Carlos the Jackal, Old School Terrorist
December 21, 2011 Leave a comment
It’s hard for me to think of cold war terrorists without thinking of either James Bond villains or the novels of Frederick Forsyth. As a child, I read The Day of the Jackal around when Carlos the Jackal was in the news and I figured the novel was a coded re-telling of his exploits.
According to The Guardian, it was the other way around. One of their reporters, Peter Niesewant,
spied a copy of Frederick Forsyth’s novel The Day Of The Jackal on a bookshelf, and concluded that Carlos had been reading it. The next day, in its front-page world scoop, the Guardian christened Carlos “The Jackal”. The rest is history. Except the book didn’t belong to Carlos at all; it belonged to Woodhams. Carlos The Jackal had probably never even read the book he was named after.
The nickname stuck so closely that an article in The Telegraph, announcing new convictions last week for Carlos Not Really The Jackal, never mentions his actual name, Illich Ramirez Sánchez. The omission is a testament to how much the myth is entwined with this man. Then, as now, our labeling of terrorists was a creative process.