Taking away the audience might reduce the performances

I have often wondered what transpires in a terrorist’s mind before he pulls that trigger that ends an innocent life. Does he really believe that his cause is noble and that his act is justified? Does the smell of his victim’s blood remind him of the human life he has taken? Or does he still hold unto his belief that those he smothers are less human?

Some scholars have advised that we should not assume that terrorists are irrational, if anything, it is their rationality that drives them into committing acts of mass terror. By killing a few innocent people they expect to cause mass psychological casualties. And in this, with the help of mass media, they have always succeeded.

With the emergence of social media, instant messaging and all sorts of quick communications, terrorists have found a big audience for their inhuman performance. The media ethics that once defined journalists from amateurs is no longer followed. Just like teenagers in a theatre performance, filming parts of the play to share with their peers, we have all fallen into these acts; we have played into the hands of terrorists, granting them their greatest desire: an audience.

With our smartphones we take videos and pictures of a terrorist beheading a human being and then proceed to share with the public. We scan through our twitter and Facebook feeds in search of horrible videos and pictures, that we may share them with our friends.

No matter how condemning our captions are or how angry we appear, we are witnesses as well as perpetrators. We might as well be considered as fans.

It is true that as the public, we deserve to know what is happening in our country and around the world and in this, the media has done well to act as our surrogate. But at what cost?

This is not easy to answer but the following paragraphs might drive the reality home. Believe it or not you are unsuspecting audience who has paid to watch the beheading of a loved one.

The kind of terrorism we have experienced in the recent past can be called ‘modern terrorism’. If you are wondering what that possibly means, you are not alone. This kind of terrorism is like a theatre performance. It has all elements of drama, complete with an audience.

This performance like any other begins from a narrative stage. At this point the terrorists are convinced of their uniqueness as a chosen people. A special breed. A representative of a supreme god in an evil world.

They begin their indoctrination program, teaching young generation as well as old people a story of their perceived uniqueness. This story becomes a reservoir of beliefs that every member must subscribe to, and are often handed down to generations through a word of mouth and recently through means of mass communication.

People are encouraged to go out and try to sell this story of a unique people to others. But then, there emerges a small group that believes the wider community is ineffective and that through violence, many people might be scared into buying their narrative. This small group is what we now call extremists. They are the people who plan scare performances. They are the ones who go out to recruit the cast.

The cast may include experienced actors from among them, those who have performed in other stages around the world or they may include newly recruited local youths. Ones who have been indoctrinated to believe that by killing innocent people – people whose humanity they have lowered and their existence questioned – they are doing a supreme god a service. Like every good actor, they have rehearsed their roles excellently and they are faithful to the script.

Rehearsals usually begin when the experienced actors cross our porous borders often by bribing agents who masquerade as security officers.

These actors are usually hosted by our very own people. They live on the hospitality of their unsuspecting victims, who through their ancestors’ teachings and that of their gods, believe that it is noble to welcome strangers as they might be angels in disguise or ancestral spirits roaming from house to house, looking for a person to bless.

Choosing a stage for the performance is a very important step. It must be a place the audience will care about. The players prefer the direct audience, those who will pay for this performance with their own blood, to be of young age and extremely helpless.

The actors may rehearse in secret places but their impending performance is not entirely a secret or unknown to authorities. Often, they are confident that the authorities will ignore warnings given by either the public or the intelligence officers, and if the authorities choose to stop them (this is very rare), they will do so when it is late. Many a times the authorities have ended up being part of the much anticipated audience.

These actors have nothing to lose, to die during a performance or to live to perform another one is both a win. Theirs may be a painful performance but it is welcome, as the worst that can befall them, death, is still a victory.

The truth is, these actors are not in the business of selling their narrative: They are angels of death, who have been disowned by the brothers and sisters they are allegedly part of; their main goal is to punish those who have a different narrative from theirs. There is no instance when they even pretended to offer their victims a chance to be part of their narrative.

I believe we can stop these performances. First, we should deny these actors an audience, for what is a performance without its audience?

Second, our security personnel at the borders should be reminded of their patriotic duty. They should know that by accepting those few coins in form of a bribe, they have sold the blood of their brothers and sisters.

Third, Philip Gourevitch, writing in We wish to inform you that tomorrow we will be killed with our families, tells a story about school girls who were killed by the militia because they could not accept to be grouped as either Hutu or Tutsi. Will Kenyans, stand as a group and shame the Al Shabaab that seeks to group them according to their religion?

Finally, if somebody is out to kill you and he is convinced that your death is a service to his master and you know that at no cost will he spare your life, must you die like a hog?


I encourage you to follow me on Twitter @mchanganuzi or better still email me your opinion at vincent.ogoti@fulbrightmail.org



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