This Was Not Terrorism. It Was Nihilism

By Orr, Deborah | The Independent (London, England), September 7, 2004 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

This Was Not Terrorism. It Was Nihilism


Orr, Deborah, The Independent (London, England)


Why? This versatile little word is tirelessly employed at the times when people are confronted with horrors or tragedies for which there are no logical explanations and no correct answers. The bereaved of Beslan, quite naturally, want an answer to this question. Profound and existential, it is asked most desperately at times when random, inexplicable nightmares descend. In other words, at times when there is no answer to why.

In the case of Beslan, and in the case of all terrorist atrocities, there is never an answer, not at a personal level anyway. The perpetrators are linked to a cause, but the victims need have had no involvement with opposing that cause. The targeting of children at a school indeed suggests that for the terrorists who planned the Beslan atrocity, it was important that their victims had the smallest possible knowledge of, or involvement with, the cause they purportedly espoused.

The events inside Middle School Number 1 were designed, above all, to confound logic. Terrorism is by definition randomly brutal. But this latest massacre, more randomly brutal than any before it, surely goes beyond terrorism, and becomes sheer nihilism. In recent years, terrorists have even become cavalier about the political ends they expect their actions to achieve. Those who besieged this ordinary school changed their demands as time went on. Their political ambitions were hazy, generalised and all too abstract.

Insofar as they had any of the latter, their actions have further damaged their cause, rather than advancing it. They have attracted attention to the situation in Chechnya, but the publicity is so adverse that many people who had previously felt sympathy will no longer support its demands for full self-determination. They have further closed down the possibility of a political solution, rather than advancing it. All they have inspired is worldwide condemnation and repulsion.

It is as if the media attention has, in itself, become the end. Those who planned and perpetrated this monstrous deed must have calculated that it would eclipse the abhorrence felt against any previous attack, even 11 September 2001, and that as such it would become a focus of the world's media to a greater degree than any previous Chechen outrage. In that respect the Chechen terrorists have aided Vladimir Putin greatly. He wishes to tie Chechen terrorism to al-Qa'ida terrorism. The magnitude of this attack and its vast, inhuman ambit, has done the job for him.

Now, at last, the ongoing Chechen situation is moving into the media spotlight as it never has before. In more powerful terms than ever as well, it is being practically linked into a wider pattern of terrorist activity around the world. Abdel Rahman al-Rashed, an Arab television executive, has pointed out that: "It is a certain fact that not all Muslims are terrorists, but it is equally certain, and exceptionally painful, that almost all terrorists are Muslim." His brave statement of the obvious - that the radical preachers who infect young Muslims with a hateful radicalism must be tackled - has been heralded as a breakthrough statement. The press is full of rhetoric about how things could be different after Beslan. Yet already his words are being co-opted into the same old debate in the Western media, whose battlelines were drawn in the emotional hours after the 11 September atrocities.

Perhaps some of the thousands of friends and relatives mourning their lost loved ones will find comfort in the conventional answers that they will be offered by the world's media. These, despite the complexity of the issues raised by such huge, escalating, calculated massacres, fall into two main categories. Each new insight or piece of information is grabbed at by commentators feeding their own agendas like a tank full of hungry fish.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

This Was Not Terrorism. It Was Nihilism
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?