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Pen Pal conversation: Too close to home

Zach: What are your reactions to the recent attempted attack in Times Square in NYC with the explosive-packed car? I know it’s pretty close to where you are, so what is your personal reaction as well as the reaction of those around you?

Margret:  “I was shocked by the car bomb on Times Square especially because if it had happened two weeks earlier I would have been with my dad and my uncle at a hotel exactly where the car was.

It is terrifying to know that even though there are cameras and cops EVERYWHERE in NYC something like this still managed to happen. It really shows how vulnerable we still are and how the awareness of the general public can actually stop things like this from happening (had it not been for the street vendor noticing something wrong thousands would probably have died).

I know one of my roommates was in NYC when this happened and she was in shock when I talked to her when she came back home. I think the general reaction over this is shock and people are scared first of all because it is so close and second that this could actually still happen.”

Pen Pal Conversation: America’s attitude

Zach: What do you think America’s biggest problem is when it comes to terrorism? Our attitude? The way the media reports on it?

Margret: “I want to make a point of something I have witnessed here as a student. My school is extremely diverse and there are a lot of people with head scarves or turbans and stuff like that.

And what I have witnessed is that some of these people have been judged because they wear their head scarves, judged as if they were part of terrorism or something. I think this is extremely wrong because if you seriously look at Islam it is actually a very peaceful religion but it is the extremists that ruin it for everyone.

I just think people should be aware of not judging everyone and that most of these individuals are actually Americans and probably as shocked by terrorism as the next person.

And I really do think the media has influenced this, as we both know news coverages tend to blow things way out of proportion and I think that has contributed to the negative image on Islam. I feel that we should definitely judge the individuals that are extremists but I feel that the media has done nothing to correct the judgements that Islamic Americans encounter daily.”

Pen pal reaction: 3 Cups of Tea

Zach: What do you think we, as average people, can do to combat this whole idea of terrorism? Do you think we have a responsibility to help others understand why these people do what they do, or do you think there is anything we CAN do?

We studied about a man named Greg Mortenson who is building schools in the Middle East as a way to promote peace (the website is, check it out to get an idea of what he’s doing).

Margret: “I went on that website and I think that what he is doing is amazing. This is exactly what we as western civilization should be doing. We might not be able to change the terrorists that are living right now but we can change the future generations of middle eastern children.

It is often because of miseducation that individuals get into extremist practices but with schools that educate children as they are meant to be educated, we can maybe minimize the number of children captured into the Islam extremist groups.

I think this is all we can do at this point, we have tried to hunt them down, we have heightened security where it was needed and as said before we cannot change the individuals who already practice extremism.”

Pen Pal Reaction: 9/11 from Iceland

“I remember 9/11 like it was yesterday. Because of the time difference it was after noon in Iceland and I went to my friends house after school. Her sister was sitting in their den watching what I thought was a Bruce Willis action movie. As I sat down I witnessed the second airplane fly into the towers.

I was horrified when I finally noticed that this was CNN she was watching and it was live. I immediately called my mother who was on the phone with my aunt in California who was hysterical because she couldn’t get reach of her husband and thought he was on one of the flights. Thank god she finally got reach of him and he scheduled a different flight.

The coverage of 9/11 was major in Iceland because of our connection with the US since WW2. The US had a naval base in Iceland up until 2006 so there are a lot of ties to America. Of course I felt an extremely strong connection to the US at this time but I also felt that Iceland as a whole was in shock because of this.

This horrible attack made the whole world vulnerable and not to mention our little unprotected island in the north.”


Terrorism: A Dangerous Word

The word terrorism has many definitions, but each definition depends upon who is doing the defining.

In Europe, states such as Belgium have adopted the definition of a terrorist act as “a specific offense that may seriously damage a country or international organization and is committed for the purpose of intimidating the population, forcing a third party to act or destabilizing or destroying the fundamental structures of a country/international organization” (Belgian Red Cross Handout).

However, the word terrorism simply refers to the “phenomenon” of a terrorist act, so terrorism cannot be punished by law.

The phenomenon of terrorism, according to Roy Peter Clark of the Poynter Report, “places the focus on the effects of hostile action, the destruction of property, the loss of life, fear, chaos, and panic.” As history has shown, this definition is extremely accurate, because the fear, chaos, and panic associated with terrorism has caused nations to ferociously retaliate.

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An Introduction

Margret stands in front of Strokkur (Icelandic for "churn"), one of Iceland's most famous geysirs

Although late, we always save the best for last, right? While my pen pal has been engaged in the blog for the majority of the semester, I felt it was proper to finally give her a formal introduction.

My pen pal’s name is Margret and she is a 21 year old student from Uni. Iceland. When she was younger, her and her mom lived in Chandler, AZ, where I met her on the first day of 4th grade as the person sitting in the desk next to me. We became great friends, only for her and her mom to move back to Iceland at the end of that year.

Since then, Margret has lived in Iceland, attended university there, and is currently studying at Rutgers University in New Jersey where she is majoring in Genetics.

I don’t know how to speak Icelandic, but if I did, I would be able to read her Facebook status right now, which probably says “I wish this pen pal guy would leave me alone.”

Pen pal conversation: What does Hurt Locker say about the West?

I feel that when we talk about war here in the west we do not consider [the psychological tole it has on the soldiers],we only talk about the terrorist aspect and why the army is there, not the individuals in the war and the tole it is taking on them. No one really cares about the feelings of the soldiers.

There is a quote I saw on the internet ”The rush of battle is a potent and often lethal addiction, for war is a drug” and I really think The Hurt Locker portrays this.

Hope this helps,


Pen pal: Hurt Locker realistic portrayal

“Hi Zach,

Yes I have seen the movie, I saw it a while ago though. I thought it was very interesting to see the inner workings of the war and I felt this movie really portrayed the true emotions of the soldiers instead of just the cliche war movies I have seen before. I feel this movie actually gave a realistic picture of how the war in Iraq really was/is.

I really would have to watch the movie again to judge how the west is portrayed, but some scenes that really stuck with me were how the soldiers behaved. One was the scene where the got drunk in their cabin, I felt like you could really see the psychological tole that the war is having on these men and how they are not just a figment of war, but human beings with true emotions and problems.”

An hour with Aaron Brown

Aaron Brown’s visit to the Terrorism and the Press “think-tank” on Thursday, April 22, was nothing short of captivating. Although I was not aware of the extra credit assignment regarding guest speakers in the course, I was compelled to start writing down what Brown was saying.

Former CNN anchor Aaron Brown sat down with the class to discuss his views on terrorism and the press

As if it was a press conference or a one-on-one interview, I knew he was going to say things I would regret missing if I didn’t have them down on paper. Throughout the course of the conversation, the class developed a relationship with Brown, and as the class became more comfortable asking questions, he began to answer is a frank, candid manner.

Brown’s opinions on terrorism and the “War on Terror” are what dominated the conversation from the beginning. Being that it is a course dedicated to the topic of terrorism, almost ever question he faced was related to terrorism in some way.

The sound bites he provided were, in some cases, remarkable. At one point, when asked about how he fell about Timothy McVey’s execution and subsequent request to have it nationally televised, Brown said, “I would have shown McVey’s execution at the IMAX theatre complete with the 3-D goggles.”

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Three Cups For Everyone

Mortenson reads to the children of Pakistan

In 2009, Greg Mortenson told Thomas Friedman, a op-ed writer for the New York Times, that he was originally critical of the U.S. military presence in Iraq and Afghanistan. Then, he said, something changed. Mortenson credits the U.S. military with “starting from the ground up” (NYT 7/18/09), and building relationships in order to truly help the people in the country they are occupying.

In the book “Three Cups of Tea,” the story of Mortenson’s personal journey that led him to be a hero for the children of Pakistan, he talks about listening to himself, and how that showed him what he needed to do. While watching the children, completely silent and without supervision, scribble their math into the dirt, Mortenson comments, “There was a fierceness in their desire to learn, despite how mightily everything was stacked against them… I knew I had to do something” (32).Later, when he realizes that his western idea of progress and production was much too fast-paced for the simple people he was dealing with, his internal commitment materializes into a realistic commitment to the Baltistani people.

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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.