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News Terrorism and terrorist are basically meaningless words

  1. Jun 23, 2010 #1
    "Terrorism" and "terrorist" are basically meaningless words

    "Terrorism" and "terrorist" are basically meaningless words (there is no widely agreed definition) which are used to undermine and deligitimise a group or individual or state. I don't think these words are acceptable in any intelligent discussion or analysis of world events - they are clearly emotive words which have been engineered for propagandha purposes (now called "perception management" by the US government). To quote Hermann Goering:

    "All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country."

    To me this seems to accurately describe much of the political climate of recent years. From this point of view the use of the term "terrorism" becomes quite transparent.

    Should we not strive to avoid such emotive and subjective language in order to make an objective analysis of a situation?
     
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  3. Jun 23, 2010 #2
    Re: "Terrorism"

    "Terrorism" is a euphemism. Its political correctness.
     
  4. Jun 23, 2010 #3

    Evo

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    Re: "Terrorism"

    I disagree strongly, acts of violence towards innocent people, especially where war has not been declared, is terrorism.
     
  5. Jun 23, 2010 #4

    berkeman

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    Re: "Terrorism"

    The FBI definition is pretty widely accepted:

    http://terrorism.about.com/od/whatisterroris1/ss/DefineTerrorism_6.htm
    And in my training, the definition pretty much holds true. As a First Responder (EMT), I'm especially cautious about "secondary devices".

    There may be some value in trying to moderate the rhetoric, but again, from my training on terrorism and anti-terrorism, there are some very serious threats posed by these folks.
     
  6. Jun 23, 2010 #5

    berkeman

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    Re: "Terrorism"

    BTW, did you see this interesting thread nearby here in P&WA about the RAND study?

    https://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=411961

    There may be some good things that can come out of that, to help dismantle more of these organizations.
     
  7. Jun 23, 2010 #6

    disregardthat

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    Re: "Terrorism"

    I would agree with OP. The terrorist label is not isolated to those who's main purpose is to harm civilians. A rebellious organization might unwillingly harm civilians in the process of fighting the state, even though their main purpose is not necessarily so. An example would be a bombing of a state-building where civilians incidentally were killed.

    There are many examples of military organizations fighting for the rights of the minority they represent, but which are also labeled "terrorists" by the state, even though the state actually are suppressing the minority. These organizations lack the means to declare an official war and fight a "clean war", but are forced to fight in other means - and these means might have civilian casualties as a byproduct. Good examples are terrorist sabotage groups spontaneously formed in invaded states or overthrown states. The terrorist labels might be inverted the moment the state is overthrown.

    The label is not justifiable in every case, but has an obvious psychological effect. Fighting "terrorists" is much more righteous than fighting "freedom fighters".
     
  8. Jun 23, 2010 #7

    CRGreathouse

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    Re: "Terrorism"

    In principle, I think there's a real distinction in meaning. But I agree that there's been a tendency to overuse the term, especially recently.

    As to the definition quoted above:
    "The unlawful use of force or violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a Government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives."
    Its active part seems to be the last clause. An armed robbery is the unlawful use of force or violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or some segment thereof; it's only the last part of that definition that makes it not terrorism.
     
  9. Jun 23, 2010 #8
    Re: "Terrorism"

    Of course I don't condone acts of violence towards innocent people, whether it is by Islamists or the US military. All I'm saying is that the word "terrorism" is emotionally charged and doesn't belong outside of tabloid media. I've seen (on many occasions and by people of authority) both Hamas and the state of Israel labelled as terrorists. Why not just give an objective account instead of dividing these conflicts into a good and evil side?

    Edit: I'd also like to pick out your point "especially where war has not been declared". We have declared "war on terror". Should we take this to mean that terrorist attacks are now legitimate? If not then it can hardly be called a war since only one side can legitimately attack the other.
     
    Last edited: Jun 23, 2010
  10. Jun 23, 2010 #9

    mgb_phys

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    Re: "Terrorism"

    The tricky bit is unlawful.
    Was Pearl Harbor unlawful because the Japanese declaration of war was late?
    Was the resistance/underground unlawful after their government had surrended?
     
  11. Jun 23, 2010 #10
    Re: "Terrorism"

    Incorrect. Terrorism typically involves in-discriminate violent acts against civilians to promote a cause. If all these guys did were attack uniformed soldiers, it would be difficult to classify them as terrorists. I don't recall us ever calling the Germans, Japanese, N Vietnamese, or N Koreans "terrorists" when we were at war with those peeps.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 23, 2010
  12. Jun 23, 2010 #11

    russ_watters

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    Re: "Terrorism"

    Note to all: terrorism is a real issue that is treated seriously by the law and governments. If you don't take the issue seriously, don't post. Flippant comments are not acceptable.
     
  13. Jun 23, 2010 #12

    russ_watters

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    Re: "Terrorism"

    You are making a logical error: difficult to define and not defined are not the same thing.
    While I guess that could be true in some cases, it is not exclusively true and is not really relevant to whether or not "terrorism" is a real issue with an objective definition and application. Frankly, it appears to me that it is mostly opponents of the term and sympathizers with the so-labeled groups who don't treat the issue seriously. Governments and international agencies tend to have pretty clear definitions and lists that really are internally consistent, logical, and objective. It is your thesis that they are not, so you must provide such a definition and show why it is not internally consistent or objectively applied.

    You have not provided any citations/analysis of definitions or critiques of lists of terrorist organizations (ie, pointing out that a certain group doesn't fit the government's own definition). I can only conclude based on this that you haven't actually done the legwork required to have an informed opinion on the subject: you're making it up as you go along because it sounds good to you and fits your bias. That is not accpetable here. Do your homework. Get the definitions and the lists and give us some analysis of them. They are not at all difficult to find.

    This thread is thin on content and quality and will need to improve to remain open.
     
    Last edited: Jun 23, 2010
  14. Jun 23, 2010 #13

    russ_watters

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    Re: "Terrorism"

    Please provide examples to support your claims. What are the names of such organizations that are improperly labeled "terrorists", against a country's own definition?
     
  15. Jun 23, 2010 #14

    russ_watters

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    Re: "Terrorism"

    No. In both cases, the targets were military, not civilian. These cases are both clearly not examples of terrorism.
     
  16. Jun 23, 2010 #15
    Re: "Terrorism"

    The particular definition supplied does not specify civilian targets. I am fairly certain that most definitions do include that specification though.

    The Wiki article on "Definitions of Terrorism" may be a good place to look for commonly used definitions, it appears fairly expansive. I haven't time to look through it right now though so I can not confirm my assumption.
     
  17. Jun 23, 2010 #16
    Re: "Terrorism"

    That's the most easiest way to define it though. Otherwise, it changes by time and who is there to label whom.

    If government is oppressive and group of violent individuals do harm to the government would those also be terrorists?



    Russ,
    If you continue to use current US government laws to define terrorists, you yourself are not addressing the issue sincerely.By no means, that's objective. By the FBI definition, many people who currently are treated as heroes/freedom fighters are also terrorists.
     
  18. Jun 23, 2010 #17

    russ_watters

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    Re: "Terrorism"

    It is a little thin on who the "persons or property" are, but yes, you are correct: they are almost exclusively intended to mean civilians.
     
  19. Jun 23, 2010 #18
    Re: "Terrorism"

    Has the US officially declared war on Pakistan, etc? Did the Taliban not declare war on the west? (If the US had declared war before invading Afghanistan, wouldn't those of Guantanamo bay been protected from torture by Geneva convention?)

    I doubt even Russ can find a non-US-centric definition for terrorism that excludes Nagasaki.
     
  20. Jun 23, 2010 #19

    russ_watters

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    Re: "Terrorism"

    No. This thread is intended to be a criticism of US policy so only by actually reading and understanding US policy can it actually be criticized. Otherwise, you're simply criticizing a fantasy that only exists in your [and the OP's] own head!

    If you are going to criticize a definition, you need to cite that definition so that we can all be sure that that definition is real and not just something you fabricated as a straw-man. Case in point:
    If you do not cite an example, then you are just making that up.

    Let me help you: is the Taliban a terrorist organization? You'd better take the question seriously and do some real research because it is somewhat of a trick question - but it is a great example for this issue.
     
  21. Jun 24, 2010 #20

    russ_watters

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    Re: "Terrorism"

    No. What does that have to do with anything?
    Odd question/oddly worded. Formal declarations of war fell out of style decades ago and I don't think either declared war on the other.
    The declaration of war has no bearing on whether or not torture is legal.
    As with the others, you are assuming the answers to questions no one has asked and not defending your thesis. It should be crystal clear by now that those who oppose the concept of a clear definition of terrorism are the ones playing fast-and-loose with the issue as none, including you, have yet provided a single citation of a definition or analysis of it.

    You are what you are claiming others are - and they are not.

    Your implication here is that you think Nakasaki fits the US's definition of terrorism. Explain! Defend!
     
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