jueves, 27 de enero de 2011

The relationship between terrorism, writers and the media

Guarida de V (V for Vendetta)
"This town needs a better class of criminal"                                      
- The Joker

        The book, Plotting Terror: Novelists and Terrorists in Contemporary Fiction, by the English professor Margaret Scanlan, asks whether the writer's relationship to actual politics may be considerably reduced in the age of television and the Internet. The text traces the figure of the writer as rival or double of the terrorist from its origins in the romantic conviction of the writer's originality and power through a century of political, social, and technological developments that undermine that belief. Perhaps this encounter of the contemporary writer's with terrorism can be a test of an old alliance between the writer and the revolutionary, those who dwell and aspire to change history with relative few resources.

Also terrorism seems to be quite attractive for media coverage, mainly because terrorist attacks make viewer ratings surge, the goal of most television channels. This symbiotic relationship between terrorism and the media redefines the potential and characteristics of how terrorism is deployed. Yet what is the extent of the relationship between terrorism and the media and what are the effects of this relationship? Strictly from their point of view of a terrorist, an attack that lacks media coverage is arguably a wasted act, remaining confined to the immediate damage and victim rather than reaching the wider target audience at whom the terrorist’s violence is actually aimed. Without massive news coverage the terrorist act would go unnoticed, not enticing massive panic and distress from the population. Thus terrorists are not concerned primarily in the deaths of a few dozens of people. Rather, they impact the imagination and anxiety of the target population to do their work for them. To quote the Joker from The Dark KnightI took your little plan and I turned it on itself. Look what I did to this city with a few drums of gas and a couple of bullets. Hmmm? You know... You know what I've noticed? Nobody panics when things go "according to plan." Even if the plan is horrifying! If, tomorrow, I tell the press that, like, a gang banger will get shot, or a truckload of soldiers will be blown up, nobody panics, because it's all ‘part of the plan.’ But when I say that one little old mayor will die, well then everyone loses their minds!”

[The Dark Knight - Hospital Scene {Two-Face and Joker}]

In fact, it is plausible that terrorists could achieve their aims without carrying massive attacks; the desired dread could be produced by the continuous broadcast of threats and declarations, be them by radio, TV interviews, internet, utilizing methods of psychological warfare. Which in turn create new pressures upon the targeted society making it transform drastically, destabilizing and hurting itself with aggressive laws and surveillance technologies that cripple civil and human rights for example. Yet we can comprehend that there are interconnections between the writers mind and the terrorist’s minds. They grasp the way reality is created, manufactured even. That connection crosses over from the modern world to its simulacrums and from the implementation of political power to the writer's power in the world.

Plotting Terror: novelists and terrorists in contemporary fiction by Margaret Scanlan

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