“Very often, the victims of terrorism are targeted not because they are threats, but because they are specific “symbols, tools, animals or corrupt beings” that tie into a specific view of the world that the terrorists possess.” -Mark Juergensmeyer
Even if you completely altered your lifestyle and took every precaution available, you still have zero control over these types of random and violent attacks. However, what you can do to prepare yourself, is be aware of the circumstances and learn to identify risk factors.
What is a ‘soft target’? Ski’s definition: when an aspiring bomber has identified an event or location that has minimal force protection, provides a substantial number of personnel injured or dead, and will be followed by massive coverage from the media. That is a soft target.
Why Terrorists Bomb (Reiterating the basics here)
Using terrorism for political purpose is a common tactic, and as such, there are a number of common elements that are almost universal to all modern terrorist activities. The target victims are not necessarily those who are injured or killed. Rather, the attack may have been carried out to influence a government (or group of governments) to take a certain course of action, or to perhaps terminate or cease a current course of action. Over the last several years, while the total number of bombings has decreased, the number of large or spectacular bomb attacks has actually increased. Terrorists commit bombings for a number of reasons:
- To gain media attention, particularly if the target is highly visible or symbolic.
- It is a cost effective and efficient way to attack a facility.
- They can be accomplished with a small number of personnel.
- There is minimal risk of bombers being detected or apprehended.
- It can be inexpensive in comparison to alternatives like kidnapping or hostage-taking.
- Random bombings make a considerably larger impact on the population because more people fear a bomb attack than being kidnapped or taken hostage.
- Explosives are readily available through purchase, theft or sympathetic supporters. In addition, explosives can even be constructed through the use of legitimately obtained chemicals, fertilizers, and other materials.
10 Basic Steps to not being a Soft Target
- SA- having even the most basic situational awareness of where you are and what is going on around you is priceless. Be observant, not paranoid.
- Listen to the hairs on the back of your neck. If something feels or looks out of place, it probably is.
- First Amendment/Freedom of Speech. If someone in your immediate area is acting “suspicious“, engage them in a friendly conversation.
- Make eye contact. “The eye is the window of the soul, the mouth the door. The intellect, the will, are seen in the eye; the emotions, sensibilities, and affections, in the mouth. The animals look for man’s intentions right into his eyes. Even a rat, when you hunt him and bring him to bay, looks you in the eye.” –Hiram Powers
- Talk less when interacting with strangers; allow them to carry the conversation. Humans are inherently sociable creatures. Adding long pauses with eye contact makes people feel uncomfortable; they naturally will want to fill this space with speech. This speech is often less filtered and tends to divulge more information than they would normally share.
- If someone drops or leaves an item behind, immediately let that individual know > continue to #3.
- When indoors, whether it be restaurants, lobbies or buildings, try to have a spot in the back of the room with your back towards a wall, with a clear view of entry points into that area. Again, not to be paranoid, but rather an attempt to passively establish an over-watch and awareness of your surroundings.
- Take mental notes: clothing, eye color, identifying marks, accent and eye contact (or lack thereof), and other basic body language gestures > see below.
- Always have fast access to a weapon of opportunity e.g. pocket knife, sturdy metal writing pen or key-chain weapon (discrete and legal in most states).
- Mindset > Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody you meet. -Maj. Gen. James Mattis
Observing Basic Negative Body Language Gestures
- Body tense – Stiffness, wrinkled brow, jerky body motion, hands clasped in front or palms down on the table. These can indicate concern with the topic or dealing with the other person.
- Arms folded in front – Creates a barrier; can express resistance to what is being said.
- Hand on face – A hand over one’s mouth is a closed gesture. Leaning on one’s elbow with the chin in the hand can communicate boredom.
- Fidgeting – Moving around a lot, playing with things and drumming fingers are usually a sign of boredom, nervousness or impatience (dependent upon speed and intensity).
- Arms behind head, leaning back – In a well-established relationship this can be a relaxed gesture. In a new relationship, it is often used to express a desire for control or power.
- Yawning – Boredom, confusion. The other person is talking too much or in too much technical detail.
- Impatience – Trying to interrupt what the other person is saying, opening one’s mouth frequently as if to speak.
- Distraction – Eyes flicking about, blank stares, flipping through literature without really reading it, looking at others in the office, looking at the person’s body or clothing.
- Leaning away – Avoiding moving closer, even when something is handed to the person, is strongly negative.
- Negative facial expressions – These include: shaking head, eyes narrowed, scowling or frowning.