Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Terrorism as Grist for Writers

The very word elicits strong emotions --- fear, hate, anger.  In its simplest form terrorism is the use of terror to coerce or force people.  There are over 1,000 definitions of terrorism.  Terror is defined as intense fear and a person or thing that inspires this fear.  Terror is used to accomplish some purpose that may be as simple as scaring someone in revenge for a past wrong (see slasher movies) or as complex as achieving a political, religious, or social agenda.  Tactics used by secret police such as the Gestapo during World War II, the Catholic Church during the Inquisition, and measures taken by extremist special interest terrorist groups including right to life, animal rights, and environmental groups.  The ideals of the group may be lofty, in their own minds, such as anti-nuclear, designed to subjugate a group such as the Klu Klux Klan and African-Americans, or organized crime as experienced in the United States and especially Mexico.

Terrorism is the inspiration for a variety media. The heightened emotions, randomness, unpredictability, violence, and bizarreness makes novels and movies with terrorist themes highly popular.  In the arena of the political thriller, the stakes are higher than with  the other themes.  Mass destruction is often the consequence of these stories.  Nuclear war, epidemics, chemical attacks usually impact more than a few scantily clad co-eds with bad decision-making skills. 

The poor choices by Victoria's Secret models suggests another aspect of the genre that's appealing.  Political thrillers feature a game a wits with a determined, perhaps smart, protagonist hindered by bureaucratic incompetence against a an even smarter, more ruthless antagonist.  Interestingly enough, the smartest guy or girl doesn't always win.  The newest twist is the villain who seems to be pursuing political motives when he reality he is just a crook trying to steal a few million or, with inflation, several billions.

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