Recent terror outrages across the Western world have led to the belief in a vast Islamist conspiracy, but is there another, more plausible explanation?
In view of the sheer number of such outrages from the 1993 bombing of the Twin Towers to the attacks of September 11, 2001 down to more recent outrages such as the Orlando nightclub shooting, it is difficult not to see a hidden hand directing these terrorists. The truth though is more nuanced; Orlando shooter Omar Mateen pledged allegiance to ISIS, but an FBI investigation found no evidence he’d had any contact with the group. While other Islamist terrorists have clearly been part of a network - the 9/11 attackers, for example - others have not. The explanation of what is really happening can be found in the attacks on London a decade ago.
On July 7, 2005, four Islamist terrorists travelled to the capital where they exploded four bombs killing themselves, 52 innocent people, and wounding hundreds of others. The deadly assault did not go strictly to plan; they had all four intended to detonate their bombs on the Underground, but one failed, and his bomb was finally exploded on a bus.
This was a well organised attack that had obviously been months in the planning; three of the attackers came from Yorkshire, where they were born and bred; the fourth had been born in Jamaica but lived in Aylesbury. Apart from this one relative outsider, it is not necessary to postulate the existence of a network to explain their coming together. Their bombs were assembled at bargain basement rates. Here is the official report.
Just as significant though was that two weeks after these devastatingly successful attacks on the capital there was a copycat series of attacks. Fortunately, these attacks failed; for whatever reason, their bombs did not detonate. The terrorists were apprehended, and after a lengthy trial were given even lengthier sentences. These men had absolutely no connection with the 7/7 cell save their distortion of the same professed faith. How does this sort of thing happen? The answer is that as stated these were copycat attacks. Copycat behaviour when exhibited on a wide scale is known as the bandwagon effect, and is an acknowledged psychological phenomenon.
The effect is named after jumping on the bandwagon, literally. We have seen bandwagons of all kinds throughout history, and most of the time they are benign or even beneficial. The Renaissance was a bandwagon, as is the new Renaissance - an explosion of creativity by artists in various disciplines. The emergence of ragtime, jazz, rock ’n’ roll, progressive music, whodunnit novels, film noir, fashion trends from the mini skirt and hot pants to the hooded sweatshirt are all bandwagons.
Although the concept dates back centuries, it was not until the 1950s that the franchise really took off, now many of the big names on the high street are franchises: McDonald’s and Subway to name but two.
These are all variations on human behaviour, someone has an idea and puts it into practice; if it does not die, it may draw a huge crowd of followers and even imitators. The same can be said for acts of terror as much as for the business and art worlds.
Now let us consider something Aromaic; in the Hindu religion there is an elephant god named Ganesh. Traditionally, worshippers offer it milk. In September 1995, when a worshipper in a New Delhi temple offered a statue milk, it drank it! Suddenly, all around the world, statues in Hindu temples were seen drinking milk. But did this really happen? Or consider a saucer flap; a flying saucer is reported by a media outlet, given wide publicity or endorsement, and suddenly there are sightings all over the place.
Finally, the phenomenon of sexual assaults, particularly by celebrities; the Cosby allegations are arguably the most bizarre example of this. One woman accused the comedian Bill Cosby of drugging and raping her, and now we are up to around sixty allegations of various types of sexual assault. Cosby is currently facing trial for the 2005 allegation by his original accuser, whatever the merits of that case, the others allegations are weak, to put it mildly, indeed some of them have been comprehensively debunked, but the media ignores this and continues to promote what one academic has called the Demon Cosby narrative. We have seen the same absurdity in the UK with the myriad allegations against the late Jimmy Savile.
From this we learn the uncomfortable truth that by reporting on incidents - be they flying saucer sightings or clearly spurious allegations of sexual assault - the media is actually inciting them. The same applies to terrorism whether by self-styled Islamists or others. The simple fact is that while there are many clever people out there who will follow a trend in music, business...bringing fresh ideas to the table, there are also many people who are either evil or not right in the head, perhaps both, who will do the same thing for whatever perverted ideology they hitch their sails to. Obviously the media cannot simply stop reporting terrorist outrages, but just as obviously we should all rethink the way they are reported.
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