How to Differ Terrorist from Freedom Fighter

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In response to the essay title, this paper will contemplate the dogma of the term ‘terrorism’ and how we can determine if a ‘terrorist’ and ‘freedom fighter’ differ. Discussion will be applied to the inconsistency of the notion of terrorism, stressing the variations in defining the many aspects correlated with this term (Schmid,1983, cited in Victoroff and Kruglanski, 2009).

Final evaluation is applied to the role of the government and the mass media, to contest whether they create an awareness of terrorist risks in contemporary society, or produce ‘moral panic’ towards a group focused on revolutionary action not murderous ‘depravity’. (Rothe and Muzzatti, 2004)

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The history of terrorism is as archaic as humankind, nonetheless until recently the actions of ‘terrorist’ groups has been largely marginalized in the Western hemisphere. (Post, 2007) Since the events of 9/11 the nations have become terrified of attacks of terrorism and view the individual terrorist as ‘evil’ and ‘depraved’. (Spencer, 2012).

In response to this subjective referent it may be considered that there are no global facts relating to the concept of ‘terrorism’, as described by Onuf (cited in Spencer, 2012, p.2)”we all make terrorism what (we say) it is”. This is not to deny the existence of the terrorist fraction but it raises inconsistencies towards the labelling of an unknown body, as “uncivilized evil” (Spencer, 2012, p.13) Schmid (1983,cited in Victoroff and Kruglanski,2009) compiled 109 academic definitions of terrorism, and Jenkins (1982,cited in Victoroff and Krugmanski,p.56) argued that “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter”.

It is argued that most terrorist groups discourage those with mental health problems as they are deemed a security risk. (Williams, 2012). Notable terrorist expert Jerrold Post (2007) declares that individual psychopathology is insufficient in the understanding of terrorism due to the collective identity created by norms and values of the terrorist group.

According to Williams (2012) the group motive is usually driven by an ideology, a quest for equality and justice or a need to maintain moral values and protect them from outside sources. She proposes that the group has strong social identity and consists of in-groups and out-groups. Alvarez and Bachman (2008) concur with this perspective suggesting that the in-group status offers the terrorist individuals a sense of power and prestige. Social Identity Theory (Tajfel and Turner, 1986) suggests that individual self-identity is transformed in a group setting, particularly when the group mind holds strong values, the demoralization of the out-group increases and maintains the self-esteem of the in-group. Turner et al (cited in Myers, Abell, Kolstad, and Sani, 2010) claims that this type of group categorization is formed by group members sharing beliefs and values and creating a feeling of being part of a social entity which surpasses their individual self-identity. However it is argued that although a portrayal of group think (Myers, et al,2010) appears to be in evidence, many terrorist individuals enjoy prestige and status in their communities from acts of inhumane violence, furthermore families receive payment for their kin’s act of suicide bombing which may be persuasive in situations of poverty and desperation (Alvarez and Bachman, 2008).

Further analysis of the role of the media towards terrorist actions is offered by Post (2007, cited in Humphrey, 2006)) who conducted primary research involving failed suicide bombers in Israel, claims that the media is used as a weapon. He found that the extreme violent actions of the terrorist was intended to convey a message to the mass audience, whereby the wave of kidnapping and threatened beheadings were not due to personal vendettas but to attract the horrified attention of the public through the media. It is argued that the media promotes the terrorist ideology by broadcasting their manoeuvres and creating a type of moral panic within society. (Rothe and Muzzatti, 2004) It may be considered that regardless of the media publicising terrorist activities, this argument is limited towards explaining the actions of the terrorist. (Dowling,1989)

Extensive academic interest has been applied to the governments’ use of the media, after the events of September 11th, media representations induced public panic, which resulted in some states displaying almost tyrannical actions towards ‘terrorist’. (Williams, 2012) The government has been seen to use extensive force, and introduced policies, such as ‘Operation Kratos’ to legalise the carrying out of lethal actions against suicide bombers. However as the fatal shooting of the mistaken suicide bomber, Jean Charles de Menezes showed, heavy handed police tactics, against a media represented portrayal of the ‘typical’ terrorist ,does not produce freedom from the hostilities, rather it produces fractured relationships with the police and non-combatant members of the cultural group affiliated to the ‘enemy’.(Jones,2000) As detailed by Spencer(2012) the public reaction to terrorism depends greatly on information illustrated by politicians and the media, labels such as “axis of evil”,( Barnaby,2003,cited in Mythen and Walklate,2006,p.130) can produce moral change in society. Hate crimes are on the increase, (Jones,2000) as people become fearful of certain cultures associated with terrorism, whilst politicians adopt a similar stance to the terrorist movement, claiming it is ‘us’ or ‘them’. Many Western states have backed terrorist groups if it has served their political interests, therefore who can determine who is a terrorist and who is a revolutionary? (Williams, 2012)

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How to Differ Terrorist from Freedom Fighter. (2022, Jun 09). Edubirdie. Retrieved July 16, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/how-to-differ-terrorist-from-freedom-fighter/
“How to Differ Terrorist from Freedom Fighter.” Edubirdie, 09 Jun. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/how-to-differ-terrorist-from-freedom-fighter/
How to Differ Terrorist from Freedom Fighter. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/how-to-differ-terrorist-from-freedom-fighter/> [Accessed 16 Jul. 2024].
How to Differ Terrorist from Freedom Fighter [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Jun 09 [cited 2024 Jul 16]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/how-to-differ-terrorist-from-freedom-fighter/
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