Posts Tagged ‘ oberoi hotel mumbai ’

Celebrity Terrorism?

Read this article on the BBC website:

The age of ‘celebrity terrorism’
By Paul Cornish Chairman, Chatham House’s International Security Programme

am quoting some excerpts here:

But, for all the horror of the Mumbai attack, there might have been much less to it than first met the eye, and a hasty and exaggerated response might have played more of a part, and given more meaning to the attack than it should.
Nobody appears to have heard of the Deccan Mujahideen – perhaps because they have never existed.

Perhaps it was not so difficult after all to plan and execute this attack: small arms and hand grenades are not hard to find, boats are scarcely specialised equipment, and Mumbai is a vast, open city with more than enough soft targets
Perhaps we do not know enough about where the perpetrators are from, because they could have come from almost anywhere?
The terrorists were willing to show their faces on CCTV. Was this suicide for martyrdom – as in New York and Washington in 2001, and London in 2005 – or suicide for celebrity, as in Columbine in 1999 and Virginia Tech in 2007?
And perhaps so little is known of the terrorists’ cause, because they simply did not feel the need to have one.


In a novel twist, the Mumbai terrorists might have embarked on propaganda of the deed without the propaganda in the confident expectation that the rationalisation for the attack – the narrative – would be provided by politicians, the media and terrorism analysts.
If so, then Mumbai could represent something rather different in the history of terrorism, and possibly something far more disturbing even than global jihad.
Perhaps we have come to the point where casually self-radicalised, sociopathic individuals can form a loose organisation, acquire sufficient weapons and equipment for a few thousand dollars, make a basic plan of action and indulge in a violent expression of their generalised disaffection and anomie.
These individuals indulge in terrorism simply because they can, while their audience concocts a rationale on their behalf.
Welcome to the age of celebrity terrorism.
The invitation to the world’s D-list malcontents reads as follows: No matter how corrupt your moral sense, how contorted your view of the world, how vapid and inarticulate your ideas, how talentless you are and how exaggerated your grievance, an obsessive audience will watch your every move and turn you into what you most want to be, just before your death.

certainly a line of thought worth pursuing, and very, very scary. if like the rebel without a cause, we now have the terrorist without a cause… how do we stop him? perhaps terrorism has taken on a course that the original perpetrators didn’t think of, perhaps the years and years of terrorism have bred people who simply see it as a way of life, not a symbol of any protest. and if you remove the protest and cause which are the reason for dialogue, debate and negotiation, what do the rest of us have left that can quell this?

Barkha Dutt & more of her ilk

many news channels covering the mumbai terror attacks seemed to have lost sense of right & wrong. the tendency to ask insensitive questions that can’t possibly be answered continued. barkha dutt asking a middle-aged woman who’s husband was stuck in Taj with no news of whether he was even alive: “how does it feel?” the poor lady was barely able to speak & honestly, what did ms dutt expect her to say? the lady said, i am trying to be brave, my friends are being a great support to me… did ms dutt need to know that? i thought at this point, given her state, ms dutt would stop asking her questions. but no, next qs: “i understand you have children – how are they feeling right now?”

if someone were falling off a cliff, ms dutt would be asking them “how does it feel?” instead of doing something to rescue them!!

equally idiotic were journalists asking Ratan Tata if he knew how many terrorists were inside the hotel & if he knew the extent of damage. this when the entire operation was in process and took many more hours to complete.

ms dutt, in fact, decided to reveal all kinds of information that really shouldn’t have been on the news at all. a husband who mentioned which room his wife was last in, was broadcast at a time when terrorists were still inside! whereas the BBC when on the line with a British national inside the Trident, said, “we understand that you should not tell us which room you are located in, for your own safety”. later, when there were reports that the govt has said they will not negotiate with terrorists, she says, she has it on record from a senior diplomat that attempts to negotiate are on! even if that was the case, surely the official sources did not want to reveal information and broadcasting it to the general public helped no one, maybe caused some damage that we would never know about.

as for the other channels, zee news, headlines today, india TV, star news… were all horrific, playing out the entire 50 odd hours with high pitched voices, melodramatic voice-overs and haunting music, that did absolutely nothing to prevent the spread of panic. am quoting a friend here who sent a mail about Star News & Kishore Ajwani

“Was this a serious news guy or a pimp, peddling his wares all dressed up in garish tones? The screaming voice sounded like gleeful auctioneer raising the bids higher and higher “aur yeh 1945 ka behterin…. …” though in his case the script would have probably read “Aaj ki taaza khabar, pachaas TRPs ke liye pesh hai Star News exclusive, yeh aatank ka khaufnak khel.”
Yes all news anchors were hyper, but then there is a difference between a sense of urgency and the style of delivery that Mr Ajwani used. We all know the cut-throat race for TRPs, but did you, Mr. Ajwani even stop to think that this was also a human story, a tragedy involving real people.”

BBC & CNN were predictably biased, especially since there were reports that british and american nationals were targeted. their reports only covered that, forgetting that a high number of those injured or killed were in fact, indians.

Times Now had some of the best coverage though even they tended to border on hyperbole at times. but overall, their coverage was impressive and they made an effort to distinguish between official statements and unsubstantiated reports, repeatedly mentioning which ones were not confirmed. however at times, arnab goswami went into the “exclusively on times now” “only on times now” hyperbole… was it essential to continue plugging your channel during the time of the crises?

there were channels showing the arrival of the NSG, the number of teams that had arrived, where they were located. how is it that not one of them realised that making this information public could harm the operation?

constant predictions of when it would end, asking a journalist standing outside Nariman House to imagine was happening in armed combat inside (!!), “the end game” – a phrase i have come to hate – being bandied about since friday morning, when it took a full 24 hours more for the Taj to be safe. how can one refer to this as “the end game”? its not a video game, its a real operation with real people and spreading constant misinformation that the operation is in its last legs and will soon be over helped no one – not even the families waiting for info about people inside. every interview with an army officer said, “please don’t quantify time, its not possible to do that” and yet all the journalists were interested in was predicting that it would end soon.

imagine there was no 24 hours news – would it have been possible for the entire operation to have been more efficient and controlled? i don’t think it was brave of journalists to be on their stomachs outside the Taj trying to provide sound bytes of what was happening. i think it was ridiculous that the blow by blow account was being provided even to the supporters of these terrorists so that they could plan their next move. yes, news is essential. but at what cost?

mumbai terror attacks nov 2008

haven’t posted on this blog in 3.5 months. combination of work, life, not enough motivation and what have you. the past 2 days have made me want to post. i am thankful that various friends and their families made it safely through. but there are so many people who have lost their lives or been traumatised for life. the damage done is way too much. whatever happens, and whether we rebuild our lives and ‘move on’, i don’t think any of us can feel the same way as we did, 48 hours before this. of course, mumbaikars are resilient and we pick up our lives and get back to our daily routines… and we have done that blast after blast, riot after riot, flood after flood.

but most of us have not been exposed to this kind of serious violent conflict with weaponry used in wars that goes on for hours and days. and no, its not because it was “south bombay” and the “elite” who suffered. CST was not full of the elite, nor were the hospitals and the most of the staff at any of the hotels were certainly not of the same strata as the people they served.

despite everything, we have been a privileged lot, we have not been surrounded by the constant sound of gunfire, explosions and of course, death, the way kashmiris have or of course, people in any other region who live amidst constant conflict. 48 hours have seemed like an eternity in our lives, but there are people in many conflict zones who have known no other life. and i can’t imagine how they live.

any vestige of innocence or naivety i have had earlier (its debatable how much of it one would have after the age of 30 anyway, but whatever there is), has vanished completely. i can never be the same person that i was 48 hours before. it doesn’t mean that i am going to be depressed for the rest of my life or anything like that, and in fact it may not be apparent from the outside at all, but something has changed in me, i know it, and its never going back.

thoughts in no particular order:

1. the most sickening: political parties espousing the supposed “aamchi mumbai” cause who actually don’t care about mumbai or its people at all, who want to be on the front page of every newspaper just because of their strong arm tactics – and put that against the NSG, none of whom wanted to even show their faces in front of the cameras but have been instrumental in saving lives and the city. where were the so-called fighters for the maharashtrian cause, why are they hiding now? i can’t even describe how disgusted this makes me feel, knowing full well that such parties can still win seats in the elections – for all our jaagores, we may not be able to prevent it.

2. equally sickening: news channels that will go back to covering ridiculous stories such as celeb break-ups as “breaking news” – and put that against something like this… isn’t it apparent what breaking news is supposed to be? its not about cricketers flying kites or celebrities losing their dogs. when are the channels going to cover news that matters and force everyone to think about it… whether its kashmir or naxal insurgencies or geniune cases of wrongdoing. when are we going to demand it & want to know about it, instead of watching drivel?

3. the indifference: various indian agencies blaming each other for the lack of Intelligence on this but not making any effort to improve their standards simply because they don’t need to. we can’t make them accountable if we don’t care what’s happening in our country, and we don’t. we prefer to know abou Saif & Kareena not about Dalits being tortured, babies being killed or builders tied up with mafia. think back to the last meaningful conversation you had about any genuine, real issue. its not that easy to remember, because we are absorbed in the job, the night out, the party, the new car, the new cell phone… should we not think about these things too? of course, we should. but why do we forget about the reality of the environment we live in? awareness is the first step.

4. the big question: a parliament that doesn’t meet for the number of days they should, they are paid because of our taxes, but they don’t see it fit to work for a living, because after all, they get all their salaries and perks without any expectation of performance. why should such people be in control of a nation of a billion people, why do a billion people put their trust into any of these leaders? why do we even educated people believe in factions and divisions and think about our communities first… how can this change?

5. the un-understandable: there are 20 year olds incited and brainwashed into wanting to kill as many people as possible before being killed themselves… and the more that die, the more that take their place. how is this happening, how are they brainwashed into thinking this is their purpose in life? i cannot fathom what can make someone believe that killing hundreds of innocent people and then killing themselves is going to further the cause of a religion. what values are these and how do people turn into killing machines? what can we do to prevent it? it doesn’t matter what country they come from there has to be a way to prevent children from growing up to be machines.

6. why don’t we live by the principle of doing the right thing? why don’t we think about that the next time we shove people in trains, cut lanes & jump signals in traffic, bribe cops, buy something in the ‘grey market’, smoke in a no-smoking zone, drink & drive… we are not going to become terrorists tomorrow, but think about the fact that if we did the small things right, the chain of subsequent events would be different. after all every action is linked, and priding ourselves in how we get away while breaking rules isn’t helping. its not about being “goody-two-shoes” its about thinking back to principles that actually mean something, that should be more part of our life than the race for that fat pay cheque or the new acquisition. that we shouldn’t support wrong doing in any form.

7. while all the groups on facebook and orkut are fine, its more important for us to introspect than react. we react first and then react again, but doesn’t the thinking get left behind? we lurch from one event to the next, only reacting. but everything is driven by personal growth, and personal growth is impossible without introspection. i don’t think this is some esoteric principle, i think it should be part of each and everyone of us. maybe if our politicians did the same, we would be in a different place.

8. to some extent i feel trapped, as i am sure many of us do, trapped in a country that we know can be a different place but is actually held hostage by its political heritage that only deserves to be wiped out. criminals have become netas and are MPs; how do we prevent this from happening when many, many parts of the country filled with poor and uneducated people are forced to vote for these people? there is not a single politician one can respect, at least not the ones we see as ‘national leaders’. even if i exercise my right not to vote, how can these people be prevented from holding the country hostage?

9. we have seen that we have amongst us people who help others at risk to their own lives, soldiers who answer the call of duty so bravely that they make us proud, we all believe in the India shining. we are happy to be living in this country at the time of its rise from the “third world” though we all know we have a long, long way to go. how do we do our bit, and become pro-active and aware citizens?

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