Sounds of silence

The news that an undercover FBI agent helped thwart a jihadist plot last year to attack targets in New York carried a depressing musical footnote.

In a statement, the FBI said that three suspects had identified multiple locations and events in and around Manhattan as targets of the planned attacks, “including the New York City subway system, Times Square and certain concert venues.”

That last detail would appear to confirm that musical events are emphatically on the ever-lengthening list of soft targets now favored by terrorists in the low-level war of attrition currently being waged against the west.

No surprises there, of course. In France and England, two of the most depressingly successful terror attacks of the past couple of years —the Bataclan concert hall massacre in Paris in 2015 and the Manchester Arena bombing this past May — took place at concerts.

Last weekend’s mass-murder of at least 58 attendees at a country music show in Las Vegas underscored the same bloody point.

What has been surprising, however, has been the relative silence of an entertainment industry whose grandees can usually be counted to hold forth on all manner of subjects they believe to be in the outside world’s vital interest.

And yet, on the one subject that is self-evidently in the world’s interest right now, a monastic hush appears to prevail.

This collective rendition of the Sounds of Silence sits oddly beside the chillingly straightforward narrative now being advanced by our declared enemies on the other side.

As the commentator Mark Steyn noted in the wake of the Manchester bloodletting, they have rather seamlessly moved from European Jews and satirists to Orlando gays and painstakingly selected symbols of nationhood, like France’s Bastille Day, Canada’s Cenotaph, and the Mother of Parliaments in London.

So now, Steyn explains, the new Caliphate’s believers have figured out that what their enemy really likes is consumerism and pop music.

“Hence the attacks on the Champs-Élysées and the flagship Åhléns department store in Stockholm, and the bloodbath at the Eagles of Death Metal concert in Paris and now at Ariana Grande’s ‘Dangerous Woman’ tour.”

In the meantime, the custodians of the popular music culture still seem to be locked in to doing what they’ve long done best: striking provocative poses in an entertainment business that lost any real provocation long ago.

Except, perhaps, among those who are now scoping out ambitious new opportunities for killing its stalwarts. And their fans.

About the Author
David Cohen is a Wellington-based author and journalist whose work appears frequently in publications around the world.
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