The message

communications towerWhether selling toothpaste or terrorism, getting the word out is all important.

In her book What Terrorists Want, Louise Richardson says that the purpose of terrorists’ acts is not to defeat the enemy, but to send a message. The victims they choose and the acts themselves have symbolic political, economic, religious or social significance.

You see, terrorists operate from a position of weakness. If they were in positions of strength, they’d simply change the system. But terrorists believe that they can’t implement change through the usual channels, that only violence will draw attention to their causes and force change. However, random violence is meaningless without context. There needs to be a “why” for the attacks.

I thought about having my character leave notes at the scenes explaining the “why.” That might be how he or she starts communicating, but that plan is fraught with problems. Notes could be thrown away with the trash. They might not be taken seriously. They might be overlooked. Even if they were found, someone might see the perpetrator leaving the notes and be able to give the police a description. So, my character will have to resort to the tried and true method of getting the message out: the media.

The media, intentionally or not, is a boon to terrorists. In his 2006 lecture at the London School of Economics and Political Science, “What Makes a Terrorist,” Alan Krueger pointed out that terrorists’ attacks affect only a small number of people. For the strikes to have the desired effects, media coverage is essential.

So, in the next week, I’ll be crafting the messages the media will have received. They’ll be in the police reports that Janelle reads. Her challenge will be to determine whether the perpetrator is indeed Paul.

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