Thursday, April 06, 2006

What Is Terrorism?

"Terrorism is contempt for human dignity." ~ Kjell Magne Bondevik

Comments on my last post indicate some confusion about what terrorism really is. Allow me to clarify.

As I have stated, Webster's dictionary defines terrorism as "the systematic use of terror especially as a means of coercion". I believe there are things other than death and destruction that cause terror.

Some people apparently think of images of aircraft being flown into office Buildings when they think of the word, "terrorism", and certainly, that is indeed an act of terrorism. Terrorism is also car bombs and exploding subways.

But I submit that is a rather narrow view of what constitutes terrorism. Dam Trabue says, "What a strange little world you live in". I think the problem Dan has is that his world is the little one, where terrorism is only defined by explosions and death.

That is not the only terrorism.

My idea of terrorism is much more expansive. I submit there are many levels and kinds of terrorism, not limited to only killing and maiming.

To the grammar school child who is chased home by a gang of bullies. That is terrorism.

To the woman in an office whose boss insists she "service" him or be fired. That is terrorism.

To the teenage girl whose date stops the car on an abandoned road in the country and demands she "put out" or walk home. That is terrorism.

To the black man who is surrounded by a group of skinheads and told to do something humiliating or die. That is terrorism.

To the Jew enduring Neo-Nazis parading down the street in his hometown, and hearing the shouts of anti-Semitic platitudes. That is terrorism.

To the Christian who has been jailed and threatened with the possibility of execution because he refuses to convert to Islam. That is terrorism.

To the innocent journalist or maintenance worker, or contractor employee or Christian Missionary kidnapped by Jihadists in Iraq and Afghanistan knowing that it is entirely possible that he won't make it out alive. That is terrorism.

To a homosexual who is attacked, intimidated, and beaten, only because he is gay. That is terrorism.

To the child who cowers under the blankets because he knows his dad is drunk again and will probably be coming in to take his rage out on his progeny. That is terrorism.

To that same child's mother, who also is cowering in fear of an out of control husband. That is terrorism.

To the nephew or niece, who has tried to tell Mommy that Uncle Herbie hurts them when he touches them that way, but is ignored. That is terrorism.

To an American servicemen who steps off the plane in his hometown after serving his country and is harassed and called a terrorist and baby killer by the same people who's freedom he fought and risked his life for. And assuming he has only that to look forward to for the rest of his life. That is terrorism.

To the police officer who simply does his job, and is rewarded for his efforts by being accused by the criminal he arrested of arresting her because he is racist, which threatens to destroy his entire career. That is terrorism.

There is psychological terrorism and physical terrorism. Literal terrorism and figurative terrorism.

For most of us, just the threat of losing our jobs is akin to psychological terrorism. For others, threat of being hurt, physically, or emotionally, or psychologically, can be just as terrifying as losing his life.

Go back and peruse photos of the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon on September 11, 2001. Look at the faces on those New Yorkers who were fleeing the clouds of dust and ashes that were rolling through the streets of Manhattan. Quite likely, many of those people making their escape had not seen a single person die in those attacks. And yet they were terrified. The terror was etched into their faces.

The effectiveness of terrorism lies in the emotions evoked in the immediate aftermath of the attack. Death does not have to be present to terrorize someone.

When Cynthia McKinney and her attorneys attempt to defend the indefensible by accusing the accuser and, in so doing, threatens to take away his livelihood, that he most likely trained for months to attain, it is indeed a form of psychological terrorism. She intends to use the terror she instilled in him to coerce from him a faulty memory, or an admission of guilt, or the withdrawal of charges.

That is terrorism.


Dan Trabue said...

Oh, I fully understand the desire to label things terrorism that aren't normally called terrorism.

For the Iraqi children whose parents were blown up in front of them due to no fault of their own, this is terrorism.

I can play that game, too. And we're not in disagreement on most of your examples.

What isn't terrorism is being accused of something. As I said, it may be wrong, it may be destructive, but it is not terrorism.

If you wish to define terrorism down to that, then y'all have committed terrorism against me, with each time you've pegged me with a label (socialist, communist, coward, hater of the military or our country, etc).

Do you really want to include those who level possibly wrong charges as terrorists? (I can't remember if this applies to you in particular, Mark - but it certainl does to many of your comrades.)

Mark said...

"What isn't terrorism is being accused of something. As I said, it may be wrong, it may be destructive, but it is not terrorism."

Ah, But Dan, you left out the other half of the equation, Dan, and that's what makes all the difference. Did you ever have a job that you hoped would be your career threatened?

If, by accusing someone who is only doing his job, of racism, it creates a climate of fear. Fear of possibly having your reputation besmirched for the rest of your life, and ruination of the career you were counting on.

Is it as bad as blowing up children? No. But I have known people who place a lot of importance on their careers. Why some people even go to dozens of years of schooling to attain a certain career.

Do you think if those people were told that they would lose that job they worked so hard to get and keep just because someone hanged a false label on them, that they wouldn't experience some degree of apprehension and fear?

That, my friend, is terrorism.

timothy said...

Mark, and Dan,
I think terrorism should be defined somewhere between your two positions. But... taking the position of a moderate, I'm not really comfortable in explaining it... which is the perfert way to handle a position of moderation. :)

Seriously, I don't think terrorism should be defined so loosely. The threat to lose my job because I've been labeled a racist and having a car blow me up seem a bit different. One might be cutlural persecution, where the other clearly is terror-ism. One is an inconvenience and a trial, the other is life changing, if not life ending. So I would propose a tighter definition for the word. Those other instances are trial, suffering, persecution, inconveniences, etc... They are all unpleasant, but the degree of unpleasantness varies from instance to instance. Terrorism, I believe, should consider that which induces true terror. Bombs do that. Accusations do not.

Hope that helps.

old soldier said...

Mark, I understand the point you are trying to make, but IMHO playing the race card does not qualify as an act of terrorism. To me terror is an intense or overwhelming fear predicated upon violence or the threat of violence. When you disconnect fear and violence you enter into intimidation, apprehension, discomfort, anxiety, paranoia, etc. The threat of losing a job by false accusation of racism does not invoke the same level of intense or overwhelming fear that violence or the threat of violence does.

FrenziedFeline said...

Oh brother. It seems to me that one's definition of terror is an individual thing. True, we usually use the word to describe events like 9-11, but it can't be pigeon-holed so simply.

Looking up the root word "terror," rather than "terrorism" gives us several possibilities as the definition, including, "a cause of anxiety : WORRY : an appalling person or thing." It doesn't say it has to be a certain level of anxiety, and I'd certainly call Cynthia McKinney an appalling person. Who knows, maybe that capitol police officer is suffering from anxiety now, which would be suffering from terror, which would be caused by terrorism.

Mark can think it's whatever he wants to think it is. Just because someone doesn't agree with him doesn't mean he's wrong.


Dan Trabue said...

Cultural persecution, I'll buy (in those cases where someone is being falsely accused of racism - not in cases where racism actually happens and someone is accused).

Dan Trabue said...

"Mark can think it's whatever he wants to think it is. Just because someone doesn't agree with him doesn't mean he's wrong."

No, no, no. Words have meanings!

Perhaps this is a bigger issue with those who tend towards the Right than I thought. That would explain the constant misuse of the words/concepts communism/ist and socialism/ist. That would explain how someone who disagrees with you is "un-American."

Words have meanings - we can't randomly assign meanings to words and expect to be able to communicate in a civilized society. That's part of why and how Bush and his ilk (and Clinton and his ilk) have so successfully manipulated folk in to accepting their leadership - just call a political foe a "commie" or a "terrorist" and everyone will fall in line.


I'd like to say thanks to Timothy and Old Soldier for at least sticking to real meanings, at least on the word, terrorism.

Mary said...

It seems to me that a lot of things could be correctly labeled as terrorism.

Individuals are terrorized by other individuals.

Then, we have groups of individuals organized to threaten entire nations.

What is shared in all cases is the intent to harm and coerce through violent and extreme means, whether physical or psychological.

Bombs certainly aren't necessary to induce terror.

I think it helps to think of terror as a verb rather than a noun when struggling to find its definition.

The act of terrorizing is concrete and more readily identifiable, whereas terrorism as a thing is a bit more abstract.

Terrorizing, terrorism -- whatever, it's bad.

Goat said...

Mark,you may be crossing terrorism with scare mongering. I am far less bothered by the thought of being labeled a racist,islamaphobe, homophobe or whatever than being blown up grocery shopping or waiting for employment.I agree with Pastor Tim, it falls somewhere along the lines of continual violence and proximity.

Little Miss Chatterbox said...

Yah, I see where you are coming from but I can't make the leap to calling it terrorism.

Terrorism has the word terror in it because thats what it causes. To me terror is a strong word.

I think what McKinney did was despicable but I think you need a different word.

Mark said...

Yes, Dan, words do have meaning. I'm glad you brought that up. For instance, calling the NSA's terrorism surveillance program, "domestic wiretapping". It is not, nor has it ever been "domestic".

Or calling illegal aliens "immigrants" which carries the connotation that these people are law abiding citizens with all the rights accorded to actual American citizens, when they are law breakers, and as such, deserve no such rights.

I can go on and on discussing how Liberals have twisted the meanings of words to advance their agenda, but I think you get my point.

Dan Trabue said...

So, we'll agree to stick to the meanings of words, then? No more calling non-domestic wiretapping "domestic" (if, indeed, that is the case) and no more calling Democrats "socialists" until such time as they are advocating state-ownership of everything?

If they advocate a state-run medical plan, feel free to call it socialized medicine (although, even then, I don't believe they're not really advocating the state "own" all the medical centers as far as I have heard) - but that still doesn't make them socialists.

Likewise for "terrorism" - if it is true that Ms. McKinney has wrongly defamed a man, feel free to call it cultural persecution - not terrorism.

As to immigrants, the dictionary defines it: A person who leaves one country to settle permanently in another - so I reckon it depends upon their intentions as to whether or not they're immigrants, but it seems that at least sometimes both "immigrants" and "illegal aliens" are apt definitions.

Erudite Redneck said...

I get it now! "Terrorism" is anything that makes one uncomfortable!

Pif. Fle. :-)