On “Defining Terrorism”

There were parts of this article that cleared some mystifications about the concept of terrorism, especially in the way that even in its earliest formation its been connected to a political purpose. And this way terrorist acts commit some form of symbolic acts–like how the Narodnaya Volya targeted heads of the state or those who stood for their oppressive regime. And I think this attachment to symbolism is important because of the way victims of terrorist acts have changed from its first meaning to now.

Firstly though, number of victims: When Hoffman distinguishes the difference between a a criminal and a terrorist, he suggests another idea that terrorism is never aimed at only one individual. Terrorist acts can and often harm at least one person, but what makes them different from a bank robber is the intent & ability to instill fear in a larger audience. This suggests a strange role that media has in regard to terrorism. These acts, no matter the victim count, are not as “effective” unless it has been publicized, and without the proper coverage/publicity, they wouldn’t exist.

Also, whereas terrorists targeted members of a ruling class or an oppressive regime, the modern-day conception is that the victims of terrorism are civilians. If terrorism is an act of violence with a political purpose, then what do these victims stand for? Are terrorist attacks against civilians supposed to be stand-ins for an even larger, more nebulous metaphor of a regime of oppression? I guess sometimes those connections are more clear than the others, like capturing news reporters, etc., but it seems like the most twisted, terror-inducing acts are when they are misdirected. And maybe that’s why the word “terror” is so vague and illogical–misdirected anger toward a misdirected victim.

– Trisha R.

One thought on “On “Defining Terrorism”

  1. Ugh just read what I wrote and I would also like to say that there’s a counterargument, especially if we’re talking about terrorist acts directed toward the US, or the West: is that civilians/members of society could be seen as complicit in this greater force of inequity. Still, there’s the fallacy of attacking a body in lieu of an idea, etc. etc.

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