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.

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Topics: Terrorism • United Kingdom

soundoff (179 Responses)
  1. deniz boro

    It is hard to explain and maybe I should not explain.that this was what has been happening in the human world eversince the humen kind chos e to live together.
    This is the way of the human society to bump their heads, cross their horns and show off.
    In animal kingdom it is done to get the right of creating the next generation with the ladies.
    I am sure the human behavior also has an explanation.

    May 24, 2013 at 7:15 pm | Reply
  2. Grafted Olive Branch

    Dear Islam, I know that many of you honestly and fervently seek to know God. I, as a Christian, ask you to forgive our trespasses against you as we forgive your trespasses against us.

    You try so hard to be good and adhere to the peaceful tenants of your religion. But as is human nature, you have likely discovered that the harder you try to be good, and fail, the more frustrated you become with yourself. How then can we stand before a Holy God in judgment if we are ourselves un-clean?

    I was the same way as a Christian, trying so hard to be good and righteous, yet failing miserably due to my own human fallibility, until I discovered that Jesus Christ is already “righteousness” for me. Jesus’ death on the cross paid the ultimate price for my sins. I am clean by His sacrifice. I offer you olive branch of peace that Jesus Christ alone can provide…forgiveness.

    May 24, 2013 at 10:17 pm | Reply
  3. Jo

    The people need to put the fear in these extremists', we don't need to rely on the Police or the Government. Let the Police and Government do their job, but the people are the ones who will strike fear in these groups. We have to make these people fear the ground they walk on. If they know they will be attacked on site when they commit a heinous crime like this, it will change in time, we will see fewer attacks. The other problem is Britain doesn't allow their citizens to arm themselves, so, these groups know they can commit these crimes and walk away even with people standing around like this incident.

    May 24, 2013 at 10:22 pm | Reply
  4. Jo

    Religion isn't the problem, mankind is the problem. Man has taken something meant to be Holy and twisted it for their own greed and selfish desire. All religions have good people who use it for what it was meant for, and all religions have people who use it for their own selfish desires. Unfortunately, Muslim extremists have taken the religion and brainwashed disenchanted youth who feel they have nothing to live for in this life. These extremists use the same techniques an inner-city gang uses, or an organized crime syndicate uses. They target young men and woman who feel they need to belong to something because their own families have disowned them, or their family is ruined because of crime and drugs.

    May 24, 2013 at 10:33 pm | Reply
  5. Beefburger

    "Expert: Fear and uncertainty is the endgame, not mass casualties" Maybe THEIR endgame. OUR endgame is the mass casualties. Tryinmg to shake the trees at every possibility to shake out the nuts and crush them. We WANT the crazies to come out of the woodworks so that we can throw them into the meat grinder. Remove these extremists from the gene pool with extreme prejudice.

    May 25, 2013 at 7:10 am | Reply
  6. WakeUpCall

    The most dangerous ideology on the planet – fueled by "HATE PREACH"... time to call a spade a spade

    The silence of Western governments and media enables the ongoing horrors...

    May 25, 2013 at 11:14 am | Reply
  7. Skorpio

    Adapting Israeli anti-terrorism tactics is the best option to lower violence and terrorism but the cost could be very high: militarized the population, build walls against terrorist infested areas, install meta detectors everywhere, demolish buildings housing terrorists or weapons, offer courses in schools to detect terrorists and train people how to defend themselves, build stronger buildings and homes that can resist explosions, ID everyone, build new temporary prisons for suspected terrorists, train the population in how to use guns, drills for potential attacks, isolate suburbs with a high number of potential terrorists, etc. etc. etc.

    May 25, 2013 at 12:00 pm | Reply
  8. FPSC

    Islamists are getting more and more dangerous in the West while their little helpers, the radical atheists are actively running interference for them.

    The radical atheist groups are basically acting as al-Qaeda's advance force and it's getting harder and harder to think they are doing so innocently. Disestablishing Christianity in America (and other Western countries) fits the Islamist agenda like a glove. First the atheists are successful in disestablishing the Christian foundations of a given society, then the Islamists rush in to fill the void. This is what has already happened in large European cities, especially in France and Britain where street gangs now enforce Shariah law. An Islamist would have every reason to cheer on these radical atheist groups every step of the way, until some day in the future when
    they no longer need them. Where are the successful atheist societies by the
    way? China? Cuba? North Korea? The former USSR?

    May 25, 2013 at 3:51 pm | Reply
  9. Terry Simpson

    @ Deniz Boro – NO. It is NOT the way of human society. It is the way of male dominated human society. Find a matriarchal society – and are are some – and you'll find THEY never found it necessary to kill their neighbors. They might have found it necessary to steal in order to eat, but not to kill in order to impose their point of view on someone else.

    May 26, 2013 at 12:33 am | Reply
  10. FactsPlease

    As a muslim I condemn this attack. I am ashamed that muslims are responsible for these type of acts. But I want to ask my freinds to look at the facts. The world without muslims is not peaceful also. In 2011 alone close to 15,000 people were murdered in United states alone. And how many terrorist related acts were done by muslims? So labeling muslims as violent people is not fair at all. Here are the stats

    May 26, 2013 at 1:25 am | Reply
    • Conflation

      ...there you go again. Fallacies in logic, conflation – Why are they often the standard in arguments by the likes of you?

      May 26, 2013 at 2:36 am | Reply
      • FactsPlease

        what fallacies are you talking about. If you are saying muslims are violent in nature then prove it by numbers. Again I already said we condemn the attacks. I am arguing that these crimes are very small sample to come to a conclusion that Muslims and Islam on whole to blame. If you believe in Justice than do that in this forum. you are just spreading hatred.

        May 26, 2013 at 5:16 pm |
      • Conflation

        Numbers? – Count the number of violent attacks for ideology in the last 20 years. You will have the numbers you want.

        May 28, 2013 at 4:46 pm |
    • Ex muslim

      World with muslims is most violent one, other things we cna manage, so dont justify ur racist kuranic stone age repist idology while u point out other violences int he wolrd. Islam was is and will b cancer and u r part of such anti humanity cancer. Fk ur allah which never existed and was created by muhemmed to fool u.

      May 26, 2013 at 6:07 pm | Reply
  11. Tolex

    I think it's high time the so called moderate muslims stopped to juxtapose btw themselves and whats termed muslim extremist....
    Rather than continue with this, they should try and seek out avenues to promote the peaceful aspect of their religion and indulge their gone astray brothers in the same way the extremist have beautiful promoted their cause through al qeda and other networks in terror..
    I observe that muslims are quick to blame the west as a means to justify their actions...
    But how would any one with human sympathy after the massive deaths cause by the assad regime in syria upon his people,challenge any means adopted to frustrate his government and bringing him to surrender.the way i see it any action of the west is enough justification for terrorist attack.
    Honestly i have noting against islam,partly because some of my extended's are muslims and so are some of my intimate friends.despite these i fear islam, you need to see how they responde at any slight religious dispute...immediated they are cut off from objectivity,and their actions defile any rational thinking...
    They claim it beyond them,that they act as its required of them..
    Look at most religious insurgences around the globe it would likely has muslims on the other hand fighting over their demands. And sometimes this demands are unknown....
    Take for instance in my country nigeria,BOKO HARAM this faceless muslim sect up north have being responsible for the death of many christianS,but how will their needed be adhered to if their manifesto is yet unknown...
    Finally i feel violence is the cross of muslimS,which we have no choice but to bear ,AND which eventually will end the world.

    May 26, 2013 at 7:33 am | Reply
  12. Tolex

    It strikes me that islam is now an heaven for psychopaths,delusionals and people with extreme aggressive personality,where they can comfortably exhibit their anger for the wrong reasons and get away with it and also with conscience clean...
    Imagine the words of uncle of the boston attack perpetuators... that ' they are losers'...could this be the same for all terrorist...
    Also from the write up of others, 'in a capitalist society can terrorism be far fetched' ...
    Last i really wonder ...when there is terrorist incidence, every one,including muslim communities also join to condemn such acts...given the fact that this perpetuators are members of a community who and where should we then be pointing at!

    May 26, 2013 at 8:03 am | Reply
  13. Ex muslim

    @Terry Simpson, Dear A$$$$$$hole terry simpson, u sound some fking gullible and farce character from simpsons, I know how to spell u moron, in these blogs, spellings dont count, as long as u can read the sentence and know the real word. U seem either some newbie to blogging or some sheee t( i know real spellng) head who dont want to pay attention to real topic and just finding some frivolous excuses not to approve something. Fk u, fk ur advice and fk ur view on islam. Main problem here is islam and if ur muslim fk u and fk ur allah. go to hell u SOB ( by the way SOB means Son of a biyach)

    May 26, 2013 at 6:05 pm | Reply
    • Steve

      Exmuslim. What is your religion? Just curious because the hate you spew makes me want to stay away from people of your religion. If you are a Christian. Then I will stay away from all Christians because they are filled with hate like you and therefore they should all be condemned for not standing up and denouncing your violent ways. If christians around the world do not protest and denounce your views then the Christian faith is just condoning and confirming that Christianity is a religion of violence. Now as you read this post and begin to fume with anger and the thoughts of how ignorant I am run through your head, swap the word Muslim with Christian/ity and vice versa and then look in the mirror and tell me if you like what you see.

      May 27, 2013 at 8:11 am | Reply
      • Ex muslim

        I am an atheist, who hates Islam in its everey form and hate chrstian missioneries not the christianity but missioneries. they both, Islam and christian missioneries are pure evils on earth and source of most violence on earth. I fking dont caare about any god, if i ever meet any god, allah or any god, i wont hesitate to spit on his mouth, slap him in face and die trying to slit his throat. But i know that wont happen as, god dosnot exist, its human creation including all gods including all religions.

        May 27, 2013 at 9:16 am |
  14. 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
  15. 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
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