The three most recent terrorist attacks have been Ankara, Brussels and Lahore. The fact I have used the words ‘three most recent’ in a piece about terrorism only serves to highlight how difficult a place the world is right now. Political and philosophical debate is needed urgently. The debate surrounding terrorism has to include those individuals equipped with the knowledge required to debate this issue about why terrorism arises and how it can be prevented.
Philosophical debate is needed because if the discipline of philosophy is renowned for anything, it is renowned for the skill of helping individuals expel faulting thinking and faulty reasoning. What is not needed, however, is what has been come to known as ‘virtue-signalling’. One of the crucial aspects of ‘virtue-signalling’ from the author of the phrase is: ‘that it does not require actually doing anything virtuous.’ Now in relation to this particular piece, according to some people in the media, there hasn’t been enough attention paid to the tragedies of Lahore and Ankara. There has however been due or excess mourning to the tragedies of Charlie Hebdo, Paris and Brussels. However, the virtue signalling that occurred regarding Brussels is particularly pernicious, if we understand what it is for another individual that is not yourself to mourn and express grief.
Anyone who has the misfortune to attend a funeral has realised that not every individual cries. Some may cry a lot, some may cry a little and some may be putting on a brave face. It would be strange, however, if the one individual who was crying a lot started to complain about others not crying enough. I take that as a given social norm at funerals: everyone mourns in their own particular way. Now the tragedy of Brussels resulted in the people of Brussels showing images of Tintin and ‘Manneken Pis’ with words of solidarity. However, one news outlet decided to pen a piece saying the symbol of ‘Tintin is uncomfortably divisive.’ Forget the fact that a Belgian court ruled to say Tintin is not racist, the important question is what purpose was achieved in denigrating the response of the Brussels’ people vis-à-vis the terrorist attack that rocked their everyday lives? I would argue none. It doesn’t bring forth information about the attack, what to do post-attack or why the attack even occurred.
Now the issue of Ankara resulted in the question of would people proclaim ‘Je Suis Ankara’. Now the article reports correctly that ‘at least 37 people died and a lot more were injured. Innocent people who were just trying to go about their day-to-day business had their lives blown apart. It’s the third high-fatality attack on the Turkish capital since October.’ Yet the nature and purpose changes after this information is given. The article quotes a Facebook post which stated ‘Perhaps the lack of sympathy for the city comes from pure ignorance.’ Although the author is saying he himself was ignorant, the clear message is that the reason people didn’t show sympathy to Ankara was ignorance. The other suggestion given why the West didn’t show sympathy is that it is a Muslim country, “Is it because you think that Turkey is a predominantly Muslim country, like Syria, like Iraq?” Thus, two claims are given for an explanation: ignorance and that is was Muslim. I think this article and its type of response can be framed as ‘the backfire effect’ (plus insult). If one is trying to change people’s opinions or responses, in this case, it seems like an act of folly to say the reason they didn’t show enough sympathy to murder is because they are ignorant or don’t really care for Muslims that much. Given that ‘the backfire effect is defined as ‘[the effect where] corrections actually increase misperceptions among the group in question.’ This article may receive the same response and confirm the beliefs of those who think that the reason people didn’t show enough sympathy to Ankara was either ignorance or that they are against Muslims.
The last case is Lahore is somewhat different as no overtly clear opinion on the events was given. It was just clear reporting. However, an opinion that in some circles is referred to as the ‘conservative far right opinion’ could have been given. A possible reason why it may not have been given is because it apparently for some, seeks to protect the religion that is labelled with the inquisition, crusades etc. Historical and theological debate aside, the Pakistani Taliban faction Jamaat ul-Ahrar did in fact say Christians were the target of the bomb. The bomb that killed 72 and injured 280 in a park filled with families on Easter Sunday. Thus, a question arises as to what ought we to be doing as a nation who’s Prime Minister says is Christian, to protect not just Christianity, but other religions that the radical Islamism groups who exist in the world at present say are beneath their interpretation of Islam.
I would like to say that all the lives lost in the examples of terrorism listed in this article are of equal worth. However, my overriding point in writing this is to argue the following: saying certain people are not moral or virtuous because they didn’t show enough sympathy or grief for similar terrorist attacks as opposed to the one they did show enough for (in your opinion) does nothing but further divide people. To say that people didn’t show sympathy for a certain attack because they are somehow racist, will do nothing but cause conflict as the individual who is labelled will invariably seek to defend himself against such an assertion. There are a plethora of reasons why and how people respond to terrorism the way they do but you do not sooth the wounds and bring forth understanding when you virtue-signal post such acts.