Get ready for our already ugly and violent 21st century to be the century of soft targets for terrorists. The number of places where people feel safe will diminish as terrorists pick new venues to increase body counts -- and grab more of that new and mainstream media publicity that helps with recruitment.
What humanity is seeing now is yet another shift in how people kill people. During World War I, new technology changed the way warfare was waged. The 20th century later gifted humanity history's most inhuman, evil and powerful madman: Nazi Germany's Adolf Hitler. Hijackings and terrorism blossomed in the 1960s. In following decades, so did serial killer killings, school shootings, mass murders and the rise of that religious terrorism so hypocritically excused and enabled by some.
Then came 9/11, a financially costly terrorist operation that expertly exploited American airport and airplane security vulnerabilities to use passenger-crammed airlines as missiles in an operation designed to maximize the kills. "Greatest Generation" World War II veterans such my father, Richard Gandelman, who thought they had buried barbaric mass brutality with Hitler's death, were shocked by 9/11.
Enter ISIL, the world's largest producers of snuff films, urging its true believers to kill Americans and other enemies wherever they see them. Those are the softest of soft targets.
And the attention is turning to soft targets.
In Sydney, Australia, "Islamist" terrorist Man Haron Monis, who was well-known to authorities there, chose the Lindt Cafe as his target for a 16-hour December siege that ended in the death of two hostages and Monis himself. Sydney brought back (bad) memories of the 2008 Mumbai, India, massacre on several "soft targets" including a mall, cafe, hospital and a Jewish Chabad house -- ending in 164 dead.
The world had barely absorbed Sydney's finale when the shocking and sickening news broke that six heavily armed Taliban militants wearing suicide vests murdered 133 school children 12-years-old and older at the Army Public School in Peshawar, Pakistan. And so the Taliban continued its tradition of killing or trying to kill kids. Some warped minds still consider them "brave" warriors.
Look for the Taliban and other terrorist groups to strike at more soft targets in Pakistan, because the country carved out of India is like a ripe apple ready to be harvested. The forbidden fruit is Pakistan's nuclear program. If ISIL is cutting off the heads of journalists, businessmen, women and children, and if the Taliban is routinely murdering kids, exactly what do you think they'll do if they acquire a nuclear weapon?
Just as hell will be the final limit for those who mercilessly murder kids, the sky is the limit when it comes to massacring people in free and even not-so-free societies. First, merely pick a place where people congregate, feel relaxed about where they are or where their loved ones are. Second, send in or manipulate some l-o-s-e-r who thinks killing others and himself is a virtue and -- voila -- there you have it. The headlines. The shock. The cost for the murderers' bosses is low. The publicity over the outrage is big.
The list of possibilities of soft targets is seemingly endless: preschools, malls, churches, synagogues, fairs, festivals, sporting events, swap meets, conventions, rock concerts.
Everyone these days talks about "trending" on the Internet. So how is humanity "trending" so far in the 21st century?
Not well at all.
Just as some websites are dominated by boorish, hyper partisan "trolls" who name call and push free speech to the limit of slander in their clamor to get noticed, we now have news cycles dominated by bloodthirsty terrorist and wannabe terrorist "trolls" who clamor to be feared, and exploit state-of-the-art social media technology to spread their message and their branding of brutality.
They mercilessly and sadistically butcher their enemies, inflict maximum damage, and exterminate the opposition -- which actually helps them sign up more recruits -- who think it's cool.
Somewhere down there where it's very hot, Adolf must be smiling.
Joe Gandelman is a veteran journalist who wrote for newspapers overseas and in the United States.