Indonesia’s Small Acts of Defiance Can be Big Blow for IS

Dita Alangkara/AP
Dita Alangkara/AP

by: Harry Febrian

this article was first published in The Jakarta Post

Everybody was shocked by the attack in Jakarta on Jan. 14 that resulted in the deaths of eight people, including the alleged perpetrators, and dozens injured. Suddenly, Jakarta became the center of the world’s attention.

Terrorism is complicated and sometimes hard to define. Jeffrey D. Simon (1994), for example, reports that at least 212 different definitions of terrorism exist across the world. But from all the hustle and bustle of hundreds of definitions, researchers Alex Schmid and Albert Jungian from the University of Leiden found that “causing fear” is a concept that appears in 51 percent as the main component of terrorism.

As the tragedy was unfolding, emotional messages poured out through social media. People were angry, sad and shocked. But if fear was what the terrorists hoped to inflict, they failed.

Within hours, people took back social media in an act of defiance. People showed solidarity through hashtags, tweets, statuses and even memes. Jokes were exchanged, shared and reshared. Instead of talking about the terrorists, people discussed ordinary people: a satay seller who calmly grilled his wares near the crime scene, police personnel and their good looks, people taking selfies near the blast debris and much more. Some even took to Instagram, selling shoes similar to the ones worn by pictured police officers.

People have hailed this as an example of Indonesian resilience in the midst of terror. For some, this might be analyzed not as an act of bravery, but ignorance. The pessimism, of course, has a legitimate standing. But to see it in another perspective, especially from the Islamic State (IS) movement, which claimed responsibility for the attack, these trivial things can deal a huge blow to their plans to expand their network in Indonesia.

To understand this, we must go back to the beginning of IS. In 2014, the term “femtorisk” was coined by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science of the United States of America (PNAS). From the word “femto”, a prefix meaning one-quadrillionth, the term is used to refer “a numerically small phenomenon capable of exerting an outsized impact on global politics”.

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