Intro to Terrorism

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  • Topic: Terrorism, State-sponsored terrorism, State terrorism
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Week 1: August 27 2012: What is Terrorism?

Lectures will be complementary to the readings, not reproductions.

JB’s own background:
* Historian, not very interested in abstract models, concepts or theories * Started out studying Medieval Islamic history, later shifted to modern European history and extremist groupings (also right wing, neo-fascist etc.) * Before 9/11, warned about the threat presented against the US by jihadist groups but not taken seriously – of course, this changed after 9/11.

The role of ideology:
* Of decisive importance for terrorist groupings
* It’s NOT poverty or other materially related reasons which explain terrorist motivations

The literature on terrorism:
* A major problem: this became a high profile topic attracting a lot of intention – made it harder to distinguish between the real experts who had been working on this for decades and “scam” experts who appeared out of nowhere. * This underlines the need to be skeptical and critical – that goes for us as students, for people reading or listening to the news (a matter of education) * An illustration: In 2009, a professor wrote an article on textbooks misinforming college students; “sloppy definitions”, superficiality etc.

Defining the concept of terrorism:
* Difficult task, no unanimity of opinions
* But, terrorism has a pejorative negative connotation, which makes it even more important to define it if we should be able to use it in a meaningful way. * Terrorists will not admit that they are in fact terrorists. * A neutral non-biased definition is needed.

Some problematic definitions:
* The overtly broad ones: doesn’t isolate the distinctive element of terrorism * The ones which focus on the actions themselves: murder, hijacking * The one which restrict themselves to non-state actors: States prefer these definitions though * The ones focused on a specific beliefs: Terrorism is a method/operational technique or “way of war” which can be applied to all kinds of groups.

JB’s definition:
* “Terrorism is the use or threat of use of violence directed against victims selected for their symbolic or representative value, as a means of instilling anxiety in, transmitting one or more messages to, and thereby manipulating the perceptions or behavior of wider target audiences” * Explanation:

* In normal acts of violence there are to parties involved: * Perpetrator(s) and victim(s)
* Terrorism requires 3 parties:
* Perpetrator(s), victim(s) and wider target audiences (triadic relation) * The victims become the instruments to reach the third party (triadic relation) – become symbolic and the means to send the message which is the focal point (representative significance) * What matters in terrorism is the intent of the perpetrator (sending the message), not the action (the killing of the victims) in itself * Terrorism = a violent technique of psychological manipulation * Another important distinction:

* Between terrorism and intimidation (which is between two parties) * To be continued next time

Week 1: August 29 2012: What is Terrorism?

(Continued from last time)

Defining terrorism:
* Terrorism always involves 3 parties, rather than 2 as in a normal act of violence: Perpetrator(s) victim(s) wider target audiences
* Important point: Terrorism is an operational technique: can be used by any kind of group and for any sort of purpose, also purely economic gain; technically this is still terrorism. * The goal is a neutral, valueless definition with a purely objective substance * Subjective connotation if only applied to groups we don’t like, illustrated by the phrase “one country’s terrorist is another country’s freedom fighter” – one country’s terrorist should always be every other countries’ terrorist, if we’re using the same terminology * Every state tends to label every group...
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