The so-called Islamic State (IS) has claimed responsibility for the recent bombing of an Ariane Grande concert in Manchester. Whether it really was involved or not has yet to be verified. What is not in doubt, however, is that IS extremists hate everything the popstar represents. She is an independent young woman with a mind of her own and thousands of loyal followers keen to follow in her footsteps. To IS, Grande lives up to the tagline of her tour: she really is a “dangerous woman”.
Terrorism is a “communicative act” – its targets are not only those who died or were injured – but the wider audiences drawn in by its spectacular violence. Terrorists are frequently defined because they target non-military, non-state infrastructure or people. They do so to generate fear and panic.
Targeting is never accidental. Strategic choices are made to generate that chosen effect. In Pakistan, Iraq and Afghanistan, market squares, queues for pay cheques, music shops, ice cream stores, beauty parlours, airports, Sufi shrines, schools and political rallies have all fallen victim to terrorist attacks. They were chosen because these are places where everyday living and politics happen.
In Paris, London, Madrid, Bali, Tunisia and now Manchester, everyday living and politics is in the cafes, on the bus, the train, the beach, in nightclubs, shopping malls and music venues. These everyday places are where “politics is at”. They are the ordinary mundane expressions of “togetherness” and worldliness that enable societies to function.
Music epitomises this. It has that ability to unite and connect with people regardless of faith, age, race or gender. There is “collective effervescence” (or karma of the crowd). Music literally brings people into sync.