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Al-Qaeda just another media scare word

Two suspects, John Stewart Nuttall and Amanda Marie Korody, were arrested and charged with conspiracy to commit a terrorist activity and possession of an explosive substance. The news media was quick to label the duo’s plot as an al-Qaeda-inspired attempt. But what if it wasn’t inspired by al-Qaeda? Would that make it less terrifying or more so?

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By Jeremy Hannaford (Contributor) – Email

Print Edition: July 17, 2013

Canada Day is a celebration of our country as a whole and the union we share with our fellow provinces. But this shining symbol of union was tainted when a bomb threat was discovered in Victoria outside the provincial legislature.

Two suspects, John Stewart Nuttall and Amanda Marie Korody, were arrested and charged with conspiracy to commit a terrorist activity and possession of an explosive substance. The news media was quick to label the duo’s plot as an al-Qaeda-inspired attempt.

But what if it wasn’t inspired by al-Qaeda? Would that make it less terrifying or more so?

News sells fear. Whether or not we care about the people related, people can’t look away when something horrible happens. The bomb threat in Victoria is just like this.

A quick background check on John Stewart Nuttall confirms his conversion to Islam, though he had been rejected by his previous mosque. Representatives of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) confirmed that this attack wasn’t al-Qaeda inspired. They were acting on their own mysterious motives instead.

That sounds a hell of a lot scarier to me.

Al-Qaeda activity has become familiar. Their attacks have never reached the same height as they did with 9/11. Despite the panic generated by the Boston Marathon bombing, authorities were able to find and locate the Tsarnaev brothers and stop further threats very quickly. But one type of attack that has never lost the fear and horror it holds are acts of terrible violence performed by random civilians. Acts like the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary or the Aurora Theater are always traumatizing despite their brutal simplicity. We can never anticipate something like this.

Al-Qaeda and other scare words news outlets use are meant to produce fear and bluster. But sometimes they feel like comfort words. The idea of something familiar, however horrible it may be, is always preferable to the unpredictable alternative.

In the case of Nuttall, there are many possible motivations for his actions. He has had previous run-ins with the law. According to court records collected by the Toronto Star, Nuttall was a reformed drug user. Other media outlets stated that he recently acted as an enforcer collecting drug debts. His brother was killed in Afghanistan five years ago. But his brother also had a lengthy criminal record for drug and property offences. All are possible starting points for the source of Nuttall’s aggression. But rough upbringing or drug history do not carry the same weight as scare words.

Sometimes people do not want to accept the most simple and horrifying outcome: people sometimes do evil things.

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