How do you define terrorism?

The FBI says it’s investigating whether the mass shooting at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin is an act of domestic terrorism, but says it has yet to determine a motive. Today’s Question: How do you define terrorism?

sikh.jpg A police officer directs people near the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin after a gunman opened fire Aug., 5, 2012 Oak Creek, Wis. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

  • Rich in Duluth

    My dictionary says “the systematic use of terror as a means of coercion”…using fear to get something.

    I think this means a husband hitting his wife, a individual shooting people in a church, or a nation shooting missiles at individuals from a drone high in the sky. If these things are done to coerce other people into changing their behavior, it’s terrorism.

  • georges

    As more than 50% of spousal abuse is committed by the female, as they attempt to coerce the male into doing what they want the male to do, we must call female-on-male abuse “terrorism”.

    Addititionally, as more than 90% of abuse of children is done by mothers attempting to coerce their children into doing what they want them to do, we must identify mother-on-child abuse as “terrorism”.

  • Jim G

    Terrorists fear differences, the unknown, the other. Terrorists are afraid of change. They cannot acknowledge or imagine a belief system other than their own and seek to destroy what they don’t understand. Terrorists are germs in the body of humankind. The only known cure is to catch it early: dispense large quantities of knowledge, health, food, meaning work, and love in populations producing these tragic, angry men.

  • Joe Busch

    Most definitions of terrorism specify the threat or use of violence on a civilian population as a means to push forward a political agenda. Many definitions specify that the perpetrator is a non-state entity, though I personally don’t require it in my definition.

    This means that domestic abuse, like a husband hitting a wife, is not terrorism. However, torching a mosque or shooting up a temple as a means to coerce a group to leave and go somewhere else falls distinctly within those definitions. So does dropping missiles on a village to compel the populace to turn against occupying forces within it.

  • Steve the Cynic

    As the word is used these days, terrorism refers to political violence by non-state actors. If a state does it and it’s not aimed at legitimate military targets, it’s usually called an attrocity or a war crime (not that it’s any less reprehensible– just different terminology).

    How anyone personally might define a word is irrelevant. Much mischief is done when one believes words mean whatever one wants them to mean. Callin drone strikes or the spanking of children terrorism only confuses the issue.

  • Steve the Cynic

    The issue is further confused by the molotov crock tales of trolls who make up statistics.

  • jockamo

    @9:11 AM

    I dispense large quantities of knowlege to the lefty libs all the time.

    And yet, they continue to fear differences…..diversity…..the “other”…….

    And terrorize the Boy Scouts, trying to bully them into thinking just like they, the lefty libs, think…….

    Sad…..but true……

  • david

    “The use of terror to coerce a political ideal” seems about right. Only then what it terror? I don’t think it needs to just be an action. Bin ladin didn’t fly the planes into the building, but duped some morons into doing it for him. Yet we all agree he’s the terrorist poster boy. In that way anyone who uses their influence to coerce others to perform the violent act is a terrorist. Even if they have plausible deniability that it was intentional. Someone influenced james holmes and that jackass in Milwaukee. That’s why people like rush limbaugh, glenn beck, michelle bachmann, and our little troll friend jackamo/georges scare me. In my eyes they are just as big of a threat and anyone with the gun or bomb.

  • Joberg

    I would believe Obama’s preacher for 20 years the white hating, America hating reverend Wright would be considered a terrorist. Good thing BO will be a one termer.

  • jockamo

    “In that way anyone who uses their influence to coerce others to perform the violent act is a terrorist.”

    Late in the Billy Boy Bob Clinton administration a poll of U.S. army soldiers was conducted.

    It was found that 28% of our soldiers would open fire on U.S. citizens who were committing no crime and doing nothing wrong if ordered to do so by the president.

    Now, there are those who find this to be an encouraging result. That 72% would not shoot to kill innocent citizens just because they were ordered to do so by their Commander in Chief.

    Others, on the other hand, are appalled that such a high percentage (28%) would just blindly follow orders that were so obviously illegal and wrong.

    Every citizen gets to choose, by free will, which side to side with.

  • Steve the Cynic

    Joberg, can you point to one example of Jeremiah Wright (excessive as his rhetoric surely is) advocating or inciting politcal violence? The violent reactions to his over-the-top preaching have all come from folks who disagree with him. Calling him a terrorist is absurd. If words can mean anything one wants them to mean, then words no longer mean anything at all.

  • kim

    Since the question asks for my personal definition, I’m not going to refer to a dictionary. What I call “terrorism” requires an organized effort. A lone individual committing a single act (like Timothy McVeigh, I guess) isn’t what I think of as a “terrorist”. Neither is Andres Brevik. People like that cause terror, but so do a lot of criminals.

    Beyond that, to me, a terrorist uses unexpected and unpredictable violence, and the treat of same, to try to influence others, be it a government, or a population, or a subset of a population. Having said that, I have to add that, in the real world, one person’s terrorist can certainly be someone else’s freedom fighter. I suspect the various European underground movements during WWII didn’t think of themselves as terrorists, but the Nazis very well might have. Had the war turned out differently, history most likely would have described them as terrorists.

    I think governments can use terrorism, but war isn’t really terrorism because there are supposed to be “rules” (as crazy as it sounds to write that!) and there are expectations of what is and isn’t “allowed” and who is and isn’t involved. Guerrilla warfare can certainly blur the definitions, and that’s where the whole freedom fighter/terrorist debate comes in. I guess I’d like to think that a “real” freedom fighter would be one of the “good guys” and would have a sense of ethics that would dictate military rather than civilian targets.

  • ben

    Anytime you intentionally harm someone who did NOT hurt you, just to get back at someone who Did hurt you but you can’t get to.

  • John

    Israel is the most terroristic country in the world. Since 1948 they have killed over 1.5 million Palestinians. They have even killed Americans both private individuals and military (USS Liberty) and have gotten away with it. Yet WE still GIVE them 3 billion dollars in aid per year.

  • John

    Terrorism is reinforcement to believe the lie and the nightmare.

    Forgiveness and love, wisdom and awareness will free us.