Coverage in the media of two events within the past week brought an interesting observation to mind, a perspective from which I’ve never viewed what we might call the “Post-9/11 Era”. The two events were not directly connected, and were not even similar in outward appearance, but collectively, they presented this new perspective to me.
One of the events was a “planned but didn’t happen” “White Lives Matter” rally in Murfreesboro, TN [near Nashville], organized by the same groups that staged the recent rally in Charlottesville, VA which turned into a violent clash between protesters and counter-protesters that resulted in the death of one person and injury of several others. What caught my attention was that the entire city [population over 100,000], for all practical purposes, literally “shut down” — businesses near the site of the planned event boarded up windows, government officials actually told [through the media] residents to “stay home or get out of town” and people with plans to come there were asked to postpone their plans. The organizers of the event ended up cancelling it because less than 100 protesters showed up [fewer than the number of counter-protesters].
The other event was much more visible, and because it resulted in the death of eight people and injury of twelve others, it was obviously much more widely reported — the terrorist attack in New York last weekend.
Regardless of any underlying ideology or theology ostensibly behind both terrorist attacks and large-scale, well-organized and well-financed demonstrations, a more basic driving force seems to be at play — a deep-seated desire on the part of some people to do something publicly visible that gives them a much larger “platform” than they have based on their own achieved level of public visibility. A proven way of doing that is to do things that visibly sow discord, produce chaos, and create an atmosphere of uncertainty and fear.
I personally believe that people who have these deep-seated desires — or who are insecure enough in their personal value systems to be vulnerable to “radicalization” by organizations seeking to fulfill such desires — seem to “need a cause” to justify frustrations in their lives. They may or may not actually share the ideological / theological values of the “cause” they ultimately find, but simply “ended up there” and found an avenue for venting their frustrations [perhaps soaking in some of the ideology or theology along the way and becoming what ends up being reported as “radicalized”].
From 9/11 To Now
Think about what we see every day: comprehensive security systems in airports and many public buildings; beefed up security operations at large gatherings of people [rallies, marathons, sports and entertainment venues, streets with high pedestrian traffic, …], heavy proliferation of video surveillance systems, increased emphasis on immigrant screening, etc. The cumulative effect of all these things could be viewed as a kind of insidious success achieved by people driven by the nefarious goals describe above.
As for the total worldwide cost, I doubt that anyone could accurately calculate it. That would require knowing the cost — not just equipment, but workforce costs — of all the things mentioned above [airport security systems, beefed-up security operations at public events, etc.], I think it would be safe to say that the total would be at least in the tens, probably in the scores, and maybe in the hundreds of billions of dollars. Every one of those dollars increases the average cost of living because they end up being reflected in the costs of goods and services.
On the discord and atmosphere of fear front, on any given day, you don’t have to look past a randomly-selected newspaper or TV “news” channel to see “success”.
From Now To …
A few years after a tragic event, even one as major as 9/11, societies tend to drift back to their pre-event status. The daily routine of most people isn’t appreciably different from what it was before the event. They shop, they go to school, they go to work, they dine out, they dine in, they go to movies, they watch TV, … . For the most memorable events, there are memorial ceremonies or at least moments of remembrance on their “anniversaries”. But by and large, even those most memorable events are thought of by most people as something “in the past”.
It has been sixteen years since 9/11. Assuming about four years as the very earliest age at which most people have clear recollections of their upbringing, there are about 91 million people 20 years old or younger who do not personally remember 9/11. For them, “normal” includes hardly ever an entire year passing without at least one terrorist attack and/or large-scale demonstration protesting something [the latter possibly including at least some violence and maybe even some deaths].
Wrapping It Up
Whether intended or just collateral “success”, I don’t think anybody could argue that many billions of dollars are being spent every year to guard against, quell manifestations of, and recover from, acts of terrorism and protests-turned-violent. So we’d have to chalk that up in the perpetrators’ “successes” column. I’ll close with a question: If the goal of terrorists [including so-called “lone wolfs”] is to sow discord, produce chaos, and create an atmosphere of uncertainty and fear, are they winning or losing?
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Charles M. Jones