My Definition of Terrorism

The concept of terrorism is exceedingly difficult to define. Author Gerald Seymour first said in his book Harry’s Game that, “One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter”.  Each individual may view terrorism in a different light. Because of this, there is currently no universal definition of terrorism. However in recent years, it has become increasingly more important to form a definition of terrorism, especially while working in the media.

The word terror dates back to the French Revolution. “A terrorist was, in its original meaning, a Jacobin who ruled France during la Terruer” (Moeller 20). Terrorism has clearly become much broader in the years since its origination. Since the concept was first birthed in France it has been used for separatist, nationalistic, political and religious ends, etc.

In the book “Packaging Terrorism”, author Susan Moeller states that, “the goal of terrorism is to send a message, not to defeat the enemy”. I think this is an incredibly important concept when one is trying to define terrorism. The goal of terrorism is more about inspiring fear. Terrorists do not generally target high-up government officials, but innocent civilians like those killed in September 11. When an act of terrorism is committed, the effect spreads beyond the victim. When members of Black September killed the Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics, there were 11 victims of the attack. Black September’s target, however, was greater than just the Israeli athletes. They inflicted a worldwide terror. When defining terrorism, one must realize that the message is often the goal of the attack.

The U.S. Department of State 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”. Whereas the Belgium Red Cross says that terrorism is committed “for the purpose of intimidating the population, forcing a third party to act or destablishing or destroying the fundamental structures of a country or of an international organization”. Both of these definitions highlight some of the important aspects of terrorism. It is an act that sends a message, often for political and religious reasons.

Works Cited

Fedi, Namuezi, Laurelia Nootens, Vincent Vandendriessche, and Frederic Casier. Terrorism? Belgian Red Cross. Print.

Moeller, Susan D. Packaging Terrorism: Co-opting the News for Politics and Profit. Chichester, U.K.: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009. Print.\

Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism. U.S. Department of State. Web. <>.

Seymour, Gerald. Harry’s Game. N.Y.: Random House, 1975. Print.