I first discovered this during the Iraq war starting around 8-10 years ago. The forerunner of ISIS, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s al-Qaida in Iraq, never had to go all out against their American enemies: One attack every few days would keep the news cycle forever buzzing. By the time the story was ready to go to an inner page, there would be a new improvised explosive device (IED) that caused American casualties, and the fearmongering would start up again at full volume.
The bombing in Jakarta was, I really believe, such an incident. Of the seven deaths, five were up the suicide bombers themselves, so the butcher’s bill was negligible. Or it could be as little as the guy in France who attacked a police station with a meat cleaver, only to be met by a hail of bullets from the flics.
Key to this strategy is (1) maintaining a high level of fear (and ISIS knows that Americans are a bunch of scaredy cats) and (2) repeat every couple of days, preferably in a new part of the world. Next time, maybe Iceland or Paraguay or Bermuda. Make people think the ISIS baddies are everywhere and all-powerful. That serves as a potent recruiting aid to bring in new fighters and their molls, especially since there are so many millions of young suburbanites around the world who have little or no moral compass.
I think the best way to combat this strategy is to steer clear of the news: Don’t let it control your life. And feel free to sneer.