On becoming a harder target

 

There are many different kinds of threats that can be brought to bear against the cartoonist.  In some cases you will be accused of breaking the law and you will be summoned to go to court to answer charges.  In other cases you might become a political threat to some powerful economic or political interests.  In this case, threats made against you may be outside the law.  In some cases you might be targeted either for harm or even death.  Even if you are a blogger posting cartoons that someone might find offensive, there will be ways for the offended parties to find you and try to harm you or stop your work.

In combination, the strategies in this paper can make you what is known as a hard target.  A hard target is a person who has made it difficult for those who would harm that person.

If you are physically well protected, someone who has been sent to kidnap or otherwise harm you will not be able to find you or they will find no opportunity to gain access to you.   If you belong to a number of professional organizations, the government might think twice about bringing libel charges against you.  If you are already in the good books of some sympathetic religious leaders, religious groups that would want to harm you may stay away from you.  If your blog site or your website is very carefully protected and your identity is impossible to trace, then you have become a hard target.

It is not easy to protect yourself from kidnapping or even an unpleasant encounter with a group of thugs who have been given the assignment to frighten you.   Governments who use thugs to frighten journalists usually use fairly professional thugs.  Normally they know their business of how to get to you better than you know how to protect yourself.  However, if you have had some warning that you have crossed some red lines and your safety might be at risk, then you'll have time to make yourself a harder target.  

Are you a slave to habit?  The newspapers are filled with stories about diplomats, human rights workers,  and journalists who were assassinated just meters from their doorways.  The assassins had secretly watched them for some time and determined exactly when and where an assassination could be accomplished and a successful escape made.  One diplomat was killed because he couldn't change his habits.  He left the office at exactly the same time every day, got into his vehicle to go home and traveled exactly the same route.  He never varied the time he arrived home.   After a period of surveillance the assassins could confidently wait at the nearest street corner, knowing that he would be directly in the sights of their guns at an exact time.  Ninety percent of all successful assassinations and kidnappings of individuals take place within 100 meters of their front door.  This is usually in the morning.  Don't be an easy target if there is any possibility that you could be assassinated or kidnapped.

If you get some sense or even some reports from neighbors that you are being watched or are under surveillance, you must take action to break up your daily routine and the daily routine of your family.  For instance, you may start to leave the house at completely different hours some days of the week, or, work from home.  If you're walking or taking a bus, don't use the same route every day.  If you're driving your own car take different routes to and from your place of work every day.  Make it difficult for anyone watching you to predict where and when you will be at any one time of the day.

Since the advent of the Internet, more cartoonists and journalists are working through websites or blogs.  Almost everyone has a Facebook page these days.  The principles of becoming a hard target are exactly the same for people posting their cartoons and their innermost thoughts and political ideas on social media.  While for some years journalists and cartoonists felt that the anonymity of being on the Internet would protect them, this sense of safety has proven to be an illusion.  Those governments and violent religious groups who cannot stand, and will not tolerate, criticism have become some of the most sophisticated and knowledgeable Internet users in the world.  Some rogue governments pay vast amounts of money to armies of hackers to find and identify critics of their regimes.  If you plan to post photos, cartoons, or politically based comments on your Facebook page that would get you into serious trouble, then you need to disguise your identity on the Internet. Don't post your photo, don't give out any accurate personal information, don't publish any addresses or phone numbers or any other information that can be used to trace your identity or your location.  These precautions must be taken if you're going to be posting any kind of material that any group would use as a justification for violence or legal actions against you.  Become a more difficult target to attack.

 

Summary:

  • If you suspect you may be a target of a physical threat, you must become hyper-aware of your environment at all times.
  • Start changing the routes to and from your home and office, and varying the times that you leave and come home every day.

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