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Wednesday 29 November 2023 Dublin: 2°C

Vincent Browne Terrorism works only with the complicity of the media and its sensationalist reporting

What is happening in Europe and the United States is not existential, writes Vincent Browne for

YESTERDAY MORNING, RTÉ radio led with a report of the killing of two people in a nightclub in Fort Myers, Florida.

The only possible explanation for the prominence accorded this incident is that it was perceived as part of a pattern of killings that are now perceived as an escalating feature of the modern world and as terrorism.

By terrorism I mean the use of violence to cause terror amid the mass of a population for a political purpose.

Almost by definition, terrorism works only with the complicity of the media, for without the sensational reporting of such incidents, the intended terror would not materialise.

Worse than that, incidents that have no political purpose at all and where the perpetrators have no intention of causing mass terror, nowadays get sensational reporting anyway, as seems to have been the case with the Fort Myers killings.

Death tolls

The killings in France last November when 137 people were murdered in Paris and in Nice on Bastille Day when 84 people were killed will cause merely a minor spike in the homicide figures for 2015 and 2016 in France.

In 2014 in France, when there were no terrorist killings, there were 792 homicides.

In Germany, the Munich killings of nine people will hardly be noticed in the homicides in Germany for 2016 – in 2014 there were 716 homicides.

Nevertheless the usually sober Guardian headlined these killings with: ‘A Fearful Europe Holds its Nerve.’


There were fewer than 3,000 people killed in the mass terrorist attack on the United States on 9/11 but even those killings caused just another minor spike in that year’s homicide figures.

There were 12,553 murders in America in 2013 and, incidentally, the crime rate and the homicide rate have been declining steadily over the past few decades, Donald Trump’s protestations notwithstanding.

A threat?

Of course every one of these killings are horrific and cause awful grief to the loved ones of the victims and awful pain to the thousands more injured.

But what is happening in Europe and the United States is not existential, by which I mean a threat to our very existence or to our way of life or even to our contentment.

And yet that is what a hysterical media convey, which would not matter if that did not cause mass demands for ‘action’ and, in turn, political stunts that invariably do more damage than good.

There is a vivid example from our own history in dealing with terrorism. In December 1972, Des O’Malley, then Minister for Justice, introduced an amendment to the Offences Against The State Act, permitting the introduction into evidence in criminal trials where the accused is charged with membership of an illegal organisation of the opinion of senior garda officers on whether the accused was a member or not.

Des O Malley Fianna Fail Election campaigns Eamonn Farrell / Photocall Ireland Des O'Malley in 1982 Eamonn Farrell / Photocall Ireland / Photocall Ireland

The sentence for membership was one year.

The amendment was roundly condemned by Fine Gael and Labour spokespeople as  repressive, tyrannical, fascist and the like.

Judges in the Special Criminal Court jailed up to 100 people charged with membership solely on the basis of the stated opinion of senior gardaí – this was deemed sufficient basis for conviction where the accused failed to give contradicting evidence as, at the time, the IRA did not ‘recognise’ the courts.

Four years later, when Fine Gael and Labour were in office and following the murder of the British ambassador in Sandyford in July 1976, the very people who had denounced the 1972 Amendment then moved to give it further effect by increasing the sentence for membership to five years.

This caused the IRA to advise it members to recognise the courts and to contradict the evidence of senior gardaí and, as a consequence, very few, if any, people charged with membership were convicted and jailed subsequently.

The United States introduced draconian measures following the 9/11 killings and there is no evidence they achieved anything. France is doing the same now, probably with the same effect except to deepen the alienation of those sections of the French population against whom the measures are directed.

And this is being done because of the mass hysteria generated by the media.

September 11th Terrorist Attacks AP / Press Association Images AP / Press Association Images / Press Association Images

There are times when the best option is to do nothing. Who now, aside from Tony Blair and the cadre of familiar hysterics and attention-seekers, think it was a good idea to invade Iraq in 2003, which has caused the lives of well over one million people?

Who now thinks it was a good idea for British to go to war in August 1914, a war that cost the lives of 16 million people?

Who now thinks it was a good idea to overthrow Gadhafi in Libya or Mubarak in Egypt or attempt to overthrow Assad in Syria?

Wouldn’t the western world now be better off if we focused on the huge loss of life that is caused by private motor cars, driven by incompetents and head-the-balls. In the United States over 30,000 people are killed every year in road accidents, 10 times the number of people killed in 9/11. More than 1.2 million are killed around the world every year in road deaths.

In Ireland, more than 5,000 people die prematurely because of the scale of inequality here – this was established by the report published by the Institute of Public Health (established under the Good Friday Agreement) in 2001, too horrendous a figure to get even acknowledged.

The usual hysterics and attention-seekers don’t bother with these banalities.

More from Vincent Browne on

If Shane Ross votes against the Cabinet on abortion, Enda Kenny should remove him

The EU, its elites and its hyper fans had this coming

Enda’s latest move shows a cruelty of the heart and mind

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