HOW TO TALK TERRORIST
Conservatives are often criticized for taking a “shoot first, talk later” attitude toward terrorism, and although I am a conservative, I must concede that the left is absolutely right (er, correct) on this point. For it is true that we need a better understanding of the people who are trying to kill us. If we can understand the underlying causes of their need to kill us, perhaps we’ll also be able to communicate to them the causes of our motivation to remain alive, safe and free.
Liberals advocate understanding; summits, dialog, and sympathy. I agree with all of that, but frankly I think even liberals do not take that line of thinking far enough. For it is not sufficient to show concern and sympathy to Islamist terrorists in our own western-centric idioms. This only demonstrates our insular cultural bigotism. We must be willing to shed our western modes of communication, and adopt their ways of speaking. Doing so ensures we will be understood, and it demonstrates respect for their values and code of ethics.
I will now lay out several basic methods for how to talk terrorist. These techniques may not come naturally to the western, democratic way of thinking at first, but with plenty of practice we’ll all get the hang of it. Opportunities to practice abound; it’s really not difficult to find a terrorist with whom you can practice cross cultural communication.
1. INITIAL GREETING
It is customary, in terrorist circles, to open a dialog with a massive explosion, preferably set off in a public place so that it will draw innocent civilians into the conversation. This may seem barbaric to us, but it actually demonstrates the terrorist’s populist sentiments; to a terrorist it is simply too elitist to speak directly to our armed forces. But once the dialog has been initiated, it is our notions of western-style compassion and understanding which cause us to offend. For the expected, nay required response is an answering explosion or series of explosions from the party who has been hailed.
Of course, we democratic westerners must find a happy medium between their values and our values, and I think most terrorists understand this. We are more particular about replies which affect innocent civilians. By directing our answering explosions to the terrorists themselves, instead of to their innocent civilian compatriots, we are not necessarily committing a faux pas. The terrorist realizes that while he has magnanimously included bystanders in the conversation, our style is often more direct, more personal.
The important thing is to answer the greeting. If we fail to acknowledge the terrorist’s initial salute, the terrorist is first baffled, and then perhaps concludes we did not hear or understand. Terrorists are generally patient and accommodating fellows, and will gently but insistently repeat the initial greeting several times until the other conversant is ready to join the conversation. If you have been addressed repeatedly, don’t be overly concerned, simply reply as quickly as possible, and then the conversation will take its proper course.
2. SMALL TALK
Do not underestimate the importance of small talk. The period of seemingly meaningless rhetoric which follows the terrorist’s greeting serves the important purpose of establishing how much credibility each party can expect of the other, and of solidifying the terrorist’s trust that we will be able to carry on the conversation until it is finished.
Small talk from the terrorist takes many forms, ranging from taking responsibility for the initial bombings, to outright gloating, to issuing fatwahs, to making ridiculous, impossible demands. Some of the things terrorists say in the course of small talk may seem offensive to us, but we shouldn’t take umbrage. Seemingly inflammatory phrases such as “infidel dogs,” “Great Satan” or “drive them into the sea” are, in fact, compliments. The more respect they have for you, the stronger will be their rhetoric. This is difficult for liberals to understand; generally liberals love peace, and don’t like to offend anybody but conservatives. It’s difficult for them to get used to a terrorist’s back-handed courtesy. Just bear in mind that the terrorist doesn’t really hate you, he just despises you and wants you and all your seed obliterated from the face of the earth. Taking the terrorist’s rhetoric in stride shows we’re mature enough to participate in the dialog, which is always an exciting thing for a terrorist who’s starved for conversation.
In contrast to the initial greeting, it is not important for us respond in kind to the terrorist’s small talk. Rather, our words should be directed toward the terrorist’s civilian compatriots. I know this seems counter intuitive, but you must try to get over your backward, western modes of conversation. When making small talk, you should keep your voice low, speaking softly. It is also useful to have a big stick on hand as a visual aid. Our verbal small talk takes the form of encouragement of democratic processes in their countries, or sometimes of solemn promises to topple their governments if they don’t take our side over the terrorists’. From this point in the conversation, our words should be directed at the societies who may be harboring terrorists, and never directed at the terrorists themselves. Above all, never break a promise. If, for example, you say you will depose a bloodthirsty, megalomaniac dictator, then depose him you must. This does not mean we don’t continue to speak to the terrorists –we must indeed continue to speak to them– but only in the terms they initially set, i.e. direct violence.
This kind of small talk dialog gradually (or sometimes immediately) increases to more substantive terms. The terrorist may attempt further violence, or he may attempt to vanish into the woodwork of his society. Do not mistake such evasions as a desire on the part of the terrorist to end the conversation. There are only two possible outcomes to this sort of conversation. Of those two possible outcomes, only one of them is acceptable to our western values. Again, in the spirit of compromise, a happy medium between our culture and terrorist culture must take the day. We accommodate the terrorist’s mode of conversation at the beginning, but in the end, the terrorist must compromise, and accommodate our mode of conversation. If the terrorist believes that the wrong outcome may actually prevail, we must gently but firmly disabuse him of that idea.
What is that only acceptable outcome? If we have conversed well up to this point, we will eventually arrive at the best possible conclusion to a dialog with a terrorist: complete silence on the part of the terrorist. Not just a lack of words or violence, but real silence, like the silence of the tomb. If we really impress the terrorist, he will be speechless, even breathless; unable to converse with either small talk or with bombs. No more nattering fatwahs, no more claiming of responsibility (without taking responsibility), no more ridiculous demands. Silence. Golden silence. If you reach this point in the conversation, you have truly received the only genuine compliment that a terrorist can give; acknowledgement that you have prevailed. Terrorists understand prevailing. They relate strongly to prevailing with violence. And if we conclude the conversation by prevailing, then we have responded to the terrorist’s culture of extortion, violence and death in a way that does not deny our own values.
We westerners tend to feel bad when we prevail in a conversation this way, but again, that is our own cultural bias. The terrorist loves, above life itself, to be a martyr. When we prevail, we’re helping him to his goal. We get to live in liberty, and the terrorist gets to kick back with 72 virgins. Conservative thinkers, listen up and take notes, for the liberals are right on this point: when true dialog occurs in an environment of mutual respect and understanding, everybody wins.