How we react to terrorist attacks 3/3 (*2)

The reaction of society; Media and Social

The way we react to terrorist attacks sends ripples throughout the entire fabric of our society. It shakes the foundations of our democracy – The repairing of which defines who we are and who we want to be.

Do we seek to move forward and evolve our democracy to be more inclusive? (and compassionate) or do we seek to remove ourselves from those that look to us as the example of the free world?

The choice is yours.

You can sit idly by while those with power act in your name, or you can begin to fight back against those that seek to destroy our freedom and peace.

You must make the choice within yourself as to what you wish to be, afraid or brave.


private eye


The way in which the media reports terrorist attacks often affects the answer to that question.

For over a decade the reporting of such acts has been deliberately misleading so as to evoke the most polarising reactions possible. In an age of 24hr news and the fascination with live reporting anything that generates fear is promoted. It sells. It’s bought.

9/11 and the war on terror showed us how the traditional forms of media served only to amplify the badly thought out speeches of politicians. It was the beginning of a trend that saw society and government react through fear and grief.

Where do we put our collective sense of mourning and motivation to react?

Grief brings bad decisions. And in that feeling people rally to the markers that make them, them. In the case of George Bush and Tony Blair their religion spoke for them – to evoke the crusades, a time when Europeans committed cannibalism in the holy land can only have one effect on dividing people. People turn to what they always have in times of war their flag and their creed.

But terror is not a place and whether any good has come from the Iraq war is debatable

Governmental media led reactions to terrorist attacks have demonstrated their inability to represent our democracies.

As has been shown by the reaction to Hebdo, Paris, Brussels and those further afar – a nationalistic based reaction to terrorists such as Isis and Boko Haram is no good. And the promotion of peace in the ME is the challenge.

the governmental response to 9/11 was an invasion. the societal response to Hebdo was a re-enforcing of republican values and one of the biggest peace marches in recent history, with a debate on social media encapsulating a wide variety of ideas and creeds. Governmental response was in line with the people. An invasion was avoided.

The attacks in November resulted in both societal reactions and governmental responses taking incredibly war-like footings, albeit, with some debate.

This investigation of different reactions is, I believe, the closest we can come to effecting positive social change in the face of terror.

Social Media

In an age when we can all have our voices amplified and connect with anyone, anywhere, anytime. We can see and affect change on our own and collectively.

Immediate hashtags are getting better…

Social Media has demonstrated its ability to offer a place for people to air their beliefs and their grief in reaction to terrorist attacks.

We no longer need a newspaper or a channel to tell us how to react…


…we have memes for that now

In the aftermath of the November attacks in Paris – this type of reaction, is perhaps the easiest to understand. When faced with an evil, the gut reaction is to end it – but (annoyingly) the example of ISIS is more complex.

As we have seen now for years the traditional mode of warfare led reaction does not work. For the sick individuals of the so called Islamic state, acknowledgement is what they crave. We must starve them of this.

As the dust began to settle on the attacks of November 13th those in both camps began to find themselves entrenched.


Once again the intention of the terrorists was coming into being. The splitting of all sections of society into us vs them. It had been done with 9/11, it was the same intention fourteen years later, and in the grief, people played their part.

Facebook offered the option to users to drape their profile picture in the colours of the French flag. Many did so, including myself. To show solidarity with the people of France.

Rather than the outpouring that followed the Hebdo attacks – the option to display credence toward a flag was forced by Facebook onto its users. This, at a time when many were struggling to come to terms with the cruel theft of life. Once again, it became a question of either being with the terrorists, or…

Others broke down this particular reaction well – “Instead, seek out that context and the options that Facebook doesn’t give you in a simple, clickable add-on. If you want to show true solidarity with those who’ve been wrongfully killed, the first step is to acknowledge and mourn their deaths equally and genuinely, not just because they’ve brought to your attention by a tech giant’s misguided marketing tool. Quite simply, we owe victims of oppression round the world so much more than this.”

But even this polarised opinion as people sought to raise the point about the many terrorist attacks and loss of life from further afar.

This was an important debate – however, The highlighting of a double standard within the media for different terrorist atrocities in terms of emotional reaction, only detracted from any form of practical positive social reaction. In short, the devaluing of peoples outrages or emotional attachment by constantly questioning the worth of said emotion amounts only to a level of shame in which people feel numbed into doing nothing. It is in effect the Medias way (social) of redacting the societal reaction that could be harnessed for positive change and wider understanding.

Meanwhile; the governmental responses continued. Geo-political interests were and are served in an increasingly militaristic way and the fires of terrorist organisations’ hatred are fuelled quite literally.

If anything the fb French flag fiasco showed society, again, that the trend to react in a nationalistic way exposed the duplicity of nation states and their valuation of human lives in dealing with a widespread problem.

It came back to the question of identity, of who we want to be, of how we want to be represented.

france belgium turkey.jpg

The attacks in Belgium highlighted this polarising problem again, and social media was an outlet for people to pronounce their views.

fb 2 turkey fans boo.jpg

I do not know if they have been to Ankara, anyway – the match was (aptly) in Istanbul.


The FB post above is the perfect example of the paradox of polarisation prevalent on Social Media. The video is all about the differences and the politics of identity and labels. Footballers in uniform and fans in crowd formation, all divided by creed. Greek vs Turkish. West vs East. Muslim. Christian. Atheist. Flag.

The only reason for the post above is to foster divisions within the communities that make up society.

It marks a highpoint of frustration with the hypocrisy of the reactions to the terrorist attacks, and continuing threat.

And It is a threat that is faced by all creeds.

The division of society is something that you can fight against – always question those that try to.

These attacks are designed to divide us, choose to fight back.

Societies’ reaction to terrorist attacks have proven that we face an identity crisis.

Do we as a society fall into the traps of the enemy?

To be prosecuted by their warped perceptions of us?

Do we become the malevolent Myth of the West?

And by doing so continue to polarise perceptions of the Middle East? As propaganda implies.

Do we as societies continue to sleepwalk into the cul-de-sac of military intervention that has been shown, again and again, to be so wrong?

Or do we rise above the bait?

Finding a collective identity derived from an inclusive humanism?

Do we choose to use these baiting attacks as an opportunity to further demonstrate to the world that as our societies grow, so do their strength and resilience?

In the face of such ‘terror’ – it can become an act of courage to tell the truth – that those that are afraid. Afraid that our democracies principles challenge their identities. Identities derived from divisions. Are those that will commit terrorist attacks.

No matter the basis of their beliefs.


not afraid


Our governments and our communities face new opportunities and choices on how to evolve society. Participating in these, and fighting against a paradox of polarisation – more than any form of reactionary violence – is what we owe the victims of terrorist attacks – around the world.







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