Terror and Schoolyards

In the Hutong

Shanzhai Memorial Day

2254 hrs.


Han Han – “Children, you’re depressing grandpa”

http://www.danwei.org/crime/han_han_children_youre_depress.php

Reading this piece was thought-provoking, but the following paragraph took me down another track entirely:

In these recent attacks, the twisted murderers have all chosen to attack nursery schools and elementary schools, believing this to be the best way to exact their revenge on society. It has become fashionable to go to nursery schools and elementary schools and kill people. There, the murderer faces the least resistance and can kill the most people, causing us to feel the greatest pain and panic. This is indeed the most effective method to exact revenge on society

Antisocial attacks on a vulnerable segment of the population  conducted in a manner designed to incite fear and insecurity. If the government could find a link between the school attacks and an organized group, would this not then be terrorism?

On a parallel track, there was some reporting done last month in the foreign press suggesting that the government seemed to be putting the kibosh on press coverage of the attacks. The coverage was critical of the move. Nonetheless  I can appreciate the law enforcement reason behind limiting the coverage: the less you cover something like this, the less likely it is that other attention-deprived sociopaths would decide that filleting a group of kindergarteners was their route to a few days of fame.

At some point the line between crime and terror seems to disappear into the sand. The lessons China is learning with these crimes test not only law enforcement, but China’s nascent homeland security apparatus as well.

Posted via email from Silicon Hutong on Posterous

WIll

There is another good reason to limit coverage: Managing hysteria. Statistically speaking, the chances of any given person’s child being involved in an attack are minute beyond measurement. But when episodes are replayed endlessly in the media, people vastly overestimate the risks of it happening to them (or their kids). This leads to public anger and pressure to implement solutions sometimes ill considered or disproportionate to the problem (like using the army to provide security at schools).

The challenge, then, is to find the balance between stoking public fear and serving the public’s legitimate right to know about a serious issue. No easy answer for that one. You can err in either direction.

David Wolf

As a parent, my first reaction to the issue was to call out the People’s Armed Police (WuJing) to protect schools. But when I started considering the schoolyard killings as a counter-terrorism problem I understood that while having soldiers at the gates of schools calmed parents, it is nothing more than an emotional stopgap. A more sophisticated and nuanced approach is needed. Part of that is improving the physical security of schools, but the issue goes far beyond campuses because if all these people will do is shift to a “softer” high-profile target. That is why the media aspect of the problem has to be handled with wisdom and subtlety.