Ignore the Paris Terrorist Attack

by Benjamin Studebaker

Last night, in a series of horrible attacks, at least 128 people in Paris were killed. The attacks were committed by the Islamic State with internal help from homegrown French terrorists. The best way we can respond is by completely ignoring the attack and paying no attention to it whatsoever. Here’s why.

The more attention we pay to terrorist attacks, the more power we give those terrorists to determine how our societies will respond. Every time a terrorist attack happens, the attention our societies pay only serves to assist the terrorists in achieving their political goals. They want us to be scared. They want us to react emotionally. They want to see our grief. They want us to give in to the cowards and fools who are chomping at the bit to do something thoughtless–more xenophobia, more racism, more Islamophobia, more surveillance, more military intervention in the Middle East. None of the actions people propose in times like this make the situation any better or make our societies any more safe. No matter how good the government’s security apparatus is, sometimes violent murderers and terrorists will slip through the cracks. Targeting immigrants and Muslims is racist, it blames the collective for the actions of a small fringe minority. Expanding the surveillance state is wasteful and ineffective–the security measures implemented after 9/11 in countries around the world have made no difference to the terrorism fatality rate. If anything, it’s higher:

The same is true of all the military interventions that have been justified on the grounds that they will somehow “keep us safe”. The Iraq War cost the United States alone $2 trillion. That’s 408 times what the US government spends every year on cancer research. It’s enough to provide tuition free college education to American students for 32 years. We could have written every American currently living below the poverty line a check for $44,000 and it wouldn’t have cost as much. What did we get for this? Iraq is less stable than it was under Saddam Hussein. There are more terrorists living in the country than there were before, and the Iraqi government is so feckless that it has allowed them to seize territory and cannot even push them out. Interventions in Libya and Yemen to push out dictators have produced failed states and civil wars, as both countries have become havens for radicals. Afghanistan is a quagmire–thanks to our efforts, it now leads the world in illegal opium production.

Today the interventionists want to chuck out Assad in Syria, leaving yet another power vacuum in the Middle East to be filled by people who are even worse. They want us to send ground troops in to fight the Islamic State, doing the job the governments in the Middle East should be doing themselves. Once again, we’d be flushing lots of money down the toilet and there’s no reason at all to think we’d end up any safer. We have to recognize that when we blow cash on feckless efforts to “fight” terrorism, we are giving up opportunities to invest that money in our own societies and in our own future. The governments in the region need to do their jobs–Islamic State is a problem for Syria, Iraq, Iran, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia to solve. We should cooperate with their efforts and provide them with whatever logistical support and intelligence they need, but we must not throw good money after bad. The terrorists want us to do precisely that. They want us to waste our resources on a never ending war on terror. The more we focus on the grisly events in Paris, the more we express sadness, the more we press our governments to do something stupid.

Here’s the truth. 265.5 people in France die of cancer every day on average. We don’t run 24 hour news coverage on them. Nobody makes any statements. Nobody puts up their “thoughts and prayers” on social media. The families of terrorist victims don’t need us any more than the cancer victims do. This terrorist attack is a pinprick on France. France is so strong and so powerful and the terrorists are so feeble and so pathetic. France doesn’t have to change a single government policy in response to this, and neither do we. Our countries can and should collectively shrug at this and go “is that all you got?” Because it is all they got. Terrorism is a weapon of the weak. Only we can make that weapon strong, only we can allow them to achieve their goals. We must refuse to allow ourselves to become accessories to the political goals of terrorists and murderers.

The best way to stand up to terrorism is to ignore terrorism and treat it with the contempt it deserves–as a lesser threat than the ordinary diseases and accidents that never make the front page. Yawn at it. It’s boring. Dare to not care. The French state can and will handle it. They don’t need our thoughts and prayers. They need us to be stoic, to resist the throngs of terrified, deeply misguided people who in the coming days will push us to take rash and stupid action. Have the courage and the strength to look away. Go on with your day. Buy stuff. Make love. There’s no better way to flip off the terrorists. The best way to affirm the value of the lives of the victims is to go on living yours.


I’ve since written an additional post detailing how weak the Islamic State is militarily and how a policy of ignoring the region can force regional stakeholders to stop depending on the west for security and take responsibility for their own futures.