Terrorism, Social Activism and Political Violence Essay

Terrorism, Social Activism and Political Violence Essay


Terrorism to me is a rather controversial phenomenon. Clearly, it brings a lot of destruction and suffering. Yet, its basis is not pure evil. From the readings and videos studied for this course, it becomes clear that some of the strongest motivations for terrorist groups are such aspects as patriotism, independence, freedom, faith, and religion, devotion to one’s country and family, national, ethnic, and cultural self-identification.

None of these notions are evil, and none of them initially represent aggression and violence. Depowered individuals gathered in a group and motivated by decades of framing, propaganda, and social pressure, armed and convinced that they are doing a noble and heroic deed can become very powerful. Earlier, terrorism was seen mostly as a vicious demonstration of unreasonable human aggression directed against innocent victims. Today, terrorism is studied deeper and many of its basic aspects are taken into consideration. As a result, it turns out that it is not that hard to understand what brings men and women to terrorist organizations.

Terrorism is based on citizens’ dissatisfaction with the work of their governments and with the inner and outer policies of their states. Since peaceful protests almost never work and constitutional ways of gaining the attention of the political leaders may take decades, the most preferred way for depowered individuals to solve the problems is a revolution, armed conflict, and insurgency. States, as well as individuals, may become the perpetrators of terrorism and violence. According to Weber (1918), a proper politician is the one that can combine rationality with emotions and be just without being cold and heartless, be responsive without getting overwhelmed by emotions.

In my opinion, terrorists can be characterized as people that lost their heads because of emotional attachments and started to act aggressively. Yet, calling terrorism immoral or unethical seems narrow-minded. A question needs to be asked here: “what exactly is meant by immoral behavior?” If it is killing other people, then how come soldiers that kill people in battles are considered heroes, and non-state agents that do the same are seen as pure evil? Labeling terrorism as immoral and unethical is the same as rejecting critical thinking about this phenomenon, and siding with the sources of framing that surround us.

The role of women in political violence

The meaning of gender roles in terrorism is not one of the most popular subjects studied in relation to this phenomenon. Women’s participation in terrorism has been overlooked for a while because of the absence of data for the research in this field. Only recently the experts received access to interviews with some unsuccessful female suicide bombers and terrorists that got caught and were asked about their motifs, beliefs, goals, and ideas.

It is believed that women are victims of terrorist propaganda, who are intentionally depowered and oppressed, so once their fathers, brothers, or husbands die, women would see no future for themselves and join the terrorist armies. The Sri Lankan film called “The Terrorist” demonstrates the new perspective on women in terrorism. Malli, the main character of the film, is not a simple-minded slave of a woman, she is a powerful and sharp person, her leaders call her “the thinking bomb” (Man 2013). Many experts today realize that women are a serious threat to terrorism, they fight equally with male soldiers, they are clever, well trained, and loyal to their leaders. They may occupy leading and responsible roles, instead of being used as disposable resources.

According to Thompson, how has the portrayal of social movements within the rhetoric of terrorism altered the actions of activists?

The war on terror the United States declared after the events of 9/11 created a large number of negative consequences in the world and especially on the territory of the USA (Thompson 2008). Framing terrorism as a threat, which is present all the time and everywhere, caused a massive panic and created ethnic and cultural division in the country, paranoia, and tension. Failing to behead terrorism in the Middle East the USA leaders turned to the domestic issues pronouncing them as acts of terrorism. One feature terrorism and social movements have in common is the desire to express themselves and to affect the politicians and their decisions (Thompson 2008).

Lack of power to do so made both of them start speaking through the actions. Identifying domestic protesters with terrorists angers the activists and provokes them to engage in more sophisticated forms of violence to be understood. As a result, the actions of activists became directed at making a show, engaging mass media, promoting their operations instead of simply committing acts of violence.

The definition of “terrorism”

In my opinion, to define terrorism properly it is important to mention its orientation to the public as a form of activism (Thompson 2008). Besides, terrorism is a way of self-expression put into practice through the most effective means. Of course, the power of propaganda should be mentioned. This way, my definition of terrorism presents this phenomenon as collective activism of depowered individuals directed at major political changes through the attraction of public attention via mass media and employing such means as weapons, violence, propaganda, and framing based on cultural, religious, and ethnic self-identification of individuals.

Reference List

Man, K. (2013). 1997 film [English subtitles ]. Web.

Thompson, A. (2008). Representation‘s Limit: The Epistemology of Spectacular Violence. In Ayyash, M. & Hendershot, C. (Eds.), Violent Interventions: Selected Proceedings of the Fifteenth Annual Conference of the York Center for International and Security Studies (5-20). Ontario: York Center for International and Security Studies.

Weber, M. (1918). Politik als Beruf (Politics as a Vocation). Lecture given to Free Students/Movement, Munich University.

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