Ter-ror-ism: noun. An arbitrary term used to describe a person or persons who oppose another group’s inherent beliefs and ideological commitments through the use of violent action as a means to pursue political, social, religious, and/or economic goals. The implication behind the word’s usage illustrates the interconnectedness of the “terrorist” and the group or organization that the former seeks to oppose, disestablish, or antagonize. This binary opposition (“terrorist” versus “non-terrorist”) is arbitrary in nature and is only utilized by a dominant group to describe the force that is opposing it. The very nature of the word’s creation is intimately tied to the association of “friend” versus “enemy.” Slavoj Žižek, a Slovenian continental philosopher, states,

The division of friend/enemy is never just a recognition of factual difference. The enemy is by definition always invisible: it cannot be directly recognized because it looks like one of us, which is why the big problem and task of the political struggle is to provide/construct a recognizable image of the “terrorist.” (Žižek, 2002)

The “enemy,” the “terrorist,” is after exactly what the dominant group is in desperate search of: freedom, political autonomy, regulation, etc. In this sense, “terrorists” employ “terrorism” in order to justify perceived inequalities. Distinctions made between “us versus them,” “terrorists versus non-terrorists,” provide the necessary imagery needed in order to construct the tangible conception of the “terrorist.” “Terrorism,” then, is a term utilized by individuals in positions of power in order to classify and construct an image of any force that is supposedly a threat to established systems of control.

Works Cited

Hadis, Benjamin. “On the Meaning of Terror.” Meetings on the Eastern Sociological Society (2007): 1-44. Web. 9 Mar 2010. http://www.chss.montclair.edu/~hadisb/Terror_as_Speech.pdf

Watts, O. “The Image and the Terrorist.” Law Text Culture. 10.1 (2005): 219-238. Print.

Žižek, Slavoj. “Are we in a war? Do we have an enemy?.” London Review of Books. 24.10 (2002): 3-6. Print.