Raising a finger at terrorism

Today in Sao Paulo, the F1 world is subdued. The events in Paris overshadow everything. Some are sensitive to these things, some are not. The very real humanity that exists in F1 can be seen in little things: a caring touch of an arm, a word of support, a tweet to the fans. They are gestures of support for the people of Paris, the French in general.

It is absolutely not the time for people to try to use what has happened for their own political agendas. Jean Todt’s remark: “do you realise that the number of people killed in road accidents is by far bigger than the number of people who died in Paris yesterday” may be true, but it is completely the wrong thing to say. It would have been far wiser for the FIA President to have shown some compassion and to have sent a message of support to those who have lost their loved ones. That would have been so much more appropriate.

In September 2001, I wrote the following column and the thoughts expressed in it remain just as valid today, as they were at the time.

En route to Indianapolis I usually spend a day or two in New York. It is a great city and I have loved it ever since my first visit. The tickets were booked some time ago and to change them would have upset the ever-patient folk who organise my life for me. Besides I wanted to go. Let us be honest, when something happens every one wants to have a peek and in this respect I am no different. No, I am not planning to go downtown and gawp at the mountains of rubble that was once the World Trade Center but I wanted to see what New York looked like without the twin towers and how the people are coping with what happened. One thinks of New Yorkers as the hardiest of all humans, willing to put up with a lot, but what has happened in recent days is in many ways beyond comprehension. Flying the Atlantic at the moment is like air travel used to be 15 years ago. The flights are empty. The stewardesses have time to be charming and the pilots are all doing their best Chuck Yeager impersonations, trying to sound reassuring but there are no inflight magazines (pictures of the World Trade Center towers were judged to be in bad taste) and the knives and forks are all plastic, just to remind one that the world has changed in the last two weeks. Getting through all the security checks is a long and tiresome process, but there is some faint reassurance in the fact that no matter what happens in the world the US Immigration officials at Newark Airport are still able to be obnoxious.

And then it was out into the real world, heading downtown in a yellow cab and seeing the signs of what has happened – not least the skyline of lower Manhattan. It is somehow disquieting without the twin towers. Everywhere there are flags and passionate patriotic messages. The terrorists have woken up the sleeping giant that is America and they will come to regret it – as the Japanese did more than half a century ago. Then there was an enemy to attack. Nowadays it is a little bit different. Today we do not have to get into uniforms and go off to fight (and there is a lot to be said for that) but we can all fight in a different way. And, oddly enough, going motor racing is as good a way to fight as any other.

At such times the idea of going motor racing may seem to some to be an obscene thing to be doing, but I do not agree. Normality is the only way to beat the people who attacked New York. It is the way to show them that their evil schemes will not derail the world. New York may be hurting, but it will rise again. That message comes across loud and clear when you are down there on the street. There will be victims. Victims of a different sort to those still buried in the rubble. Businesses are going to go under, people are going to lose their jobs. Everyone is worried. Hotels report that occupancy is down to 20% from the usual 80% and it is beginning to hurt. But the wounds will heal. Some of the vigour of this great city may seem to be gone for the moment but go down to the electronic shops and you soon find that the salesmen are as pushy and as silver-tongued as ever they were.

After a few hours in the city I realised the way to help, to do my duty for mankind if you like, was to go shopping. To pump some money into the local economy; to show people that I am going to be normal and I have been doing it with that most powerful of all weapons, the good old fashioned American dollar.

There are some who would say that the Americans should be left to get on with it by themselves, but that is to forget an important aspect of what happened on September 11. The attack not only stands as the worst terrorist attack of all time but it is not just the Americans who have suffered. It is the worst terrorist outrage in British history as well. More than two hundred British people died in the World Trade Center. And it was the same for the French. And the Indians and the Japanese.

That is why I feel strongly and why I think that people should not turn their backs on the United States Grand Prix at Indianapolis. I think the Americans should turn up in their thousands, in their tens of thousands and wave their flags, watch the race, have a good time and raise a metaphorical finger at those who attacked their country. I have no idea if they get F1 coverage in the hills of Afghanistan. But I hope so…

Fourteen years later, the message is unchanged. We must grieve for the victims and their families, but at the same time we must carry on as normal and not let murderers change the way we live. I am telling the world about racing cars. If we all live as normal, the murderers in Paris have died in vain and their cause (whatever it may be) has no meaning and no value.

68 thoughts on “Raising a finger at terrorism

  1. Well said, Joe. I fully agree. We must feel for those lost and those grieving and provide any support we can, but we must also continue to follow our passions and not let terrorist behaviour affect our own. May further such atrocities not follow.

  2. Jean Todt had self anointed himself as being a complete and utter idiot buffoon . He should be driving a garbage truck, not running the FIA.

    1. He should be redefining how to safely drive garbage trucks, idiot. What happened to this guy? A Frenchman attempting to drive his agenda utilizing using these events, too soon, Mr sensitivity. He could not have been such a tool at his time with Ferrari, could he? May a crystal chandelier fall on his head and knock some sense into him at one of his extravagant galas.

      A one fingered salute to these cowards using guns on unarmed civilians, may their crazed followers be reassured that we are going to double down appreciate and celebrate our lives even more. You’re losing and will continue to do so you intolerant twits, in the meantime keep sponging enjoying support benefits, education, healthcare until some crazed older fool convinces you to do something stupid, mindless patsies.

      1. Yes, and I was stunned to see the ‘Wall of Road Car Victims’ or whatever it was poster in front of the drivers during the minute of silence. There was Todt pushing his ‘safety campaign’ agenda in the face of the attack in Paris. Far, far better would have been replacing the sign with something that supported the French. Disgusting and self serving. He needs to go.

  3. Joe, what a great column, I didn’t know of you at the time but the message is timeless and it sucks that it has to be said again. I was a firefighter in NE Florida at the time and in hindsight, I should have made the trip to Indy as an F1 fan….it is what I do. As it turns out, I did not make it to my first F1 race until Indy 2005, but that’s for a different column

  4. I still have not watched the 2001 Italian GP, I wrote a column on updatef1.com when I was in college stating that F1 didn’t matter to me at that time.

  5. Well, that was beautifully done.

    I sometimes think you’re wasted on motorsport. I don’t want you to be deprived of doing what you choose… but I do wish you had a weekly column in which you wrote about whatever crossed your mind.

  6. I booked the weekend of 12th December for a pre-Xmas weekend in Paris months ago. No bunch of murderous thugs, who had nothing to do with Islam and Muslims, will stop me going.

    RIP all those who died in the terrorist attacks yesterday. I hope the injured recover and Paris returns to normal quickly.

  7. Dear Joe,
    Thank you, you see so clearly through the politics and bullsh*t. How Todt can be so insensitive especially as it is his home country involved amazes me. This from someone who we have barely heard from since being elected. “Thanks for the wise words Jean, don’t let the door hit you on the way out” (mind you better the devil you know than the devil you don’t, Mosley doesn’t seem so bad now)
    We must continue on with compassion, strength and love. Terrorists will never win and through history never have.
    Vive la France, the world is with you.

  8. Thanks for this post Joe. Your thoughts helped me with my own as I struggle to understand such a catastrophe as the one that has hit Paris, again.
    I watched Jean Todt on Canal+ this afternoon and was amazed to hear his responses to journalists. It seems to have been prepared and whilst road deaths are also tragic, I agree with you. This wasn’t the time to bang that drum. I’m surprised at his lack of empathy.

  9. Merci Joe

    Well said sir. Living is the greatest honour good people can bestow on the dead.

    Young people of France, young muslims of the world. Look to your soul. No god desires murder. Dont be turned by these butchers.

  10. I don’t understand why his comment was part of a “political agenda”, can you explain? Also, I doubt over 100 people died on the road in Paris on that day too.
    I’m surprised Todt, or anyone in F1, is interested in road-safety – you’d think they’d all be trying to get everyone buying sports cars from the car manufacturers who supply the sport.

  11. Like his buddy Gary Hartstein, Joe takes any opportunity he gets to bash Jean Todt and the FIA. This article shows that bias clearly and says far more about Saward’s motives than it does Todt’s.

    1. I think you need to look at yourself as a human being and wonder if you are not perhaps a sociopath with no compassion for others. There are times and ways of doing things and, in my opinion, JT is doing it all wrong.

    2. Well at least Todt’s message wasn’t lost on you, drive carefully. Don’t let your cheerleading pom poms obscure your vision.

    3. Well, you’re certainly entitled to your opinion. Mine about you after reading your comment is: get on your knees and keep licking Todt’s arse,you seem good at it, and I’m sure it’will greatly improve road safety..

    4. Joe’s motives? Good journalism, and trying to do the best for the sport he loves, and at the same time, showing compassion for other human beings. If those are his motives (and I can see no other in this report) then good for him.

  12. If Todt has been harbouring dreams of getting some kind of major position at the UN, I would image he’s blown it with this dreadful interview. I wonder if Todt was more concerned with avoiding saying something that could upset some of the people who’s votes gave him the Presidency at the FIA

  13. “At such times the idea of going motor racing may seem to some to be an obscene thing to be doing, but I do not agree. Normality is the only way to beat the people who attacked New York. It is the way to show them that their evil schemes will not derail the world. ”

    Still so true.

    So sad for all those who died in that attack.Thanks Joe.

  14. Watching the live news tonight, a day later, the people of Paris are in severe shock, many are hiding at home afraid to go out again. But they must, or else the terrorist will have won.

    We expect an attack in London now, but we have been training for it and have a history of such events.

    I have posted on Caroline Proust’s facebook page with a similar message, she and Audrey are both safe, followers of Engrenages will perhaps see the irony in this.

    Has this affected the Renault engine team I wonder. Vive la France!

    1. Wandering around Paris on Saturday and Sunday was surreal, a sort of ghost town, clean but empty. Normally bustling streets and busy shops were empty, shuttered and dark. Amongst those who did venture out there were a lot of grim faces and alert eyes.

      I can’t be sure of anyone’s thoughts but my own but I can tell you that I spent hours checking every face, sizing up every bag and bulky coat, keeping an eye on each passing car. I was continually trying to keep track of thick walls and other solid objects I could take cover behind if necessary.

      It’s easy to rationalise the danger, to calculate the numbers, to consider the relative risks of being shot to being hit by a car or struck down by a sudden illness. But on a day when reports are still confused, when other attackers might be at large and when news is slowly filtering through that one of your own friends died at the Bataclan; putting the fear out of one’s head entirely is something I learned that I am not capable of doing.

      I couldn’t really tell you why my girlfriend and I still went out into the city on Saturday or Sunday – ostensibly to look for a dress and because we had dinner reservations. Certainly not to show bravery and defy those who wish to scare us. Not to comfort other people nor mourn with them either. Perhaps simply because if you’re not going to go out and live your life then what’s the point having one?

      Despite the fear, the stress and the sheer emotional exhaustion of it, I’m glad we did.

  15. Not having been able to access your column back in 2001 that was a wonderful piece Joe.
    Glad all those you left behind survived yesterdays tragedy.

  16. Todt is a complete tool… how can the President of an International Federation, that is housed in Paris, be so bloody insensitive?
    I am happy my Parisian friends are safe, though they are naturally very anxious about the situation, and happy your friends and family are too, Joe…

  17. We’re not the audience.
    It doesn’t matter if we carry on.

    One thing we should do is make sure we’re oil independent.

  18. The company I worked at, in England, had offices in the World Trade Centre, so it was easy to empathise that distant colleagues, like cousins once removed, in an office very similar to the one I worked in, had gone through that disaster.

  19. Joe, should the head of the FIA really be saying those comments one day after the terrible events in Paris yesterday.

    Now is not the time for cheap political points scoring, but a time for mourning.

  20. Jean Todt’s remark: “do you realise that the number of people killed in road accidents is by far bigger than the number of people who died in Paris yesterday” may be true, but it is completely the wrong thing to say.

    I am not aggressive person, but when I read this, I immediately thought this guy lacks basic elements of empathy and common sense. It kicked me right into my heart… monumentally inappropriate.

  21. At such times the idea of going motor racing may seem to some to be an obscene thing to be doing, but I do not agree. Normality is the only way to beat the people who attacked New York… (Madrid, Paris, London…)


  22. Todt should be banished from any governmental public activities.

    He has always been myopic where his own or his owners (Ferrari) interest lay.

  23. That comment makes JT look like an absolute dolt.

    It’s times like these Ameicans suddenly remember we wouldn’t even exist without France. Hope the feeling of solidarity lasts a while.

  24. As if the Terrorists care if we raise the finger, they achieved their goal of Terrorism, destruction and publicity and the suicide bombers should now be in heaven celebrating their victory with 72 virgins.

    Even the Terrorist sympathisers were out in full force today either explicitly justifying the attack by blaming it on France/NATO foreign policy or saying we cannot feel sorry for Paris attack unless everyone felt sorry for the Middle East or the many so called Moderates who maintained errie silence today.

    You can show a finger to the Terrorists, But they will laugh at you for this useless gesture, Terrorists can be killed but you cannot kill their ideology, it will only be passed on generations over generations.

    1. Terrorism aims to disrupt and terrorise. If you ignore it and go on living in the same way. You have won. It is not a hard concept to grasp

      1. I agree, Joe. The terrorists are may laugh at us, but we are laughing at them more loudly and longer, for the sheer stupidity of their ideology.

    2. I agree with Joe’s point on terrorist activities – they only achieve their goal if the population is cowed into hiding; the short term response in Paris is perhaps tending that way, but it is very short term and soon enough Paris will “return to normal” for most people.

      I disagree with the statement that you cannot kill their ideology – I think you can, by engaging with the very people they are radicalising and having open and honest discussion with them (not point scoring like the politicians will generally try to do). There is an excellent book called “How to talk so that teenagers will listen, how to listen so that teenagers will talk” or similar – that is what’s required to kill the ideology, assuming it deserves to die (I think so, for the avoidance of doubt, but who says I am right!).

      I wonder if the Americans will re-invent the French Fry now …

      Love to all.

    3. The Church of Rome terrorised the whole of Europe for 15 centuries with their ideology. That’s all different now and ‘La Ville Lumierre’ was at the heart of the change.
      I’m sure Paris will shine again.

  25. Thank you for such a moving post. I had not seen your 2001 comments and reading them just then brought a tear to my eye.

    We must keep living, you are right.
    A very simple yet omnipotent ideal that I’m confident the Parisians are already embracing. Thank you for your insight at such times.

  26. Why the pacifist stance? We need proper justice for this horrendous attack and the only way to achieve that is to wage all-out war against ISIS wherever in the world they are and kill every single Allahu-Akbar shouting bastard.

    On the other hand, and maybe it’s too soon for this, but hasn’t France learned anything from the Charlie Hebdo attack? Why haven’t the French intelligence service evicted these people months ago? Why have immigrants from Syria been allowed to flow into the country?

    1. It is not a pacifist stance. It is sensible. Anyone who thinks that killing the other side is the answer to the problems is clearly not a person who has studied history or who understands human nature. You kill someone, you create another generation of enemies.

    2. “All out war” against “these people” is something we USians got conned into doing already… and it just made everything worse.

      Over here, we’re now hearing from Certain Quarters the *exact same things* they told us back then… it’s just aimed at going to war against a slightly different group… it’s just a re-run of a horror show we’ve already seen…

      IMO, what these folks found out explains a lot: http://www.thenation.com/article/what-i-discovered-from-interviewing-isis-prisoners/

  27. Well summed up, Joe.

    As for Todd, if he wants to ‘do’ road safety he can go and join the UN full time. Motosport needs a credible, competent person at the top of the FIA. He’s proved time and again he’s not competent )e.g Trying to reduce F1 to a single spec engine formula on a par with Indycar). His latest (crass and tactless) comments confirm he’s not credible either.

  28. I remember at college we had a guest speaker from CND. He tried to claim you could have prevented WW2 by talking to Hitler. At that point he lost 99% of the audience. Talking is a wonderful ideal, if people want to engage with you. Unfortunately with people who cause the recent events we’ve seen, it’s their way or no way.

  29. (Todt is telling the world about road satety.) If we all live as normal, the murderers in Paris have died in vain and their cause (whatever it may be) has no meaning and no value.

    Well said! A little bit too tough on Todt though.

      1. The hijacking of the minute’s silence had me cringing *before* i learned of this – Todt with placard in the middle, Tricolore with Romain at one end. It sends the wrong message!

  30. Entirely true, Joe. Basic humanity is the only answer to this sort of thing and that means living your life as normally as you can. The wave of support after events like these reminds you of the fact that we are all in this together, whether some people like it or not. We are all humans and these days, we are all Parisians.

    I cannot imagine being in a situation where your home is attacked while you are on the other end of the world, so all strength to you, Joe.

  31. What happened in Paris on Friday was tragedy. I myself have relatives in Paris, they are fine. Any loss of life is a tragedy, even more so when it is someone who was doing nothing wrong, as the people in Paris. But this does not lessen the tragedy which happens everyday on our roads. Those deaths occur with barely a mention in a local news report. I feel that our reaction to terrorism is disproportionate. To run around screaming is to allow the terror to take hold and their aims have succeeded. Getting angry and hitting back, only escalates the violence and increases their anger towards us. Ignoring it completely will surely only increase their boldness to a point that we cannot ignore it like a child. To “carry on as normal” probably doesn’t impact them at all, but is good catharsis for those affected.
    My feeling is that in the mainstream we should mark it and move on, and deal wits it in the background
    anything more is to give it more time than it deserves.
    Should they have carried on with road accident death remembrance? Considering the strength of feeling perhaps not, but to highlight it is certainly important. We cannot ignore the connection between motor racing and those intent on trying to emulate their Heroes in their own cars.

  32. Thank you Joe for a very dignified and poignant article.

    With his churlish display of “it’s my show and not even a terrorist death toll will get in the way of it”, Todt managed to achieve the extraordinary feat of making people resent an event for road accident victims, a cause for which he likes to call himself an ambassador. Some ambassador, eh?

  33. Reflecting on what I’ve just written, it strikes me that nothing more than Todt’s behaviour at the weekend could better demonstrate that his apparent devotion to the cause of road accident victims is self-serving and fake. If he were sincere about road accident victims, he would not be so hell-bent on using them so cynically, to the actual point of being prepared to sully them by association with such an ill-judged and ill-received stunt. (I nearly wrote “PR stunt”, but it was hardly an example of public relations).

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