As a perpetual voyeur (that’s really what any decent writer is just a voyeur with a skill for describing what they see), I watch. I wonder. I observe. I question. In a world of seven billion people where death and violence occur everyday, I puzzled over why certain acts of destruction hit the media full on, grabbing everyone’s attention, and why others go completely unnoticed. As a journalist I wanted to write an opinion piece listing what I believe to be the primary things to consider if you want to perform a successful terrorist attack.
So you want to be a terrorist? It’s not an easy career move in this cutthroat, fast-paced world of violence. Sure, any Tom, Dick, And Ali can call themselves a terrorist and pull a trigger, but how do you step up and out of the masses of would be bin Ladens and make your own mark on history? Simple! Follow my easy list of eight considerations for a great terrorist attack and you’ll be well on your way!
- Make the Media Work for You: That’s the biggie. As a terrorist the media is the most important business partner you have. Without the media a terrorist is nothing. You can firebomb, release bio-hazards, and shoot innocents until your heart is content, and if the media doesn’t give you any coverage the world doesn’t care. That’s why the media will always be your number one concern. Every other step in the process has to be weighed against what type of media coverage it will earn you. You have to make sure it is worth their time. The producers of every program that airs your story need to sell commercial slots. Make sure you have a good mass audience in mind that the media can sell your terror to.
- Use Abstract Rationale: The reason behind your rage is a personal thing. You have your story to tell, but the thing is, most people couldn’t care less about you and your story. When the media reports why you have terrorized the masses with death and such it needs to be something abstract that the offended or scared peoples of the world can then apply to themselves and their immediate surroundings. The best rationales are the same that are typically banned from most holiday dinner parties – Religion and Politics. Those two allow for abstracts out the wazoo and people can easily add their personal interests to the topic, making it personal. Pick one of those reasons, or better yet a blending of the two, and the media will handle the rest.
- Location! Location! Location!: Let’s be honest. If you want to sow terror in the world you have to do it in a place that the world has heard of. There are small towns all over the American Midwest that you could wipe from the map completely and it would take years for anyone to notice (probably not until the IRS came calling). And that’s in the good old US of A. The biggest attention whores the world has ever known, so imagine attacking some backwater in a Western Europe, or wore yet Central China? Location is key and important for media coverage. Hitting a country’s capital is a bit cliched. Sure, it does the trick but have a little class. Try the entertainment capitals of any country. Not only do they have large populations, but the media is already in residence. They can easily swoop in and report your dirty laundry as breaking news.
- Timing; It’s Everything: Terror needs association if it’s going to weather the storm of time. Once you have your city and country in mind do your research. Yes, a holiday terrorist attack will get you your fifteen minutes. The thing is once the generation passes that actually lived during your attack the holiday will most likely go back to it’s quasi religious/political origins. The exact things you were supposed to consider in Step 2. So, the best way to maximize your reign of terror is to commit it when the country you plan to violate has nothing else going on. This will limit the body count which is our next step, but it almost guarantees a national remembrance day. You can’t beat that. If unions and government jobs can give future generations a three day weekend because of your terrorist act? Oh buddy! That’s the terrorist jackpot!
- Body Count: Numbers are important. They always have been, but with the advent of social media they are more important than ever. Lists, my mayhem loving friend, they are everywhere. Six exercises to a slimmer waist! Twelve things you never knew about your pet! And so on. The key, just like dieting, is moderation. Don’t set yourself too high of a goal. Sure, killing millions would be impressive but it’s impractical. You don’t want to aim too low either. The only way a body count of under twenty four will reach the public mainstream media is if your target is so well placed that they can write their own press release. So, the best numbers are between triple and quadruple digits. Enough that people will take notice, get their dander up, and worry that it could have been them, but not so many that you give up a few weeks into your plan.
- Who Picks Up the Check?: If you are going to pull off a terrorist act with any sort of longevity to it you will need financial backing. This is an art after all, and no artist ever makes it big without a good producer. Here’s the tricky part. You need to find a flexible fascist willing to look at the long term picture. One that will fork over the dough you need to cause your casualties, and at the same time see that his or her investment will have a return. Future monies spent on wars and merchandising as a result of your terrorist act need to funnel a percentage into your producer’s accounts. No more than thirty and no less than fifteen percent. We want results. We want profits. But lets be subtle about it. You’re selling terrorist futures here, not Apple stock.
- Ocean’s Eleven: It’s pretty obvious that it takes hundreds of backs scratched and pockets lined to pull off a decent, memorable terrorist act. But, the thing is the public will get confused if all that was reported. Too many names won’t be remembered, so you need to keep your scapegoat crew on the low side. No more than a dozen, and it would be even better if your could keep it under six. Two to four trigger men and maybe two patsy planners. You know, the guys you let believe they are the master minds but in fact are just glorified pawns set up to take the fall. A small terrorist cell will appease the masses’ desire for retribution, yet leave the implication that their were more hanging around so your producer can make back his initial investment in the first six months. Now that’s a selling feature better than Wall Street can offer.
- Rock, Paper, or Scissors?: What is going to be your terror vector? How are you going to deliver it to the masses? Your major choices are explosives, ballistics, or germs. There are other options, of course, but these are your tried and true basics. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, just burn the mother down!
Those are your major concerns as a burgeoning terrorist. If you manage to master these eight steps then you are on your way to being a monster that history is sure to remember for generations to come.