I have a setup for a game project I've been working on for some time, but one of the key parts of the story line was recently disputed, so I thought I'd bring it up here.

We have a non-governmental organization, but that is funded by the government, that exploits loopholes in laws to "legally" sell folks into slavery. A group of people, (probably taggers with way to much time on their hands) bomb the NGO's organization.

How would the public respond?

  • 6
    $\begingroup$ Since it's relevant here, the 13th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution allows slavery. $\endgroup$
    – Frostfyre
    Jun 18, 2015 at 3:54
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ An NGO, paid for by the government?? Should we just say, "a governmental organization."? $\endgroup$
    – Mikey
    Jun 20, 2015 at 20:26
  • $\begingroup$ Government sponsored, but not actively a gov. org. $\endgroup$
    – ruckus
    Jun 21, 2015 at 19:09

4 Answers 4


This setup is kinda weird and needs some more fleshing out. A lot of how people would react depends on the details of how this is happening. Simply saying there are "loopholes in laws" won't cut it - if today someone clever figured out how to "legally" sell people into slavery thanks to some loopholes, you can bet that legislation would make it through the government in record time to close those loopholes. No politician would dare oppose or even delay that legislation as it would be political suicide to do so. Even the normal riders and amendments that get added to bills would be absent as anyone adding those could easily be seen as trying to delay the legislation.

So in order for this to actually happen, either the population cannot stop it through normal means, or a significant number of people accept slavery. Let's look at each of these two cases:

Lack of power:

The people are living under a dictatorship/totalitarian government/whatever, or the 1% have figured out how to completely exclude the lower classes from political power, or perhaps the Illuminati have grown bold enough to seize control to a degree that they reveal their existence. Legal slavery is unlikely to be their only complaint - if the ruling class can get away with that, then they have strong control over the population.

People will secretly be happy that the bombing happened, but you would not be able to tell that from looking at them. Fear of reprisal would be high - if a picture of someone celebrating the bombing (even in private) got out, the ruling class would use it as an excuse to declare them a co-conspirator of the bombers. That unlucky individual could expect to be jailed, tortured, given to the slavers, disappeared, or even publicly executed (depending on which ruling class you have).

There are unfortunately plenty of modern examples of societies living under horrible, repressive governments, so you can read more about them if you want to get more ideas about the setting and what the repressed people think.

Acceptance of slavery:

I believe this scenario is more likely. Because slavery is not universally acknowledged as being a bad thing, politicians aren't committing political suicide by not closing the loopholes. If it is like the United States in the early 1800's, then you're going to have the kind of tension there was then. The areas that oppose slavery will cheer the bombers, while the areas supporting slavery will treat it as a vile act of terrorism.

If you don't want the setting to be moving towards a civil war, you need the people for and against it to be much more mixed. There can be some communities that are primarily for or against, but they should not be too large. Slavery for economic reasons probably won't work, but having cultural reasons for it could.

In this more mixed case, the reactions will be similar to when people have bombed abortion clinics. Those who support it will view it as a horrible thing. Those who are against it will be split between those who view it as a bad thing because it is too extreme, and those who believe that slavery is bad enough that eliminating it justifies more extreme means.


I'm assuming that you're talking about the kind of slavery that people of African descent were being put into in the past. People going to prison can be viewed as a form of slavery, but someone bombing a prison is not going to get very many people cheering about it.

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ "V for Vendetta" is probably an interesting example to illustrate your "lack of power" part... $\endgroup$ Jun 18, 2015 at 8:32
  • $\begingroup$ If you take a look at some of the laws in existence, and the kind of statements politicians (and others) can get away with, i doubt your first paragraph is in any way robust. Just suggest to the not-yet-enslaved that they were somehow superior, that the enslaved deserved it, and you can be sure you can get away with such an idea. $\endgroup$
    – Burki
    Jun 18, 2015 at 10:53

The public response depends on the targeting the group uses. That in turn depends on the response they want. As such the response to a bombing campaign defaults to "whatever the group doing it wants". How close the reality comes depends on the relative competence of the group and the government managing the issue.

For example most strikes at western targets by Islamic militants have the simple aim of making the group look like "the real deal" so that discontent youth will join the group instead of a competing group or getting a job and family. So the goal is really to get some president or prime minister on television to tell in emotional voice what "evil people and a serious problem" these people are. So the goal is to create an incident that the government must respond to decisively (read: without coherent containment strategy). High death toll of unrelated people, targets of high visibility, multiple simultaneous strikes... All geared to create a strong government response that legitimises your propaganda.

Sometimes the group wants publicity to a specific issue without creating negative opinion. In such cases you attack targets that many people have connection to and might create a high death toll (it could have been me...), but actually try to avoid casualties by timing or warning authorities in advance. This keeps your issue in peoples minds and creates pressure on the government to find a solution.

Some groups wish to stop some specific thing from happening. In such cases targeted attacks on people directly involved are used to create a suppressing effect. The canonical example is various resistance movements targeting collaborators to prevent the occupying force from gaining control of the area. Religious movements attacking doctors, journalists, religious minorities, or schools also happens a lot. The goal is simply to make it harder to find the people who will do the thing you want to stop. In such case, the public response is rarely a serious consideration apart from trying to avoid collateral damage that might create useless complications.

Another possible approach to stopping a specific commercial activity is to make it economically impractical by committing attacks that cause increased costs. This can be either targeted at the specifics of the activity, say destroying data used in breeding programs or disrupting a test program so that it has to be restarted to get valid results, or a generic "cause damage and insurance costs will go up." A group like this can claim to be totally non-violent and make an effort to avoid collateral damage.

So, to get back to the actual question. Your group will pick its tactics based on the specifics of the situation and the public response will follow from those tactics.

If slave trade is almost entirely driven by business interest, the economic approach will work and attacks will be targeted at businesses using slave labor and the traders themselves.

If the traders are a small but influential minority, direct attacks on the people involved might be valid choice.

If slavery is seen as a political issue, attacks might aim to gain publicity and create political pressure to find a solution.

If slavery has religious or ethnic dimension, the focus might be in gaining influence among your people, not with the public.

Note that the correct choice is a value judgement the group makes based on the priorities of the people involved. So not just the circumstances of the issue, but also the people involved matter. There might be multiple groups adopting different approaches and fighting each other. The approaches groups adapt will also evolve over time.

Hope this vastly simplified and approximate answer gives some guidance on planning your group and at least makes clear that there is no single correct way.

The key point is this: The strategy follows the desired response.


The way the public will respond depends on a lot of factors.
Since the organisation you describe has massive government support, you can be absolutely sure that there will be enormous amounts of propaganda to condemn the bomber.
That should be fairly easy, too, not only because killing people simply is not very nice. If it was my organisation, I would present the public with pictures of a sweet young secretary who was killed in the bombing, and her two sweet children, crying their eyes out over the loss of their beloved mother, and I could be sure to instantly have some 70-90% of public opinion on my side.
The interesting bit is: even if after a week or so someone leaked the fact that I completely made up the story, I would still have lots of sympathy on my side.

Take a look at how easily you can run around in our time and world getting people to cheer on other people who shoot and bomb a third party, as long as beforehand I made people believe that those people shot and bombed were the bad ones and had nothing to do with me.

So, to sum it up: your bomber will get some sympathy, but not much will be expressed openly. The majority will just support the established system, completely ignoring the negative consequences that has for them.


It always depends on their propaganda. Many of the suicide bombers in the middle east ARE considered martyrs and are praised. They believe they are fighting for 'their' people and many of 'their' people condone their activities. The targets of course consider them murdering brainwashed idiots doing the bidding of power hungry terrorists.

So would bombing a slaving company be seen as an 'acceptable' thing by many? It really depends first and foremost what the general consensus of slavery is and how the company in particular is viewed.

There are different kinds of slavery, and different ways to find yourself in it. Chattel slavery like what was practiced in the south, by buying captured people and owning them outright without any rights or protections except given to them by their masters is the one we generally think of here in the US.

But what if slavery happened because you owed a debt. Maybe you got yourself so in debt you had to sell yourself to pay it off? The expectation would be that you COULD pay it off. In the middle east long ago, every 7 years the slaves acquired in this way were freed (or had the option to be free). Or it could be a debt to society, you murdered someone and thus lost your freedom and have to work to (maybe) gain it back. The crime determining how long it might be.

If the Slavers were doing a community service by selling criminals, then someone bombing them might be considered a criminal them selves, if they were indiscriminately kidnapping people they thought wouldn't be missed and putting them up for sale, it would be considered a heroic to attack them. Actually it would depend more on how they are viewed, one way or the other, more than which they ACTUALLY did, that would affect the reactions to their bombing.


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