Ed Driscoll

'Terror is Glamour'

From her headline on, Virginia Postrel has a provocative post at her Deep Glamour Website:

In 2006, Salman Rushdie gave an interview to Der Spiegel in which he was asked about the causes of terrorism. After first demurring, he suggested a few: “a misconceived sense of mission,” a “herd mentality,” the desire to become “a historic figure,” an attraction to violence, and–shocking the interview–glamour.

Q: Do you seriously mean that terrorism is glamorous?A: Yes. Terror is glamour — not only, but also. I am firmly convinced that there’s something like a fascination with death among suicide bombers. Many are influenced by the misdirected image of a kind of magic that is inherent in these insane acts. The suicide bomber’s imagination leads him to believe in a brilliant act of heroism, when in fact he is simply blowing himself up pointlessly and taking other peoples lives.

To someone who thinks “glamour” means movie stars and designer dresses, the idea that terrorism is glamorous sounds bizarre. But Rushdie is wise to the deeper meaning of glamour, as a form of magic and persuasion. Glamour is in the audience’s eyes, and the phenomenon long preceded Hollywood. Jihadi terrorism in fact combines two ancient forms of glamour–the martial and the religious–with the modern promise of media celebrity.

Glamour can sell religious devotion or military glory as surely as it can pitch lipstick or island vacations. All promise a way to transcend our everyday circumstances, to experience more and become better than ordinary life allows.  All invite us to imagine escape and transformation.

See also such disparate trends as the left’s late-1960s dalliance with Radical Chic (whose echoes reverberate to this day), and more recently — and more benignly, at least in comparison — consumerism that invites the consumer to celebrate the destruction of the economy.

Related: “Environmental tales of tragedy begin with Nature in harmony and almost always end in quasi-authoritarian politics.”