It may be a nonce-word but the best new vocab I’ve seen lately is “terror clown,” coined to describe the recent less-than-professional outings of the ideological wing of SPECTRE in the UK.

Clearly, this is no time for complacency, but the recent “terror” plots in London and Glasgow might serve as a turning point in our attitudes towards terrorism. It seems to me that the media does some of the terrorists’ work for them, acting as the medium through which terror can spread and generating spectacular images which other terrorists might be inclined to imitate.

News media should not filter out information for the public’s good. But they don’t have to treat it all with the same level of breathless urgency, either.

There are three obvious advantages to treating a failed mass-murderer not as a terrorist but as a terror-clown.

First, it would make terror alerts more amusing. Since any other function terror-alerts might have is moot, this is a consideration of the first importance.

Second, it might promote a certain perspective about the actual threat of terrorism in one’s daily life. Mike Bloomberg, not normally my favorite person, was pretty good about this recently.

Third, it might actually deter some from pursuing terrorist careers. It’s one thing for a disaffected person to think of himself as a Byronic hero-villain like the Hulk. It’d be another to risk being portrayed as a goony ill-tempered Proto-Clown.

After all, if they wanted to scare the general public by being clowns they’d just go to clown school like other people.

About JE

James Enge is the author of the World-Fantasy-Award-nominated novel Blood of Ambrose (Pyr, April 2009). His latest book is The Wide World's End. His short fiction has appeared in Swords and Dark Magic (Harper Collins, 2010), Black Gate, the Stabby-Award-winning anthology Blackguards and elsewhere.
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6 Responses to Clown–SMASH!

  1. james_nicoll says:

    CBC radio seems to be behind the curve on this, if what I heard this morning is a guide. They were more concerned about what makes people like the Mad Bombers What Don’t Bomb at Midnight into terrorists and less concerned about the fact that their bombs were not so much bombs as a loose collection of items that are vaguely flammable.

    • JE says:

      That’s where most US media seems to be, too. Oh, well: I suppose anything that tends to force Paris Hilton out of the spotlight is a force for good…

  2. jordan179 says:

    There’s a science fiction story by Dean Ing, “A Very Proper Charlie,” which describes the results of just such a reaction to terrorism. Too bad the mainstream media didn’t pick up on this long ago …

    • JE says:

      Sounds like an interesting story! Thanks.

      When the NSA gives me a grant to develop my terror-clown anti-terror strategy, I’ll cut you and Mr. Ing in on it.

  3. fpb says:

    As I pointed out at the time, even the successful July 7, 2005 outrages were in fact severely bungled. All the three underground bombings were carried out in the close proximity of hospitals – the Aldgate bomb right next door to the enormous London City Hospital, which, being placed to serve the crime-ridden East End, has world-class expertise on trauma, gunshot and burns. The bus explosion actually took place in Tavistock Square, literally on the doorstep of the British Medical Association, resulting in an avalanche of medically trained personnel being on the scene in a literal minute. The monsters still managed to kill about fifty people, but there can be no doubt that they would have killed a lot more if they had worked out the places of their outrages better.

    • JE says:

      I suppose suicide bombing doesn’t attract the best minds, and those it does attract aren’t operating at their best.

      Here’s hoping for more terror-clowns, less successful terrorists.

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