Know your Terrorists
David E. Allende
University Of Phoenix
Contemporary Issues in Criminal Justice
Sgt. Patrick Hart
December 11th, 2007
Know your Terrorists
Terrorist" is a word used so often and so loosely that it has lost a clear meaning. Currently, the term "terrorist" is applied to the use of force most often on the basis of whether the speaker agrees with the goal of the violence. The expression "One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter."
Let's define a "terrorist" action as the use of violence where one would reasonably expect harm to innocent civilians. This is to be distinguished from a "military" action, where the use of violence is not reasonably expected to harm innocent civilians. Terrorism is a method of combat in which random or symbolic victims become targets of violence. Through the previous use of violence or the credible threat of violence, other members of a group are put in a state of chronic fear (terror). The victimization of the target is considered extra normal by most observers which in turn create an audience beyond the target of terror. The purpose of terrorism is either to immobilize the target of terror in order to produce disorientation and/or compliance, or to mobilize secondary targets of demand or targets of attention (Schmid 1983).
There is no one, good definition of terrorism. In fact, it might be impossible to define because it is intangible and fluctuates according to historical and geographical contexts. Some forms of it are indistinguishable from crime, revolution, and war. Other forms of it are easily distinguishable. Each and every person knows that they would in some way, some day, under some back against the wall condition, support some form of terrorism (as a tactic of last resort) in the name of some deeply cherished cause or value. You may already be a supporter of terrorism, or you may live under a government that practices terrorism, and not know it. There is no universally accepted definition of terrorism (Long 1990).
The nature of terrorism is always changing. What is called terrorism one year may be called something else next year. Terrorism is an emotionally charged word that is frequently used to politically and socially denigrate one's opponents. It seems, if you sympathize or side with the perpetrator, then it is not terrorism, but if you sympathize or side with the victim, then it is terrorism. A lot of people think they know terrorism when they see it. Don't worry if you're confused on the whole good/bad, motive/act thing. Philosophers have debated it for years, and there are experts in criminal justice who say the act, not the motivation, should define terrorism (Jenkins 1985), and then there are experts who say the motivation, not the act, should define terrorism (Hoffman 1999). Those who write encyclopedias of terrorism state that an adequate working definition ought to have three parts: method, target, and purpose (Kushner 2003). Another approach might be to distinguish terrorists from others of their kind or how they perceive themselves. No group has openly admitted they were terrorists since the 1940s, and the most commonly preferred self-terminology includes guerrilla, fighter, or warrior. What follows is an alphabetical listing of the many terms terrorists use to call themselves: ➢ Avengers -- those who evoke the image of righteous vengeance (on behalf of others) ➢ Crusaders -- those who engage in extremes to set the pace for others ➢ Defenders -- those who think of themselves as vigilantes (defenders of self and others) ➢ Dissidents -- those who want to defeat or overthrow an existing government ➢ Extremists -- those with strongly held political beliefs out of the...
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Maintained by Steven Aftergood
Updated May 3, 2004
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