Terrorism in the Modern Age
Unit III of this course (‘The Anatomy of Terror’) explored some of the common dimensions or features of modern terrorism. We looked at the role played by ideologies in justifying the use of terrorism, the varying motivations that propelled individuals from supporting acts of violence in theory to committing acts of terrorism in practice, and the choices the media faced whether to cover terrorist acts at all, to simply describe the basic facts of individual terrorist events, or to explain the underlying causes of terrorism to the public.
With all this in mind, please consider the following fictional scenario:
There has been an explosion at a local government office, resulting in two casualties: one government worker, one member of the public. Thirty minutes before the explosion occurred, a telephone call was made to the office by someone claiming to represent a well-known terrorist organization, warning that a bomb had been planted and that the building should be evacuated immediately. The caller explained that the attack was intended only to highlight the peaceful demands of the organization that had, so far, been ignored by the government. Unfortunately, the employee who received the telephone call assumed it was a hoax and took no action.
- What should the government do? Should it (a) order an immediate hunt for those responsible for the attack and demand their prosecution in a court of law or (b) in view of the fact that a warning had been giving, seek to negotiate a compromise solution with the terrorist organization in order to prevent any future attacks? (4 marks).
- What should the media (e.g. newspapers, TV, radio etc.) do? Should they (a) provide only a factual account of the event itself and let the public decide how the government should respond or (b) should they explain the underlying peaceful demands of the terrorist organization in order to provide the public with a more detailed analysis of the attack? (4 marks)
- As a member of the public, what is your reaction? Do you (a) care only about your safety ad demand that the government hunt down and prosecute the perpetrators of this attack or (b) demand that the government address and resolve the underlying issues that fueled this attack? (2 marks)