Terrorism and Terrorists
Terrorism and Terrorists
There is, in fact, no internationally accepted definition of terrorism. The term is very subjective, so,
although not everyone agrees with the aphorism, 'One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter'. Common
definitions are those that include the idea that terrorism describes those criminal acts, eg the killing of
innocent people (non-combatants) that are designed to create fear (terror) in order to further a political,
religious or ideological goal
Other definitions include acts of unlawful violence (civil and domestic) and even some war crimes. Criminality
often figures in definitions of terrorism, although state terrorism and state-sponsored terrorism are recognised
phenomena. Studies have shown there to be over one hundred definitions of terrorism.
It is because the word terrorism is linked in people's minds with illegality and criminality that few people or
organisations describe themselves as terrorists. Rather, they try to brand their opponents as such.
It is sometimes the case that states brand someone a terrorist, only to recognise him as a statesman after he
has obtained his objective - Menachem Begin and Nelson Mandela, for example, who both won the Nobel Peace
The word terrorism comes from the French 'terrorisme', which referred specifically to the acts of state
terrorism perpetrated by agents of the French government during the Reign of Terror between 1793 and 1794.
However, there was also the 'Terror Cimbricus' which arose in Rome in 105 AD in response the approaching
warriors of the Cimbri tribe, and even before that the Sicarii Zealots of Judea in the beginning of the first
One of the first recorded acts of modern terrorism in the UK was the Gunpowder Plot of 1605 and later those of
the Irish Republican Brotherhood, although they are not described as such in Southern Ireland (and hence the
difficulty with a definition).
One group has classified terrorism into six distinct categories:
Civil Disorder: disturbing the peace, marches, strikes etc.
Political Disorder: violent criminal behaviour designed to instil fear in the public. Usually for
Limited Political Terrorism: includes acts of terrorism to further ideological objectives which do not
require overthrowing the state or government.
Official or State Terrorism: refers to governments whose rule is based on holding the population in a
state of fear in order to stunt opposition.
Criminal Terrorism: like protectionism by Mafia-type gangs
Pathological Terrorism: which includes domestic violence, both physical and mental spousal torture.
Intimate Terrorism often involves emotional and or psychological abuse and usually represents the attempts of
one partner in a relationship trying to gain control over the other. Unlike in other forms of terrorism, intimate
terrorism rarely involves the injured party fighting back, almost always escalates. Serious injury can result.
Intimate terrorist batterers can be classified as 'generally violent and anti-social' or 'dysphoric borderline'
types. The first group includes those with general psychopathic and violent tendencies and the second group those
who are emotionally dependent on the relationship.
Acts of terrorism can be perpetrated by individuals, groups, or states, but the overwhelming tendency is for a
small, closed clique to organise an act of terror citing a larger cause as its reason. Examples of such cases are
9/11 2001, the Bali Bombing of 2002, the 2005 London Underground Bombings, and the 2008 Mumbai Attacks.
by +Owen Jones