The Armchair Terrorist

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A few years ago I was on a flight sitting next to a window. As always with flying, although I understand the principles of flight and the science behind it all, I am still in amazement at how such a large aircraft is able to become lighter than air.

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression The Armchair Terrorist

But this particular flight was something different. After spending a while watching the clouds below us and how the reflection of the sun shimmered on the wings I reached forward to read the laminated leaflet about what to do in the event of a crash.

I recall how clinical it all seemed. It didn’t mention anything about the internal feelings associated with death. It also assumed that the fuselage would remain intact upon impact. It was all very presumptuous. But what was equally presuming was the comment made by the stranger sat next to me. I didn’t know him and I wasn’t really interested in entering into a conversation but he said “we are more likely to be killed by terrorists than this aircraft crashing”. Indeed, he was probably right but my demise at the hands of terrorists did not satisfy the knowing of my potential ending.

Crossing the terrorist’s path

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression The Armchair Terrorist

Many years later my world and the concept of terrorism crossed paths again. I read an article about the rise of terrorist groups in the Middle East. It was an interesting article whereby it argued that terrorism plays on peoples fears and as a result can change people patterns and routines. The act of terrorists are beamed directly into our living rooms highlighting what damage they have done to some market square or a member of a high profile family they have killed. However, on the other hand whilst studying political science at University one of my lecturers said that one mans terrorist is another mans freedom fighter. Let me be clear here that my politics lecturers was not condoning terrorism but was giving it another perspective.

The 1980 Iranian Embassy Seige

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression The Armchair Terrorist

I was 8 years old when the Iranian Embassy was stormed by the SAS in 1980 ( I recall sitting next to my grandfather watching a John Wayne film when it was suddenly stopped. We were redirected to the images on the screen of masked men dressed in black blowing out windows and gun fire could be heard with (what seemed like dubbed) screams in the back ground. For anyone around at the time the images were unforgettable. But what is equally memorable is the confirmation that Britain would never deal or negotiate with terrorists. This stance has still been upheld today with the murders of humanitarian workers at the hands of ISIS.


Whilst serving in the forces I also discovered that you cannot negotiate with a terrorist who has a bomb strapped to them acting in the belief of their own religion. The power of the terrorist mindset is focused with a specific outcome regardless of the cost to themselves or those of whom are around them at that specific moment of martyrdom.

Forced by fear

However, about five years ago I heard a story about a Mexican father who received a phone call telling him that his daughter was being held to ransom. It was only recently that I discovered that this story was actually true.

The story goes that one afternoon he received a telephone call in his office from an unknown terrorist group. They informed him that they had his daughter and stated that a huge ransom needed to be paid. If not, the daughter would die. By all credible accounts he was heard to say that if they killed his daughter they would be doing him a favour. He further stated that he had ten children and that they had all been a great disappointment to him and his wife. Furthermore, the cost of raising ten children was becoming a massive burden and if they chose to kill her then that was their choice. Within hours the daughter was returned unharmed. What I get from this story is that the terrorist takes a gamble assuming that their actions will form an element of bargaining power to force people to act against their best wishes.

How much do you love me?

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression The Armchair Terrorist

So how does this train of thought fit in to the abusive home? The fear or intention of threats in the home often forces the other to do things against their wishes. I recall a conversation I once heard whereby two late middle aged women were talking about their husbands. One said that if he didn’t do a specific task he would not be getting any sex that evening. It was almost laughable really, but she was using something she had power of to force or negotiate her partner to do something. Although that is one level of duress it can also extend into others.

For example, this method can stretch from the silent treatment forcing a person to question what they have done and endure an awful atmosphere in their homes to stating that if a person didn’t do what they wanted they would leave and take the children (followed by “and there is nothing you can do about it”).

A change in direction

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression The Armchair Terrorist

Once a partner has begun to lose interest there is little that can be done to stop the process developing further. The very break down of communication avoids further irritation and is a form of self-protection. If we look at this a little closer, we can then analyse the actions taken by the home terrorist (I would like to call them from this point onwards as the Armchair terrorist). Like the British government who are resolute on not negotiating, the abuser moves from romanticism to woo you back to ultimately sulking, threats and finally rage. The terrorist partner finally knows that they cannot control the situation anymore and adopt malicious measures to bring their victim down.

Pointless outcomes

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression The Armchair Terrorist

Historically any attempt of gaining an upper hand by the use of terror has always back fired and created a greater resistance against the terrorist philosophy.  If we consider two historical examples whereby the terrorists failed to achieve their objections we must firstly consider the famous Gunpowder plot of 1605. The capture of those involved, and the subsequent trials, led Parliament to consider introducing new anti-Catholic legislation. The event also destroyed all hope that the Spanish would ever secure tolerance of the Catholics in England. In the summer of 1606, laws against recusancy were strengthened; the Popish Recusants Act returned England to the Elizabethan system of fines and restrictions, introduced a sacramental test, and an Oath of Allegiance, requiring Catholics to abjure as a “heresy” the doctrine that “princes excommunicated by the Pope could be deposed or assassinated”. Catholic Emancipation took another 200 years to be realised.

In May 1972, three members of the Japanese Red Army who had been briefed and financed by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) landed at Lod Airport in Tel Aviv. Once inside the terminal they began firing indiscriminately killing twenty-four and injuring a further seven. Following this act of terrorism, the peace process did not gain any speed. In fact, it only hardened Israeli public opinion against the Palestinian cause.  Ironically, however, it finally transpired that the majority of those killed were not even Israelis but belonged to a group of Puerto Rican Christians who had been on a religious pilgrimage to Jerusalem.

But in both of these cases, although with several hundred years apart, the common denominator was that the use of violence was used when dialogue had ceased to produce the results they wanted.

Hey you…. Look at us

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression The Armchair Terrorist

The key points about terrorism and the actions of a domestic abuser is that it is intended to attract attention of either the state or the individual who may no longer be interested in them. They are both a form of psychological warfare with specific goals. For example, the Palestinian cause at Lod Airport, Catholic emancipation in 1605 and to win back the lost affections of a partner within the home.

I love you… but

However, although there are similarities between the armchair terrorist and the regular terrorist there is a distinct difference. The armchair terrorist demands to be loved in the first instance. Indeed, failure to do what is requested in both counts results in violence either by a bomb or shooting to a punch in the face or an attack when sleeping. The resolution and love showed by an abuser is shrouded with guilt. The displays of love and affection are not spontaneous but the actions of someone who feels guilty. As a result, these actions are doomed and will ultimately lead to further disappointment. In their eyes you must love them because you have been forced to.

For the ordinary terrorist they are seeking a one-off concession given to them by the state. Not a perpetual loveless relationship based on the fear that love might be taken away in a moment.  The demand of the armchair terrorist is a falsehood that the love they want is built upon the threat of fear that is imposed. Therefore, it is not spontaneous and thus not the type of love or relationship that anyone wants – including the abuser.

Breach of contract

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression The Armchair Terrorist

Following a terrorists ability to achieve their outcomes negotiations are often made. A form of peace is pursued with an aim to end the hostilities. But for the armchair terrorist each kiss is tainted with the knowledge that it is false and may even be forced upon the other in an unwilling form of contract.

What am I saying?

Well there is a similarity between the terrorists I have mentioned. When the control or ability to communicate has failed the use of violence becomes arbitrary.  The armchair terrorist tries to control a life for their own individual and selfish means. They try and create a state whereby tensions, resentment and fear are what keeps the structure together. However, the ordinary terrorist is born out of a political deadlock. But in both cases the conclusion is the same – it achieves very little except alienation, discredit and hatred.


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