Author Archive

To Make the Word “Terrorism” Useful Again…

Terrorism during the French Revolution was used to describe a “system or rule of terror” by the Académie Française (Roberts). This original definition of terrorism is too broad to be used effectively in today’s language but it lends insight into the core of what terrorism is: The use of fear as a tool.
Terrorism, in my mind, is a tactic used by relatively small groups that involves violence against indirect targets such as civilians and noncombatants or without regard to the collateral damage of, in general, “innocent” parties to promote a message through the use of fear and shock. Here, “innocent” parties include people that have little or no actual influence on the cause of the grievances of the terrorist group. Important aspects of this definition include the need to send a message, political or not, the targets and violent methods of the attacks, the size of the terrorist group and the use of fear to promote their message. Read more

Any Human Life and What it’s Worth

I’d like to pose a question to any one reading this and link it to terrorism, maybe illuminating some differences between terrorists and other extremists.  First the question:  How much do you value a human life regardless of age, race, height, sex, etc?  Could you ever strap someone into an outfit like this?

This is certainly a very generic question and one not to be taken lightly as some of those factors play an important role in how I view the worth of a human life.  I know that I value human life very highly compared to many things and I often value an individual’s life over the success of some whole.  Who am I to say who lives and dies even to enact change and reach some utopia?  Now I wonder what terrorists might say.  How do they value the life of a human. Read more

Cyber-terrorism a threat?

As anyone who knows me knows, I am a huge fan of computers.  I build them, I break them down, I use them on a daily basis and as I walk around campus its hard to find someone who doesn’t at least browse the web once a day.  So as computers permeate our lives, they are perfect targets for terrorists to gain and share information.  Is this really terrorism?  It isn’t violent and most of the time it doesn’t harm people physically or mentally because they are completely unaware it has even occurred.   How about starting viral videos of beatings, attacks or even worse, decapitations.  Does this count as terrorism? Read more

The Hurt Locker Reflections

Movie Reflections: The Hurt Locker
Me, Me, Me: The Human Perspective
Humans are consistently plagued by self centered thinking. What can I do today that will give me the most expected satisfaction? What should I know that is going to affect me directly? Even the way we consume news is affected by this narcissism: Barnett and Reynolds in Terrorism and the Press say that “studies have shown that journalists report more extensively on events and issues that directly affect them” (Barnett 117). This has been a powerful force for our survival and evolution but in the global and technological world of today, it can be a burden to overcome our own nature. And it is important to break free of our inherent narcissism at times. It is with this view that I want to approach The Hurt Locker, war and terrorism. Read more

Guest Speaker Aaron Brown

On Thursday of last week (04/22/10) I got to listen and interact in a special talk with Aaron Brown in class.  In case you don’t know too much about who Aaron Brown is, check out his Wikipedia page.  Aaron Brown is probably most well known for his coverage of 9/11 and his evening program NewsNight with Aaron Brown on CNN until it was replaced with Anderson Cooper’s show in 2005.  He has earned many awards for his journalism and is an incredible man to talk to.  I wanted to share a couple of quotes that I wrote down during the talk and discuss them a little bit.

“it made a great phrase”, “nothing can happen in the world without a big banner below it.” – talking about the War on Terror.
Symbols are an extremely important tool for groups, revolutions, terrorists, TV shows, companies, freedom fighters and everyday life.  If you doubt that just do a quick Google search for “The power of symbols” and read some of the results.  Symbols give a center for people to rally around as well as conjure the emotions and thought process that a movement or groups requires to be cohesive and powerful.  The benefit of using symbols is that they are both broad in meaning and implication and specific in representation.  The swastika, for instance, is a very powerful symbol of the Nazi’s and their ideology.  Regardless if it is good or bad, the swastika holds a significant amount of power and under that symbol great and terrible things were done.  The “War on Terror” as a catch phrase is both descriptive and useful while being unspecific and a horrible objective.  First off, how is it possible to wage a war against a feeling that everyone has at least once in their lives.  Sure, in the context of terrorism it is clear that this “War on Terror” means a war against all terrorists, but how is that a useful goal.  This is similar to the “War on Drugs”.  It is going to be never ending as there will always be terrorists because terrorism is a last resort tactic that anyone can do, just as drugs will always be sought out or produced because it makes people feel good (if only for a short time) and there is money to be made.  This banner is just that, something to rally around and not the true goal.

“context always matters in war”, “adrenaline is a killer if there is an open mic” – in regards to difficult decisions that soldiers must make and in reference to the killing of reporters in Iraq by an American Army helicopter (link).
Context, context, context.  This word couldn’t be more important when you try to make judgments on life.  Perspective, the time of day, life or death, time frame, people, children, all of it matters when you pass judgment on others and their actions.  I don’t know how many times I am driving and someone will pull out in front of me or cut me off on the highway and I will feel a twinge of anger.  But why did they do it?  Maybe they are rushing to a game of gold they are late for.  Not good enough.  How about they are rushing to get to a meeting that could decide their career?  Getting closer but they probably could have planned better.  Maybe they are trying to get to the hospital to see be there for their pregnant wife, injured child or what not.  I think about these things while driving and seemingly stupid acts of driving occur but how many of them would I do in their context?  Not to say that makes it right or wrong but at least I can understand their thinking.  This isn’t to say that under the context, all decisions are forgivable.  Far from it.  But sometimes, sometimes it is and you should never forget it.

“if a state decides to do an action, the people should confront that action” – in regards to filming and releasing videos of the death penalty in action.
I couldn’t agree more.  If you condone an action you better be able to face the consequences as well as what performing the action entails.  Not that every action should be shared by all but I believe that you should have to bear some of the guilt / shame / joy / fear of anything you have a part of.

“you have the right to put out the best version of events that sources can give but you cannot lie” – in regards to journalistic integrity and releasing stories
This is something that I think about every time I watch the news.  What do these journalists actually know and what are they saying that is their spin, their little lies.  Do they know they are lying, to what extent?  What part of the story do they actually know and what part do they only think they know?  I think this quote really shows how journalists *should* act and I hope they do.

“All bad stuff comes out on Friday night”
Hmmm… Good to know. (Apparently newspapers are least read on Saturdays in case you were curious)

I tried taking a picture during the talk but it only turned out blurry so I’ll leave it out.

Fear Mongering and Terrorism – Where’s the Line?

In many of our definitions of terrorism, fear and the spread of fear takes a major role.  While I believe that fear, terror if you will, is a key element to the definition of terrorism, I think that other aspects of the definition are just as important.  What would distinguish a bully, a director of a horror film and other such normal people from the extremism of a terrorist using terrorist tactics?  I guess a better question could be: Are all people that employ terroristic tactics terrorists?  Do all terrorists use terroristic tactics?   Read more

The Hurt Locker’s Story

The Hurt Locker was an excellent film about a small explosive
ordinance disposal unit and the reactions to the constant stress of battle.  I asked my pen pal what he though about the film and which soldier in the unit he would probably identify with the most.  This is his response: Read more

The Internet’s Effect on Perspective

My pen pal, Nathan, is a software developer that lives and works in Australia.  He is a rather upbeat and energetic person who loves computers and software development and continuously works with Americans on projects over seas.  We shared information on how we obtain our news about the world and terrorism and, for the most part, we had similar sources:  mostly online resources like the new york times online, aljazeera and the BBC or some social network services like Twitter or personal blogs.  Neither of us own a television or have newspaper / magazine subscriptions and I know I really don’t pick one up unless I have nothing better to do while eating. Read more

Let’s Talk Over Some Tea.

The book “3 Cups of Tea” offers a really great perspective in to the lives of the poor in Pakistan in the Balti region and what one mountain climber started to improve that area.  His initial efforts in building one school spawned a series of further contributions of schools, women’s centers and an entire organization dedicated to improving the area.  Education is one of the most important tools in combating extremism and his organization worked hard to teach moderation and not preach American or western ideals.  I believe one of the most important aspects of Mortenson’s ability to get his work done was his willingness to communicate and build relationships with anyone he could find.  In doing so he had to learn the languages to communicate his ideas. Read more

The Evolution of Media Coverage Surrounding 9/11

The Evolution of Media Coverage Surrounding 9/11
The tragic attacks on the World Trade Center Towers as well as the Pentagon on September 11th, 2001 were quite possibly the most shocking and devastating experiences the United States has had on its own land.  The following day, September 12th, CNN had a time line of the events of that day to help people understand exactly what happened. The report was objective and timid, shying away from placing blame on specific terrorists and focused on the events of the day.  The American media’s treatment of this tragedy evolved similar to the way a person would react to such a disaster: first shock, disbelief and fear on to sorrow and vengeance and finally justice. Read more
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Terrorism and the Press

This blog is an integral part of a special section of Honors 394 Spring 2010, Arizona State University. Rather than a routine history course this dynamic, interactive seminar explores the interplay between terrorism and television, and other media sources on-line and in print. 26 students and their global pen pals comprise the bloggers. We welcome all to share their opinions, pertinent observations, insights, comments, feedback. Please post in a responsible manner.