How terrorism has evolved
May 22nd, 2013
09:02 PM ET

How terrorism has evolved

By Jeffrey N DeMarco, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Jeffrey DeMarco is a lecturer in Criminology at Kingston University and research associate with the Centre of Criminology and Sociology at Royal Holloway, University of London. The views expressed are his own.

Here we are again. An attack. A metropolis. A sensational depiction of violence. A Western victim. These are the thematic artifacts of our current (British) understanding of the “War on Terror.” Regardless of the venue, the perpetrator, or the modus operandi we reach an ultimate conclusion: Islamic jihadists. Full stop. The drawn out era of conflict post-9/11 has limited our already narrow understanding of a worldwide conflict fuelled by our incomprehension of “another.” The “War on Terror,” meanwhile, has evolved.

When the Twin Towers fell, our concept of terrorism and victimology dramatically changed. No longer did these atrocities play out on foreign soils, but instead on our neighbors’ door steps. The attack on London's transit system in July 2005, as with that on Madrid's in March 2004, only reinforced our own feelings of victimization. What we fail to acknowledge is the evolutionary process terrorism, as crime, follows.

On Thursday, with the killing in Woolwich in Southeast London of a man believed to be a soldier, we were reminded of the dynamic nature that a terrorist act can take. As details emerge, we see the substantiated process of the “lone wolf” or “wolf pack” emerging further. The purpose of terrorism is not, contrary to popular belief, to terminate the maximum number of lives. Instead, the goal is the installation of fear and uncertainty amongst the populace.  Al Qaeda’s influence is not about direct contact – the group’s mere existence is intoxicating, given the appropriate channels.

The intricate structure of contemporary Islamic intifada is actually a product of popular discourse. Our “enemies” are our own creation. Yes, the self-radicalized terrorist is a real threat, but it is one produced by none other than our own foreign policy. Whether it be five or fifty “victims” matters not. The popular reaction is what counts. If we are scared, the mission is successful. We are.

More from GPS: Back to basics on terrorism

Ed Husain, author of The Islamist, has discussed a process of radicalization. When grievances are internalized, the potential for real martyrdom may emerge. In today's atrocity, this seems to have been the case. We no longer need to look for the sensational and fantastic act of terror in order to fear it. Things change. Methodologies evolve. Terrorism is no different.

The symbolism of capturing the events as they took place on the cell phones of passersby also highlights a shift in our comprehension of terrorism. The perpetrators in today's attack aimed to digitally capture their actions, thus providing a real-time “educational” tool to those interested in pursuing the cause. And, as with 9/11, we are able to realistically experience the consequences of these acts, regardless of our location.  We feel violated; wronged; and involved. It makes it that much more personal.

Our society is full of risks, in all shapes and forms. We adapt to whatever poses a threat. With this latest incident, we need to appreciate this fact and comprehend at a deeper level what has happened. Yes, the details are still emerging. Regardless, though, we need to acknowledge that mass casualties are not necessarily the endgame; the epidemic of fear bestowed by an unsuspected entity can be just as damaging.

Post by:
Topics: Terrorism • United Kingdom

soundoff (178 Responses)
  1. Ken from FL

    Hey, folks, stop worrying. Obama says the war on terror is over, and CNN's own Peter Bergen agrees. We're safe, don't you know?8

    May 26, 2013 at 10:22 pm | Reply
  2. cecillmike

    Time to Wake Up!
    The world is tired of crimes against humanity, but these stem from the USA & British Government.
    The American Government are the worst perpetrators against crimes of humanity when you look at all the young innocent American soldiers slaughtered while the dictators sit behind tinted glass and smoking Cuban cigars while sitting around their lavished round table preparing their next destructive mission.
    They are going to poke their noses in one place too many which will mean the end.

    May 27, 2013 at 2:44 pm | Reply

    Thank A MUSLIM

    The next time you want to deport the Muslims think again.
    If you want to deport all Muslims great just deport US out of Muslim lands.

    Muslim lands have some of largest natural resources that have been exploited by US.

    Next time you fill gas or turn your lights thank a Muslim.

    Muslim countries the US is exploiting their Crude oil in these countries: Saudi, Algeria, Qatar, Kuwait, Iraq, Nigeria, UAE, Libya.

    Next time you buy anything from a major clothes brands from the mall thank a Muslim from Bangladesh exploited to work for less than 40 dollars a month.
    Sears, HM, GAP, k mart and many more.

    Next time you buy from Walmart thank a Muslim.
    Clothes bought from Bangladesh as well.

    Next time you use any petroleum products thank a muslim. Largest exporters are the same as oil countries.

    Next time you go to a specialist thank a Muslim. Most foreign docs work for less in undeserved areas for years before ever working in a higher payed larger city.

    Next time you use or work at Citi bank or watch Fox news thank a Muslim. Largest Gulf investors invest billions into these companies.

    Next time you get a job at Boeing or any airline industry company thank a Muslim. Largest orders have come from Muslim countries including UAE, Saudi, Kuwait.

    Next time you get a job at a military business and build military equipment thank a Muslim. Largest US military orders have come from Muslim countries. Actually Military was planning to close the armored tank division and millions would loose their jobs but the only reason they are still open today because Muslim countries bought billions worth.

    Next time you work for any high end brands from america like Apple, GM, ford, other companies thank a Muslim. Largest orders for these products have come from Muslim countries.

    Pretty much if you work for any american company, buy anything from an american store, Watch TV, work for the military, visit that specialist in your town, fill you car with gas and turn your lights on, Thank a MUSLIM!

    Here I just spoke of one country Bangladesh imagine if I were to go down the list of things that US has exploited from Muslim lands for our benefit.

    No Muslim or anyone else should fell like they need to prove anything or apologize for anyone else actions.

    How many lives have been killed in the last 200 US wars?

    How much resources have been taken for US benefit in the last 200 wars from Muslim lands and other countries?

    I would love for a response from Mr. Fareed or his staff.


    May 27, 2013 at 2:58 pm | Reply
    • Thank the world

      For providing the technology that is used to harness those resources that you mention.

      For researching science and technology and providing better ways and means of tackling complex problems.

      For standing up for Liberty, Equality and 'Universal Fraternity' (Not a religion based fraternity) and encouraging the human race to join the pursuit of Happiness as one family.

      For respecting YOUR freedom of thought as much as I value MY freedom.

      For valuing and cherishing ancient relics irrespective of what religion/civilization they belong to.

      The list goes on ....

      May 28, 2013 at 4:50 pm | Reply
1 2 3

Post a comment


CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 5,030 other followers