Terrorism: A Marketing Analysis

Article excerpt

It happened again. A few months back, another of those fanatical terrorists--What was his name? Osama Bin-Kenobi, or something like that--went to war with the United States. He blew up a couple of our embassies, talked a lot of trash, got a lot of attention. Then, faster than you can say "Ted Koppel," he was out of the news, bumped aside by other foreign threats, domestic scandals, and Furbies.

This is a recurring phenomenon for extremist groups and, while the motives for their attacks may differ greatly, their strategies have one distinct similarity: they aren't very smart. Quite simply, an attack has never been a very effective means of influencing the political process. In fact, these days it's almost pointless.

I don't mean to say that we should take threats of terrorism lightly. And I certainly don't want to trivialize the pain of those who have lost loved ones in these tragedies. But when the attack is over, when the initial sorrow and outrage have subsided, then what? The families and friends of the victims are too overwhelmed by grief to think about some distant political agenda. The rest of us, meanwhile, are not really in a position to address the terrorist's demands and, frankly, we're too detached to care anyway. So the terrorists are forgotten, and their demands--once as conspicuous as the oil spilled from the Exxon Valdez--get washed away by the waves of news.

You don't need a magnifying lens to see just how futile terrorism is; all it takes is a few copies of old newspapers. For example, we all remember the massacre at the Egyptian ruins, the Tokyo subway gassing, and the bombing at the Uffizi Gallery. But does anyone really remember who committed these atrocities? Or why?

To be fair, it's hard for anyone--even news-junkie humanists--to keep up with all of these incidents, especially since many of them do not directly affect U.S. interests. On the other hand, it wasn't that long ago that the U.S. compounds in Lebanon and Dahran were attacked--but you'd be hard-pressed to find someone outside of the military who can give you any specifics about what happened and why.

Even when terrorism occurs directly on U.S. soil, the lasting impact is minimal. The World Trade Center bombing, for example, was a horrendous tragedy, but it barely caused a ripple in the day-to-day lives of most Americans--and few can even remember the name of the guy who orchestrated it. For that matter, did they ever figure out a motive for the Atlanta Olympic Games tragedy? …