27, 2016 [3 favorites]


How about we start talking about these things as they really are

Different kinds of statements can be made and they can simultaneously be true to varying degrees.
posted by dmh at 7:50 AM on July 27, 2016 [4 favorites]


There is deliberate conflation of most mass public murder attempts with islamist terrorism and immigration by the media and the right wing.

As others point out, as soon as one of these doesn't fit that narrative, no one comes out and says "NO, this WASNT islamist terrorism, we MUST address this issue as well" with anywhere near the volume of "Islam+Immigrants" volume.

However. There is ALSO a significant subset of these events that ARE planned by cells or genuinely radicalized individuals.

The world is complex, and we live in a soundbite culture.
posted by lalochezia at 8:22 AM on July 27, 2016 [5 favorites]


Just to make it abundantly clear, the events that are discussed in this article:

1. Brussels subway and airport bombing, March 22. Claimed by ISIL, carried out by people trained in Syria.
2. Instanbul bombing, March 19. Linked by Turkish authorities to ISIL (or maybe Kurds).
3. Ankara bombing, March 13. Claimed by Kurdistan Freedom Falcons
4. Iskandariya bombing, March 25. Claimed by ISIL.
5. Peshawar bombing, March 25. No organization has claimed responsibility, but previous bombings in the region have been carried out by the Taliban.
6. Lahore bombing, March 27. Claimed by a Pakistani Taliban affiliate.
7. Ummarari bombing, March 16. Almost certainly Boko Haram.
8. Grand-Bassam shooting, March 13. Claimed by a regional affiliate of Al-Qaeda.
posted by ChuraChura at 8:46 AM on July 27, 2016 [17 favorites]


There is deliberate conflation of most mass public murder attempts with islamist terrorism and immigration by the media and the right wing.

Well, yes, but that seems a defensible position, no?
- In the USA, most mass-murder events are due to right-wing white men with guns, often shooting children, because you have lots of guns.
- In Europe, most mass-murder events are inspired by Islamism and performed by North African immigrants. Plus some USA-style men.
- In the Middle East and Asia, most mass-murder events are Islamist groups attacking states and other ethnicities and religions.

So the complaint might be "we Americans ignore white angry men with guns", but "the media keeps pointing the finger at Islamic immigrant terrorism!" is plausible, no? Especially when you're mainly looking at Europe, which your media tends to do?
posted by alasdair at 8:47 AM on July 27, 2016 [3 favorites]


Here's some interesting data: People Killed by Terrorism Per Year in Western Europe 1970-2015.

So terrorism used to be Basques and Irishmen and Neo-Nazis, and now it's Islamist. In any of these cases was an existential threat posed to the countries of Europe? Not sure. I can tell you that the IRA filled quite a few headlines in the 1980s, though. Out of proportion? Hard to say.
posted by alasdair at 8:54 AM on July 27, 2016 [2 favorites]


"Nothing about the attack in Munich?"

The article focuses on terrorist attacks that happened in the month of March, 2016.
posted by I-baLL at 8:56 AM on July 27, 2016


It does not matter at all about who or why people are carrying out these murderous attacks.

The important thing is to stop glorifying them in the media.

If they get no coverage then it removes one of the reasons for them happening in the first place. If that wasn't the main reason, then nothing is lost anyway.
posted by Burn_IT at 9:04 AM on July 27, 2016


I'm reminded of the Some Asshole Initiative.
posted by XtinaS at 9:08 AM on July 27, 2016 [2 favorites]


a relevant meta
posted by ChuraChura at 9:09 AM on July 27, 2016 [8 favorites]


What are USA-style men?
posted by biffa at 9:11 AM on July 27, 2016


Nothing about the attack in Munich? It's...odd how quickly that one got buried once it was revealed that the attacker wasn't with ISIS or any other Islamic terror group, but was a right-wing gun fanatic who was emulating Anders Brevik and targeting immigrants.

Yup, that was dropped like a hot potato by most US/Canadian media once they didn't have the ISIS/terrorist narrative to spin.
posted by Kitteh at 9:11 AM on July 27, 2016 [2 favorites]


Terrorism: Violence by the weak against the weaker.
posted by clawsoon at 9:46 AM on July 27, 2016


That's only true to the extent that the strong have a media arm who can rebadge it as something else. Shock and awe?
posted by biffa at 10:02 AM on July 27, 2016


I'm at a point where I think I've got whatever the terrorism version of war weariness is - another vigil to go to, another round of earnest-but-kludged-together speeches. I don't bother to put the candles away anymore.

I say that knowing full well that I have all of the privileges of being a white cis male in Canada and arguably just about as safe as it is possible to be, and so I keep going to be a witness and be a voice, let my little light shine in the dark.

My little light just doesn't seem to be helping.
posted by the uncomplicated soups of my childhood at 11:01 AM on July 27, 2016 [1 favorite]


My little light just doesn't seem to be helping.

...but it matters to that starfish.
posted by quonsar II: smock fishpants and the temple of foon at 11:33 AM on July 27, 2016 [2 favorites]



So terrorism used to be Basques and Irishmen and Neo-Nazis, and now it's Islamist. In any of these cases was an existential threat posed to the countries of Europe? Not sure. I can tell you that the IRA filled quite a few headlines in the 1980s, though. Out of proportion? Hard to say.


While I realize that link only tracks Western Europe, the issue's not just European though. The difference between those nationalist political movements you reference--all a product of their time and place--and the broadly "Islamic" terror movements of the late 20th century to today is that the latter aims at forcibly remaking *the entire West* in its religio-political image. On account of the sheer breadth of that goal, the "Islamic" terrorists' goal is therefore existential for any Westerner who doesn't want to live in their type of world. That's existential in a sense unlike what the ETA and IRA type groups had in mind--a change of politics power that, on the ground after the fact, wouldn't really look all that different than what had been in place before..

This new thing, though, I mean... It is a renewal of a *literal* culture war started in the seventh century (or earlier if you think it's purely political).
posted by resurrexit at 12:20 PM on July 27, 2016 [4 favorites]


Apparently this is why we can't have discussions of the victims of terrorist attacks in places outside the narrow focus of mainstream U.S. media.
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posted by drlith at 3:00 PM on July 27, 2016 [12 favorites]


"Siblings killed together." At least nine sets. That is heartbreaking.
posted by MonkeyToes at 5:15 PM on July 27, 2016 [2 favorites]


Thanks for posting this. As an American, I'm used to learning these humanizing snippets about victims in Euro/American attacks, but when it comes to other places the Western media never really get further than "a bunch of Pakistanis died." I think this imbalance of reporting raises our threshold for what level of violence we consider acceptable in other countries, when victims here have interests and eccentricities and dreams, and victims there have, at best, genders and ages.
posted by threeants at 6:04 PM on July 27, 2016 [3 favorites]


The notes about how the stringers worked to get the information from the families, and the stories, and the blank spaces where they sometimes couldn't get photographs - that was hard. The piece has so many good lines ("Molenbeek is also Loubna Lafquiri") but it's all the notes about each person, that place to say their names and give weight to the space in the world where they should be and who their family and friends remember them as against a sudden mass loss.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 6:20 PM on July 27, 2016 [8 favorites]


When family members die, one of the hardest things is to realise that whilst one's own world has shifted and changed, and that a full life lived and loved has ended, everyone else's life goes on more or less as before. I can't imagine how much greater it must be to lose family in such event and watch other people talk about death as an event, an added horror, forgetting there was a full and unique life and personality before that event. It must be even worse when that event is just a blip, just one more in a year of violence.

I find these sorts of articles rather maudlin, but this was quite well done.
posted by tavegyl at 6:30 PM on July 27, 2016 [5 favorites]


Wow, thanks for posting this ChuraChura, I found it a really powerful corrective to the dominant narratives about terror and terror attacks on multiple levels.

I was touched - and perhaps I was too cynical for my own good - to hear how journalists in the media I often deride for its one-dimensional coverage - are just as upset, conflicted, struggling to make sense etc., as I am. And they are thinking about how they can do better justice to the victims, wherever they reside. Thank you.
posted by smoke at 7:35 PM on July 27, 2016 [8 favorites]


As an American, I'm used to learning these humanizing snippets about victims in Euro/American attacks, but when it comes to other places the Western media never really get further than "a bunch of Pakistanis died."

I've been wondering lately about our hyper-individualized Western approach to society and whether that impacts reporting. We tilt more to viewing ourselves as individuals first, and only loosely connected corporately as individuals; Pakistanis, to use your example, don't view their place in society or relate to the world in that way. So I don't think the issue you raise is totally or even mostly a result of Americans or Brits or whatever not caring about those people. I think it's rather those countries' lack of in-depth investigative journalists who do this sort of "find out about the deceased" like our journos do, and even Western media outlets' foreign bureaus probably wouldn't be able to get the info on account of the incident being viewed more as a collective harm in less hyper-individualized societies. Obviously the loss of life is deeply personal for each family, but I would suggest that there isn't the same obsessive desire to know who were these deceased individuals and how were they individuals like me?

I wonder.
posted by resurrexit at 9:31 AM on July 28, 2016


I should also state that, as a result of the same factors I observed above, I don't think the various media outlets' promise not to name terrorists, talk about them, etc., will really fly. We as hyper-individuals *have* to know about the individuals involved.
posted by resurrexit at 9:32 AM on July 28, 2016


I think it's rather those countries' lack of in-depth investigative journalists who do this sort of "find out about the deceased" like our journos do, and even Western media outlets' foreign bureaus probably wouldn't be able to get the info on account of the incident being viewed more as a collective harm in less hyper-individualized societies.

I don't think this is true. To take the example of Pakistan, after terrorist attacks there is a parade of individual stories on Pakistani television. So those stories exist (and are often vile and exploitative because a lot of Pakistani television is worse than the worst tabloids you've ever seen) and are told by journalists who are able to communicate reasonably well in English. So it would not be hugely difficult to get those stories onto the NYT or whatever; after all, Pakistani media covered Orlando because they could draw on existing coverage from the US, not because they have journalists on the ground or a stable of stringers in Florida.

But even within Pakistan, these stories will focus on attacks which are closer to the metropolis: it'll be the Lahore or Peshawar attack whose victims' stories will be told, not those happening in the tribal areas. This is partly a matter of access, and partly the fundamental problem that if we typically don't see a group of people on our television screens daily anyway, we are less likely to consider it important to cover their stories when a disaster occurs.
posted by tavegyl at 7:05 PM on July 28, 2016


Which is to say, it's great that the stories of Pakistani, Nigerian, Iraqi etc victims are told, and those fatality numbers are being humanised, but I think we can aspire to a more global outlook in the media we create and consume, and this is a change which has to come from both the consumer and from the producer.
posted by tavegyl at 7:09 PM on July 28, 2016 [3 favorites]


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