Defining Terrorism

#1
I'm just wondering if any good arrsers have an opinion on a working definition of what terrorism actually is, purely an academic question regarding some research I'm currently working on, it seems that the definition of what is terrorism is dependant on what side of the fence you are on. Currently I'm past 100 and counting.

I'm trying to formulate my own definition as part of an exercise, would appreciate any of your personal ones rather than the governmental ones.
 
#2
The wilful act of instilling fear and panic into law abiding citizens by use of violence for political ends.


Well that what I define it as.
 
#3
devilish said:
The wilful act of instilling fear and panic into law abiding citizens by use of violence for political ends.


Well that what I define it as.
Succinctly put and in the same ball park as the academic, Walter Laquers definition.

The problem is the politicians are loathe to use such a definition because it puts most of them in the frame. Hence the many differing definitions.
 
#4
InVinoVeritas said:
devilish said:
The wilful act of instilling fear and panic into law abiding citizens by use of violence for political ends.


Well that what I define it as.
Succinctly put and in the same ball park as the academic, Walter Laquers definition.

The problem is the politicians are loathe to use such a definition because it puts most of them in the frame. Hence the many differing definitions.
But if you look at it realistically, they are in the frame, regardless of what they wish to call it. There's no denying that armies cross the line now and again, Iraq and Afghanistan are good examples of that.

MsG
 
#5
Cant remember where I read/heard it.... but it sounds like something from Noam Chomsky...

"Terrorism is the war of the poor, and war is the terrorism of the rich."

For analysis of that and related views/comments:- click here
 
#6
Applying terror in the pursuit of your aims is not a particularly useful definition of the word, as this would include any tactic that depends on inducing fear. That would include all weaponry with fear-inducing or suppressive effects, which is so broad as to be definitionally useless (except to sad twats trying to prove that there is no difference between terrorists and real soldiers, who should be treated with the freezing contempt they deserve).

What defines terrorism, to me, is the intentional use of terror to provoke an excessive response from the opponent. This response is then used to gather popular support and approval for the terrorists or remove it from their opponents. Terrorism is a technique of provocation that relies on the target's response in order to be effective (or, to be more precise, on the reaction of the target audience to the target's response). The other techniques of terrorism -- the hostage-taking mentality, the preference for soft targets, the disregard for civil or international law -- might be shared with mere bandits, dacoits, pirates, rifs and goondawallahs. It is the use of violence to achieve results by provoking an excessive response that is, for me, the distinctive factor. It also makes it rather easy to distinguish terrorists from guerillas, irregulars or freedom-fighters who do not use terrorist techniques.

All the best,

John.
 
#7
Thanks for the link PJ, always find Chomsy very partisan, and too deep in the waters of critical terrorism studies to find his views much use, especially given that many terrorists are from wealthy backgrounds, Bin La\din being one of the larger cases in point.
 
#8
John_D said:
Applying terror in the pursuit of your aims is not a particularly useful definition of the word, as this would include any tactic that depends on inducing fear. That would include all weaponry with fear-inducing or suppressive effects, which is so broad as to be definitionally useless (except to sad twats trying to prove that there is no difference between terrorists and real soldiers, who should be treated with the freezing contempt they deserve).

What defines terrorism, to me, is the intentional use of terror to provoke an excessive response from the opponent. This response is then used to gather popular support and approval for the terrorists or remove it from their opponents. Terrorism is a technique of provocation that relies on the target's response in order to be effective (or, to be more precise, on the reaction of the target audience to the target's response). The other techniques of terrorism -- the hostage-taking mentality, the preference for soft targets, the disregard for civil or international law -- might be shared with mere bandits, dacoits, pirates, rifs and goondawallahs. It is the use of violence to achieve results by provoking an excessive response that is, for me, the distinctive factor. It also makes it rather easy to distinguish terrorists from guerillas, irregulars or freedom-fighters who do not use terrorist techniques.

All the best,

John.

Which ties in with the definition "A peacetime equivalent of a war crime". Thanks for the input John.
 
#9
I can't go for a full definition, but the following bullet points should be worth a mention:
1. Usually a minority group without clear political mandate
2. Usually male - all that testosterone
3. Quasi-religious mantra - dodgy justification for the unpalatable
4. Appeals to impressionable teenage recruits.
5. Usually traceable to a male self-appointed leader with "issues".

sorry, my head hurts now.
 
#10
I was thinking of using the following simplified definition.

Non state terrorism: When a minority uses unlawful violence or intimidation against the majority to obtain political power or influence.

State terror: When a government uses unlawful violence and intimidation against its people to keep political power.
 
#11
An individual group of people, who use fear and/or violence inflicted on another social group to try to get their own way and ideals across.

So on that ideal, football hooligans could be considered terrorists to a degree also, as could politicians I suppose.


Terrorism is such a vague arena when you look closely enough, it can be covered by virtually any group if you think about it.
 
#12
Thats the problem, the old cliche "One mans freedoms fighter is another mans terrorist" leaps to mind.

I see a freedom fighter as someone who uses "targeted" violence to restore power to the many from a violent few.

I see a terrorist as someone who uses indiscriminate violence to take power away from the many and put it in the hands of the few.
 
#13
The calculated use of violence (or the threat of violence) against civilians in order to attain goals that are political or religious or ideological in nature; this is done through intimidation or coercion or instilling fear
 
#14
Regalia said:
I can't go for a full definition, but the following bullet points should be worth a mention:
1. Usually a minority group without clear political mandate
2. Usually male - all that testosterone
3. Quasi-religious mantra - dodgy justification for the unpalatable
4. Appeals to impressionable teenage recruits.
5. Usually traceable to a male self-appointed leader with "issues".

sorry, my head hurts now.
I'd disagree with most of what you've said. The IRA and ETA both have very clear political aims and no quasi-religious mantra. I suppose most terrorists consider themselves freedom fighters, certainly ETA, IRA, EOKA, HRM, PLA, Tamil Tigers etc considered themselves freedom fighters and the teenage/early twenties demographic is traditionally the most idealistic, those older in the teeth tend to try to find other ways to peace.
Terrorists carry out unacceptable and illegal levels of violence against people who have no responsibility for the plight of the terrorists. AQ are definitely terrorists but are the Taliban?
The other factor that makes people terrorists is which side they're on. Many in the US didn't consider the IRA terrorists (well, until 9/11) and the uS supports TT and the leader of the HRM became president of his country, indeed our favourite two touts made the smooth transition from terrorist to legitimate politician with almost consummate ease.
So it's not just what you do but it's who you do it against that makes you a terrorist. You may well ask what is the difference between Ben Gurion and Arafat other than who they were seeking freedom from.
 
#15
InVinoVeritas said:
I was thinking of using the following simplified definition.

Non state terrorism: When a minority uses unlawful violence or intimidation against the majority to obtain political power or influence.

State terror: When a government uses unlawful violence and intimidation against its people to keep political power.[/quote

Terror is in itself a tactic/strategy of war and as such must 'serve a purpose'. Instilling fear without purposes is the sign of a lunatic; and lunatics aren't terrorists. Also, in order to instil Terror you do not need to use violence. The threat violence or damage of other variety, if enough to cause terror in another, is terrorism.

Good to split the definition of state and non-state terror. And avoid any 'freedom' fighter clap trap. If they instil terror in others as a weapon, they're terrorists.


Paul Wilkinson has dome some great work on this topic.
 

ancienturion

LE
Book Reviewer
#16
Markintime said:
Regalia said:
I can't go for a full definition, but the following bullet points should be worth a mention:
1. Usually a minority group without clear political mandate
2. Usually male - all that testosterone
3. Quasi-religious mantra - dodgy justification for the unpalatable
4. Appeals to impressionable teenage recruits.
5. Usually traceable to a male self-appointed leader with "issues".

sorry, my head hurts now.
I'd disagree with most of what you've said. The IRA and ETA both have very clear political aims and no quasi-religious mantra. I suppose most terrorists consider themselves freedom fighters, certainly ETA, IRA, EOKA, HRM, PLA, Tamil Tigers etc considered themselves freedom fighters and the teenage/early twenties demographic is traditionally the most idealistic, those older in the teeth tend to try to find other ways to peace.
Terrorists carry out unacceptable and illegal levels of violence against people who have no responsibility for the plight of the terrorists. AQ are definitely terrorists but are the Taliban?
The other factor that makes people terrorists is which side they're on. Many in the US didn't consider the IRA terrorists (well, until 9/11) and the uS supports TT and the leader of the HRM became president of his country, indeed our favourite two touts made the smooth transition from terrorist to legitimate politician with almost consummate ease.
So it's not just what you do but it's who you do it against that makes you a terrorist. You may well ask what is the difference between Ben Gurion and Arafat other than who they were seeking freedom from.
In that case MK where you would you place the Stern gang? And no, I do not know the definitive answer.
 
#17
Nickhere said:
InVinoVeritas said:
I was thinking of using the following simplified definition.

Non state terrorism: When a minority uses unlawful violence or intimidation against the majority to obtain political power or influence.

State terror: When a government uses unlawful violence and intimidation against its people to keep political power.[/quote

Terror is in itself a tactic/strategy of war and as such must 'serve a purpose'. Instilling fear without purposes is the sign of a lunatic; and lunatics aren't terrorists. Also, in order to instil Terror you do not need to use violence. The threat violence or damage of other variety, if enough to cause terror in another, is terrorism.

Good to split the definition of state and non-state terror. And avoid any 'freedom' fighter clap trap. If they instil terror in others as a weapon, they're terrorists.


Paul Wilkinson has dome some great work on this topic.
The question is, is political violence ever justified? While it is commonly held that the stae has a monopoly on using violence, when that state is tyranical and genocidal, then surely violence against it is justified?
 
#18
InVinoVeritas said:
Thats the problem, the old cliche "One mans freedoms fighter is another mans terrorist" leaps to mind.

I see a freedom fighter as someone who uses "targeted" violence to restore power to the many from a violent few.

I see a terrorist as someone who uses indiscriminate violence to take power away from the many and put it in the hands of the few.
The IRA are a prime example of a terrorist group that, initially anyway, targeted violence in that they initially only targeted the police and security forces. If there was a general Kurdish uprising in Turkey, would they be freedom fighters or terrorists? Many terrorist groups have been classed as such because they have formed to fight colonial powers but who had the right to be in that country, the natives or the colonists? The ANC were once classed as a terrorist organisation, were they?
TBH you've opened up a very interesting subject because there are no easy answers or classifications because if a group fighting for freedom is small it will be classed as a terrorist group, especially if it is fighting for freedom from one of our allies.
 
#19
InVinoVeritas said:
Nickhere said:
InVinoVeritas said:
I was thinking of using the following simplified definition.

Non state terrorism: When a minority uses unlawful violence or intimidation against the majority to obtain political power or influence.

State terror: When a government uses unlawful violence and intimidation against its people to keep political power.[/quote

Terror is in itself a tactic/strategy of war and as such must 'serve a purpose'. Instilling fear without purposes is the sign of a lunatic; and lunatics aren't terrorists. Also, in order to instil Terror you do not need to use violence. The threat violence or damage of other variety, if enough to cause terror in another, is terrorism.

Good to split the definition of state and non-state terror. And avoid any 'freedom' fighter clap trap. If they instil terror in others as a weapon, they're terrorists.


Paul Wilkinson has dome some great work on this topic.
The question is, is political violence ever justified? While it is commonly held that the stae has a monopoly on using violence, when that state is tyranical and genocidal, then surely violence against it is justified?


Bit ironic given the way our government plays the game isnt it?
 
#20
ancienturion said:
Markintime said:
Regalia said:
I can't go for a full definition, but the following bullet points should be worth a mention:
1. Usually a minority group without clear political mandate
2. Usually male - all that testosterone
3. Quasi-religious mantra - dodgy justification for the unpalatable
4. Appeals to impressionable teenage recruits.
5. Usually traceable to a male self-appointed leader with "issues".

sorry, my head hurts now.
I'd disagree with most of what you've said. The IRA and ETA both have very clear political aims and no quasi-religious mantra. I suppose most terrorists consider themselves freedom fighters, certainly ETA, IRA, EOKA, HRM, PLA, Tamil Tigers etc considered themselves freedom fighters and the teenage/early twenties demographic is traditionally the most idealistic, those older in the teeth tend to try to find other ways to peace.
Terrorists carry out unacceptable and illegal levels of violence against people who have no responsibility for the plight of the terrorists. AQ are definitely terrorists but are the Taliban?
The other factor that makes people terrorists is which side they're on. Many in the US didn't consider the IRA terrorists (well, until 9/11) and the uS supports TT and the leader of the HRM became president of his country, indeed our favourite two touts made the smooth transition from terrorist to legitimate politician with almost consummate ease.
So it's not just what you do but it's who you do it against that makes you a terrorist. You may well ask what is the difference between Ben Gurion and Arafat other than who they were seeking freedom from.
In that case MK where you would you place the Stern gang? And no, I do not know the definitive answer.
I'd always classify any group that deliberately uses indiscriminate violence against non combatants as terrorist.

Terrorism after all is not an ideology but a tactic utilised to advance the respective ideology of the group.

Those who use terror as a tactic are by definition terrorists irrespective of ideology or the legitimacy of their cause.
 

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