Violent extortion doesn’t count as terrorism if it is committed for purely PERSONAL ends.
NOT TERRORISM => Gunman “I’m expressing my anger!” Arsonist “I want the insurance money!” Kidnapper “I’m trying to change my life!”
TERRORISM => Gunman “I’m demanding a different policy!” Arsonist “I want a different society!” Kidnapper “I’m trying to change the world!”
Terrorism is violence committed to extort POLITICAL CHANGE
Tiny person shouting at gigantic Capitol Building
Yeah, you! Do it my way or else!
Again, however, our definition needs to be precise.
Not ALL politically-motivated violence is terrorism.
Just as it isn’t committed for PERSONAL goals, neither is it really committed for purely PERSONAL political preferences.
To count as terrorism, it must be meant to achieve the political goals of a larger ORGANIZATION or MOVEMENT.
Leader handing out a file of orders.
So whether the act was ORDERED via a chain of command…
Prepare to launch operation Zilant. Here are your instructions.
Guy watching a video on his laptop, sitting on a mattress on the floor of tiny bedroom
You who live in the West: You are our hands! Strike meaningful targets in our name!
…whether it was a lone individual’s RESPONSE to a call for action…
Suicide bomber in a dynamite vest, shouting the Takbir “Allahu Akbar”
… or whether it was INSPIRED by a social or religious crusade…
It MUST have been done on behalf of a greater CAUSE.
NOT TERRORISM => Man firing shotgun among pews: “I’m shooting up this black church because I HATE black people!”
TERRORISM => Same image: “I’M shooting up this church because it’s a potent symbol of the Civil Rights movement… to wake the sheeple… to inspire supporters… and help make America white again!”
TERRORISM => Man wiring a bomb: “I’m showing the world what will happen if they don’t obey the People’s Progress Brigade!” Man planting a pressure-cooker bomb in a trash can: “I’m killing YOUR civilians, so your military will stop killing OURS.”
Very well… do we have a useful definition of terrorism yet?