After the dust has settled, a pattern of winners and losers are starting to appear as a result of the Paris attacks and their aftermath. This is a pattern where some are vigorously profiteering and thriving of the aftermath, while others are succumbing to more and more pressure and difficulties as a result of the attacks.
One of the most immediate winners of the attacks and their aftermath is the weapons industry. As pointed out by Gleen Greenwald in an article published in The Intercept, directly after the attacks the stocks of major weapons manufacturers like Lockheed and General Dynamics surged, and kept on rising for some time. This is putting the spotlight on one of the most sinister driving dynamics of modern twenty-first century armed conflicts: war and insecurity is business, and certainly profitable. That the world becomes a more insecure place plagued by constant conflict and surges in violence like in Paris and its outcomes, paired with “an eye for an eye” policy, just means that good business can flourish further. It makes sure that there are always eager and needing customers standing in line, ready to buy instruments that make the world even more insecure. The surging stocks of major weapons manufacturers after attacks as the one in Paris portrays this perfectly. Sadly, as long as the solution and response to an insecure world and violence is even more guns and bombings, and not to fight extreme global inequality and injustice, this will continue. That the later response is so profitable for such a powerful few, and also guarantees a continued global and regional unequal hierarchy, means that there is a powerful incentive not to actually solve the conflicts in the long-term but rather to keep the bombs falling and the profits rising. And since this feeds rather that solves the problem, the same pattern keeps re-emerging time after time.
Another winner of the attacks are the far right populists of Europe, as showcased in the recent regional elections in France. In attacks like the one in Paris, carried out by Islamist extremist, there is an easy and often voiceless scapegoat to target: innocent Muslim minorities. For some people, the attacks confirm the right wing islamophobic assumption that Islam, and its followers, is evil. This results in whole populations getting attributed with labels based on the actions of a few extremists whom they never even met, and whose actions they strongly condemn. This in turn leads to the far-right and its conceptions becoming increasingly popular, and even winning elections. This amounts to them harnessing more and more power, and in places like Poland and France it gives them the capability to influence official policy. Therefore they definitely have prospered from the Paris Attacks. Another beneficiary of post Paris is the Islamic State. Attacks like the one in Paris expands their brand, and for possible recruits it showcases their strength and possibility to seriously hurt their enemies. It makes them even more attractive to everyone from hardened jihadists to alienated and brainwashed youths. The direct and swift military response from countries like France only confirms their self-styled picture as a threat to everyone who opposes them, and reinforces the impression of them as a true jihadist movement battling infidels. The unavoidable civilian casualties of the more and more intense bombing campaigns against IS as a response to the attacks will also alienate civilian populations in favour of IS, and bring people into their fold.
It is then one of the great ironies of the dynamics of hate that two groups that apparently hate each other as much as the far right and IS, actually fuel one another. But this definitely is the case here. It is an outspoken goal of IS to increase anti-Muslim sentiment and islamophobia in places were Muslims are large minorities, and hereby confirm their depiction of Muslims as a prosecuted and vulnerable group, and make Muslims worldwide feel estranged and unjustly treated. By doing this the Islamic State makes itself even more alluring, and this then fuels the fire of islamophobia. As attacks like the one in Paris nourish islamophobic elements, this in turn fuels groups like the Islamic State, which in turn wrongfully confirms islamophobic conceptions. This means that, while opposing each other, the Islamists and the islamophobics derive their legitimacy and fuel from one another.
Brutal and dictatorial regimes are one of the most prominent actors in the line of cronies that are going to benefit from post Paris. The need for greater security in Europe after Paris, or at least the perception for that need, will be met by authoritarian dictators in foreign lands outside of it, an all too familiar pattern. In exchange for funding, arming and political support to enhance their power, the dictators will promise to suppress extremists and terrorists organisations in their country. This exchange will probably also involve lucrative kleptocratic contracts concerning the countries’ resources. The corruption, segregation and clientelism that so often characterizes these dictatorships, and the brutality with which they will try to eradicate extremists and any other dissident, will then give extremists access to recruitment bases that they could only have dreamed of. An example of this is Al-Sisi’s regime in Egypt, which has cracked down on everyone from democracy activists to extremists, and driven an extremely brutal military campaign in the Sinai Peninsula in a bid to eradicate extremists there, while simultaneously in November also being welcomed on a state visit to the UK. Finally yet importantly, also the sensational and fearmongering media are not missing the chance to cash in on the Paris Attacks, and especially the debate climate that followed them. Through their reporting, the media are exploiting people’s fears and prejudices, and amplify them to increase their own revenues. A prime example of this was the focus on which connections the Paris attackers could have to the refuge influx into Europe, like the topic of a Syrian passport found on the scene of one of the suicide bombings that was vividly reported.
Moving on to the losers now. The most direct and obvious casualties of this and other terrorist attacks are the victims and their families. 130 people are never again going to walk this earth, and their families are never going to see them again. The direct human loss and suffering of the Paris attacks and others like it are enormous. On a larger scale some of the most obvious losers of post Paris, as in all other attacks carried out by Islamists extremist, are once again the Muslim communities in Europe. They wrongfully get accused of being terrorists compliances, and can only watch as islamophobists become fuelled by attacks like the one in Paris. Another group belonging to those indirectly and negatively affected are the refuges that are heading to Europe. The already perilous and dangerous journey is not going to be made easier by the fact that the response to the attacks is to close the continent’s gates even tighter, with countries like Poland right out refusing to take any refuges as an outspoken response to the attacks, and to hire entire nations like Turkey as borders guards. The popular opinion towards refugees has also taken a beating, with anti-immigrant voices exploiting the attacks characteristics to fuel hatred and intolerance. On an even grander scale ideals such as openness and democracy are going to take a heavy toll. As a response to the attacks, it is often argued that for us to be secure we must ease up on civil liberties and openness, and give our concession to militarization and surveillance. This is mainly a result of the popular conception that total freedom and total security are not compatible, a conception that could not be more wrong. Only ideals like democracy and private integrity can secure an equal and just, and therefore secure, society and world.
In short, the losers are going to be voiceless and powerless people, as well as the fragile and hard fought for ideals, and the winners, as always, are going to be the perpetrators, the powerful and strong, and dangerous populist ideals. Through their actions, the Islamists and conservative islamophobists confirm each other’s world views and therefore empowers one another, no matter if they like it or not, and when innocent people like refugees get crushed and hurdled in between them they become even stronger. Meanwhile in the background corporate media, dictatorships, and the security industry is conveniently ready to profit from the same prejudices and populists conceptions on responses and answers to issues and questions like immigration and security that both encourage and are a result of groups like Le Pen and the Islamic State. These conceptions, prejudices, answers and responses are all a threat to the equality, justice and democracy that are the only guarantees for a long-term safe world, and they therefore result in even more insecurity and reinvents themselves. This results in an evil circle where the winners of Post-Paris, the influential and powerful, indirectly through their actions empower and long-term secure one another, while they simultaneously benefit from the deprivation of the frail and speechless losers. The pattern of losers and winners then keeps on repeating itself, again and again and again.
Melker Åkerlind is a Swedish student and member of the Swedish Social Democrats, currently studying sociology at the High School of Fredrika Bremer.