The attacks in Brussels on Monday were horrifying both because of the impact on the victims and their families and because they were successfully perpetrated in the face of much tighter security.

Sadly, an attack of this kind is carried out somewhere almost every day. Short of ridding the world of hatred and violence (which could be achieved by brutally murdering anyone hateful or violent… oh wait) there is no way to prevent this kind of tragedy from occurring. It is, and will remain for the foreseeable future, a fact of life.

Piers Morgan is an interesting dude and, somewhat unsurprisingly, he has a different take on events (full disclosure: punching him in the face is number one on my bucket list). I read his column in The Mail earlier this week (no I didn’t have anything better to do) in which he praised Trump for his ‘firm proposals’ for dealing with the threat of Isis. I would describe them less as ‘proposals’ and more as a ‘final solution’.

“We have overreacted time and time again to these tragedies”

He has variously said that he would, “bomb the shit” and “knock the hell” out of Isis, kill the families of terrorists and torture suspected terrorists with waterboarding and “more”. The logical conclusion to this would be dropping nukes all over Iraq and Syria until Isis were no more.

It might work. Committing genocide through the total annihilation of the entire region in a nuclear holocaust would probably hinder Isis operations, at least in the interim.

This course of action, I’ll call it the ‘Holocaust Option’, is too unimaginably horrendous to comprehend fully and it is mercifully unlikely ever to happen. But the fact that anyone, especially a leading politician in the most powerful country on Earth, can entertain starting down this path for even a second is utterly terrifying, infinitely more so than the thought of Isis.

“The killing is only a means to that end. It is more a publicity stunt and less an act of war”

So how did we get to this dark and dangerous place?

We have overreacted time and time again to these tragedies, whether through the media’s blanket coverage or through the politicians’ defiant and angry speeches or through grief posted online by ordinary members of the public. We have allowed the terrorists to instil hatred and panic in our public debate. We have dehumanised terrorism and called it the embodiment of evil. Who wouldn’t want to bomb the shit out of the devil himself?

The overreaction, far more than the attacks themselves, is what makes terrorism successful. The public response, while completely understandable, is what the terrorists are really always aiming for; the killing is only a means to that end. It is more a publicity stunt and less an act of war.

“Grief should be left to the victims’ families and their communities because a massive public response only amplifies the pain”

To deny the terrorists their victory we need to treat terrorism the same as we would any other tragedy. Analyse the events in order to learn more about preventing future tragedies, find and prosecute the perpetrators as we would any other criminals, repair the damage and move on. As heartless as it sounds, grief should be left to the victims’ families and their communities because a massive public response only amplifies the pain and is exactly what the terrorists want.

Making terrorism exceptional, sensationalising it and glorifying it with our attention and fear is what makes it powerful and successful. Treat it as a tragic, criminal act and it is diminished.

Joe Bavington-Allen

Image by LoveSomeBunny on Flickr 

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