Another qualification to Rapoport’s point is in order: When a bomb explodes, people are apt to take notice, but not for long. Since Rapoport published his article, the rise of the Internet has meant that there is simply too much information out there vying for attention. The web has undoubtedly been a boon to terrorist groups, helping them disseminate their messages to an ever-wider audience. But it has also hindered them in that they must now compete with the world’s cacophony of other voices. And this, unfortunately, has served to reinforce the demonic logic of ISIS’s brand of terrorism, which requires not only surpassing previous atrocities, but trumping other global news events.
O’Brien remarked in his Atlantic article that “one surefire way of attracting instantaneous worldwide attention through television is to slaughter a considerable number of human beings, in a spectacular fashion, in the name of a cause.” This, too, needs updating: Today, to borrow from O’Brien, one surefire way of attracting instantaneous worldwide attention through the global media is to slaughter a considerable number of children in the name of a cause. The Pakistani Taliban, which deliberately targeted an Army School in Peshawar last December, has apparently embraced this new axiom. Another alternative is to deploy kids as terrorist assassins—to use them as suicide bombers or executioners in propaganda movies, as ISIS has done. Another boundary crossed, another headline guaranteed.