Leiden Safety and Security Blog

Keep calm and carry on

Last August the director of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO), David Irvine, said 'a recurring nightmare has been the so-called lone wolf, radicalised over the internet, who had managed to avoid coming across our radar.' This week the 'nightmare' became reality when Man Haron Monis stormed into the Lindt Chocolat cafe in Sydney’s Martin Place, held 16 persons hostage before a SWAT team ended the hostage taking - costing the life of the hostage taker and two hostages. According to some media outlets, this incident would 'change Australia' for ever, resembling comparable sweeping statements in Canadian and international media outlets after the lone wolf attack of last October in Canada. Countries are nowadays assumed to be extremely vulnerable for the new face of terrorism.

Is it really? How can one lone nut with the typical mixture of personal grieves, personal problems, and diffuse ideological or religious ideas flavoured with conspiracy theories ever 'change a society for ever'? Shouldn't we topple the perspective and conclude that if lone nuts like Monis are the best players the opponent can send into the field, society will never be on the verge of disaster? In fact, Monis wasn't even part of any team, no matter his flirting with IS - IS itself was quick in denying any relationship with Monis: born in the wrong country (Iran) and supporter of the wrong Islam (Shia). Monis, a fringe figure in Australia’s Muslim community, was known to the police for sending offensive letters to parents and relatives of Australian victims of terrorism and troops killed in Afghanistan between 2007 and 2009 and - surprise surprise - accused of sexual harassing women. His former lawyer described him as 'a damaged goods individual who’s done something outrageous'.

Indeed. And authorities face the difficult task of trying to detect such lone nuts and assess whether or not they pose a real threat - within the boundaries of the rule of law and available resources and priorities. But let's get rid of the discourse in which democratic societies are on the brink of ruin because once in a while a lone nut, whether or not dressed up in some borrowed extremist ideological or religious outfit, succeeds in carrying out some kind of attack. Whether terrorists or would-be terrorists succeed in terrifying society and changing ways of living only partly depends on their acts and intentions - it depends mostly on how resilient societies and political leadership are when the shit hits the fan.

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