The West itself is fuelling the terrorist threat

AHRCentre project director Chris Michaelsen writes for the Canberra Times that dramatised, martial rhetoric by politicians plays into the hands of IS and its narrative of conflict, causing unnecessary alarm and fear among the public and deflect from the fact that we are facing complex challenges that require a well-thought-out and multi-dimensional response. He writes:

A week after the truck attack in Nice it remains unclear whether the perpetrator, Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, had any links to Islamic State or whether he was a volatile and violent petty criminal gone mad. Comments on Monday by the prosecutor heading the official investigation into the incident suggest the latter. Yet, in the hours after the attack, French President François Hollande was quick in pledging to expand France's counter-terrorism efforts at home and abroad.

Declaring that "nothing will make us yield in our will to fight terrorism", he vowed to "further strengthen our actions in Iraq and in Syria". In Nice, Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve, added that France was "at war with terrorists" who wanted to "strike us at every cost and who are extremely violent".

These pronouncements followed familiar rhetoric already employed in the aftermath of the two major terrorist attacks in Paris last year when Hollande undertook to "lead a war" that was going to be "pitiless". Other Western leaders have not shied away from using equally dramatic language in response to recent attacks and hostage situations, whether connected to IS or not.

Speaking in the aftermath of the Brussels bombings this March, Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel proclaimed "unity against those who have chosen to support a barbaric enemy of freedom, democracy and fundamental values". For German President Joachim Gauck last week's vehicular assault in Nice amounted to an "attack on the entire free world".

The statements of political leaders are regularly accompanied by hysterical media reporting. On television we see a variant of "terror", "horror" or "massacre" flashing across the news ticker of all major stations. In the print media we are informed that we had just witnessed whatever country's "9/11 moment". Even where links to IS or organised terrorism are tenuous – as in the case of the Lindt Café siege in Sydney – we are told that the attack stood for the "instant we (had) changed forever".

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photo credit: skyandsea876 via Creative Commons