It all began with the biggest climax a Hollywood movie could wish for. The 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. With that, the fear of terror was implanted into our hearts. Twelve years on, we have seen the images so many times that it’s almost like we were there ourselves. The public’s fear of terror is still present, and every time it feels as if the threat is fading, a new attack comes along and the fear of terror is recreated in our minds.
In 2004, the Madrid train bombings brought the terror closer to Denmark. The following year, it was the London bombings. Closer still. Then, when the terror climate was at a low point, the Oslo and Utoya attacks occurred in 2011, closer to Denmark than ever before.
Now with the Boston bombings, the public has been reminded to fear terror again. Yes, there was a smaller number of deaths in this attack, but at the end of the day, terror is not about the number of killings, it’s about the fear it spreads. And the terrorists want to create as much fear as possible. If we were to just compare the number of deaths, then terror doesn’t match up.
In 2012, 14,244 people died of cancer in Denmark, 7,541 died of cardiac disease, 3,020 from mental disorders, and 589 committed suicide. If terror would strike Denmark, there would probably not be more than 200 deaths, and even that may be an exaggeration. Last year, 216 people died in traffic accidents, so even traffic can kill more people than terror. But terror is still more feared.
According to a poll carried out by YouGov for metroXpress newspaper after the Boston bombings, 34 percent of Danes feared that Denmark would be attacked by terror. But while we are busy worrying about a terror attack at Nørreport or Copenhagen Central Station, the risk of dying on your way to the station – for instance in a traffic accident – is much higher.
We have had some terror threats in the last couple of years, and they have been handled by the domestic intelligence agency, PET. That should reassure Danes, but instead it has the opposite effect and makes them more worried. It makes them feel as if terror is at their door.
When you fear terror, you also have an image of who will potentially commit that terror, which means a group of Danes with a certain background can easily become victimised. Until now, the image has been a Middle-Eastern Muslim man with a beard and a bag. ‘Terrorist’ has been a synonym for ‘Muslim’ over the past decade. After the Boston bombings, I heard a lot of Muslims say that they hoped that Muslims weren’t behind the attack. Even Muslims have swallowed the notion that terrorists are Muslims. But of course, Anders Breivik was a white Norwegian man, and the suspects of the Boston bombs are white males too. Perhaps the image will change a bit now?
As long as we are living in the climate of terror, the terrorists will be the winners. Terrorists often do not care whom, or how many, they kill. They just want to create an atmosphere of horror and fear. With the help of a news media that repeats the same images on a 24-hour loop, the terrorists win. But this is where I say: “Enough is enough.” Twelve years have passed. We need to let go of the fear. We have to move on.
In the trailer for the new film ‘After Earth’, Will Smith’s character says a line that we all should learn from.
“Fear is not real,” he says. “It is a product of thoughts you create. Now do not misunderstand me, danger is very real. But fear is a choice.”
It’s time for us to make a new choice.