Super Heroes

Children, Superheroes and

the Death of Extremism

(an Institutionalist Labour Analysis)



So, ladies and gentlemen, we have the biggest threat today in the Middle East, and that is terrorism disguised as heroism (Bakhit)

Author: Marisa Elias
November 15, 2014

The rise of terrorism during the last two decades, particularly in the Middle East, makes one wonder how extremist groups gained such momentum.  Suleiman Bakhit, Jordanian comic book artist has explored the rise and proliferation of terrorism in the aftermath of 9/11. Recognizing the importance of children in the growth and development of beliefs, Bakhit visited a low-income Jordanian school. He asked the children, Who are your heroes? There was no answer. The children didnt have heroes, at least, not in the traditional sense; they knew no Odysseus, no Superman. Instead, they admired Bin Laden and Zarqawi.  They admired colourfully painted terrorist exploits, stories woven to mimic the classic hero. These stories use the concept of takfir, or formal Islamic excommunication, to justify killing innocent people targeted as either hypocritical believers or infidel invaders. The children idolized destructive heroes, with tendencies of promising victory through fear and death, because these ideals were the only institution they knew. And so these children would become the next generation of Hamas or Al Qaeda.

The appeal of terrorist activities has spread beyond the classroom to an international level. Extremist organisations have an unhindered labour supply, filtering through a biased educational system often run by local terrorist sects. Gradually (or quickly, as the rise of ISIS has shown) the terrorist labour force unhindered by self-preservation and motivated purely by the utility has expanded, reaching more and more areas and thereby recruiting more and more members. Veblen , the main economist behind Institutionalist thought, has argued that people emulate the more respected members of their socio-economic class in order to attain a greater status within that social group. Terrorist groups become increasingly violent and prominent as newer, lower class members seek to impress the longstanding, respected leaders and as they seek to live up to the ideals of their heroe s. Having a blindly willing labour force boosts terrorist group productivity, and the success of its internal organisation has brought its ideals the world stage. As productivity and notoriety rise, so does revenue, from both internal and external sources. Profit, here both literal currency and figurative expansion of terrorist influence, also grows. Influencing the beliefs of children, through something as simple as limiting their choice of hero, creates an irreplaceable, devoted workforce, dedicated to one cause, regardless of the consequences.

But without a willing and able labour force, terrorist organisations will not be able to generate the revenue needed to fund their networks, nor possess the manpower needed to reach low income, geographically distant areas. They will not hold numerous large events. They will be limited monetarily and unable to continuously instigate violence. They will not be able to reach low-income neighbourhoods and their stories will cease to be a central part of the educational system. Children are the economic foundation for the future; their wants, ideals and growing knowledge drives technological growth, resource distribution and economic policies. So stop the generational spread. Stop extremist growth by destroying its institutions. Make the destructive hero only one version of a hero.



Suleiman Bakhits presentation at OFF, found at



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