Reading the first chapter of Hoffman’s book Inside Terrorism made me aware of the issue of how to define the terms “terrorist“ and “terrorism”. In my eyes, Hoffman found a nice way to describe the history of the term “terrorism” and how the meaning of the term has changed. After having read the text, I would state the following terms as the some of the key characteristics of terrorism: threat of violence, act of violence, aim to “change ‘the system’ “ (42), political change and the refusal to be bound to rules of warfare (cf. 35).
I agree with the distinction Hoffman made between the term “terror” which means the “internal political violence directed mostly against domestic populations […] [ordered] by those already in power” (23) and “terrorism” which means “the violence committed by non-state entities” (23). However, there are also a few points that I do not fully agree with. As an example, Hoffman claims that a certain kind of self-denial is a characteristic of terrorists. To me, this statement seemed to be too much of a generalization and I do not think that it should and can be applied to all terrorists. The same applies for the argument that “[t]he terrorist will never acknowledge that he is a terrorist and moreover will go to great lengths to evade and obscure any such inference or connection” (30). In addition, when Hoffman mentioned that the news media used to avoid the terms “terrorist” and “terrorism” and rather used the words “guerrillas” and “extremists” (cf. 37), I started to wonder if this was only the case in the U.S. or if one could speak of a global phenomenon.
Lastly, I agree with Hoffman’s statement that today, there is “no one widely accepted or agreed definition for terrorism” (37) since probably every country (government) defines the term in a different way.
– Chantal M.