The True Meaning of Terrorism

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The True Meaning of Terrorism

Think of the word terrorism. What is the first thing that comes to mind? One might think of kidnapping, assassination, bombing, or even genocide and guerrilla warfare. Because it is such a broad and complex issue, an all-encompassing definition is hard to formulate. The United States Department of Defence defines terrorism as…

The calculated use of violence or the threat of violence to inculcate fear; intended to coerce or to intimidate governments or societies in the pursuit of goals that are generally political, religious or ideological.

Terrorism, then, is a type of political crime that makes use of murder and destruction or the threat of such violence in order to promote change. It is a specific kind of calculated violence with a selected target. Targets can include individuals, groups, communities, or governments. In most cases, excessive violence is used against innocent people which creates a fear that the terrorist can use for coercive purposes. This "fear" is usually directed at someone other than the victim. "In other words, terrorism is a psychological act conducted for its impact on an audience."(1) Since terrorists need publicity to inspire fear, they often seek more unusual events that capture and hold public attention.

Terrorism can be broken down into five main categories; Revolutionary, Political, Nationalistic, Nonpolitical, and State-Sponsored.

"Revolutionary terrorists use violence as a tool to invoke fear in those in power and their supporters."(2) The goal for these terrorists is to implicate a government that would be more compliant to their needs. By using methods such as kidnapping, assassination, and bombing, revolutionary terrorists hope to provoke in...

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...rrorism of genocide. Although the definition of terrorism is hard to pinpoint, I have outlined a general working definition for the purposes of the essay. As outlined, the forms of terrorism are extreme and varied. It is hoped that one day other forms of mediation and political resources will be more widely used and accepted in problem-solving so that acts of terrorism can be prevented and avoided.


Dabrowski, Mariusz, A Comprehensive Introduction To The Phenomenon Of Terrorism 1997.

Distinctions and Varieties of Terrorism

Siegel, Lany & McCormick, Chris. Criminology in Canada Toronto: Nelson 1999.

The Basics of Terrorism,, Copyright Terrorism Research Center, Inc. 1997

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