To me, given my knowledge and understanding of terrorism through the media and as an aspiring member of the media, I would define terrorism as conscious acts of extreme violence toward civilians and political leaders for the advancement of a cause. This goes beyond personal grudges and grievances, and is done on an organized scale in order to inflict the maximum amount of damage and harm, securing attention to a cause.

The goals of terrorists may be of political, religious or nationalistic mind, but the motives vary. Coverage of such events is done so not to advance or promote the cause, but to show these autrocities to the world. This creates a conflict in the perception of the media and terrorists. Do terrorists use the media to advance their cause? Does coverage create terrorist sympathizers in the public that digest that media?

  • The FBI defines terrorism as: 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.
  • The Department of Defense Dictionary of Military Terms defines terrorism as: The calculated use of unlawful violence or threat of unlawful violence to inculcate fear; intended to coerce or to intimidate governments or societies in the pursuit of goals that are generally political, religious, or ideological.

The Red Cross class handout on terrorism suggests that no universal definition of terrorism exists. I would take it further, arguing no true definition of terrorism exists or can exist. The acts, reactions and motives that define terrorism are as ever-changing as the groups and individuals responsible. Terrorism cannot be ultimately defined because the terrorists themselves cannot be.