It was Chinua Achebe who said the tale of the hunt is never complete without the version of the lion. There are at least two narratives to most events and the more popular version is the one told by the person who can talk the loudest and longest. Every century comes with its peculiar challenges that threaten to wipe out or tear humanity apart. Terrorism is one of the several challenges our generation is battling with.
It is a global challenge and different terror groups have struck at some of the most powerful and seemingly secured countries in our world. The United States, the United Kingdom, Kenya, France and Nigeria have had their taste of the menace of these deranged minds. While some countries have bounced back from terror attacks and brought the perpetrators to book, others have not done so well in curtailing the activities of these men and women who read the Holy Book upside down.
Terrorism impacts directly on the economy of a country. Many events in the United States are referred to as Pre-9/11 and post-9/11. 9/11, with nearly 3,000 deaths, signalled a new phase of the terror war with its high profile and strategic targets. The economy suffered as the stock market nosedived and, in fact, was shut for four trading days after the attack. There were job losses and the terror attack contributed to the recession of that year.
Bringing this home, economic activities have all but dried up in many states in the North East of Nigeria due to the activities of the Boko Haram sect. However, the effects are felt in the entirety of northern Nigeria because organisations and people would rather not do business nor live there.
Terrorism impacts the psychology of the populace. We see scenes of children and parents fleeing their countries with nothing except the clothes on their backs, seeking refuge in more peaceful regions. Many are subjected to the most inhuman of conditions, locked out from countries where they seek asylum and having to sleep out in the open and receiving rationed daily portions of food. For the kids growing up and living this way, one can only wonder how their view of the world is being shaped.
The greatest disservice terrorism does is to bring hate, distrust and contempt to Islam. Islam, unfortunately, has been associated with terrorism as these crazy fellows who probably have never read the Quran carry out dastardly acts in the name of religion. This made a United States presidential candidate to even insanely say he may bar Muslims from coming into his country.
I have observed two narratives to the terror war. During World War II, there was the real war and there was the propaganda war. The propaganda war was as important as the real war. It was how the warring countries sold their victories, underplayed the advances of the enemies and controlled the thoughts and expectations of the general populace.
Similar to the propaganda war are the terrorism narratives. Take for instance the-never-going-to-end Israel-Palestinian conflict. The narrative always seems to draw more sympathy for Israel. I have observed countries that have witnessed terrorist attacks labelled unsafe and travel warnings to such zones issued.
I recall on the day of the Nigerian presidential election of 2015 that CNN was reporting that the Boko Haram sect was making a steady advance towards the southern part of the country and that bombs were going off in the north. Of course, these reports were largely untrue.
The media is the tool of propaganda and some countries have perfected its use. They downplay their negatives and make a big show of their positives. The media is a powerful tool when it comes to mind management. You can’t blame those who understand the power of the media and exploit it to their advantage.
Terrorism tagged countries need to tell their own stories. They need to build media machinery like Qatar has done with Al-Jazeera and tell their own stories. These countries need to sell their heroism and put it out there on display for the world to see. They need to celebrate small victories and create hype around the positives. Negatives should be managed and downplayed.
If every country genuinely reported all that happened within its borders, some of the most desirable nations will no longer look so appealing. Sell yourself, tell you own tales with you appearing as the knight in the shining armour saving humanity. And while you engage in the real war against terror, make sure you are not losing the propaganda battle.