Over the last hundred years terrorism has been used as a primary means in the express purpose to entrench fear and to subordinate people to fear. Terrorism is intentional in its indiscriminate violence. Ideology, whether political, religious, whatever the exploitative force, cannot justify terrorism. It is often argued that one person described as a terrorist is another person’s freedom fighter, but when civilians are murdered it is plain and simple: terrorism. The purpose is to generate terror despite the strategists’ view that terror may be ultimately a means to an end; the presumption of a treaty, peace, sovereignty.
Civilisation is underwritten by so many lies and duplicity, that distrust and paranoia are everywhere. If there is any hope for a socially just humanity, truth needs to be stated. This will be hard to achieve, maybe impossible, but truth is our only universal hope. It is said that no lie lives forever but lies do run the course of lifetimes.
Terrorism is practiced by nearly every nation on this pale blue dot. Humanity is indeed mad, barbarous, and murderous. We can play with statistics all we like and skew the data to suit an argument. We can compare risk of death by acts of terrorism to rates of death by other unnatural means. We can find that, for instance, human beings are 50 times more likely to suicide than die as a result of a terrorist act. Yes, more than a million human beings suicide each year and it’s likely a much higher toll, nevertheless acts of terrorism have killed a quarter of a million civilians in the last decade and injured at least ten million people. Terrorism has also divided humanity, once again racialising people. Racism is always something brought on, never something natural, and it is used as if a weapon.
Terrorism was once a description of terror generated through acts of indiscriminate violence but today terrorism is effectively reserved for perpetrators of violence who are attributed to be of the Islamic faith, who have dark skin pigment. No longer is a white perpetrator of violence considered a terrorist, as governments and the media have us believe. Terrorism has been racialised, politicised, propagandised, when in truth mass murder, all bombings are an act of terror. From 1978 to 1995, American Theodore John Kaczynski terrorised academics. During the 17 years he killed three people and injured 23 and was described in the media as a terrorist. His bombing campaign was nationwide, domestic terrorism. Kaczynski was a mathematical prodigy, earning a PhD, and he was an assistant professor before turning to terrorism. But today, his whiteness and the fact he is not of the Islamic faith would more than likely ensure that he is not referred to as a terrorist.
Institutional racism is yet not asunder when so easy we can revile only black and brown, but not white, as terrorists. We may still term white perpetrators as mass murderers but we no longer refer to anyone white or Judeo-Christian as terrorists. Historically, racism has been justified, validated, grounded in fear and hate – in xenophobia and misoxeny. Structurally this fear and hate is preyed upon. When black and brown sisters and brothers journey in rickety boats across the Mediterranean from Africa to Europe seeking asylum they are referred to by white European politicians as ‘cockroaches’. Had they been White they would not be referred to as cockroaches. When more than 700 black and brown sisters and brothers drown in the Mediterranean in seeking a better life relatively few in the white-dominated western world mourn. There are never the tens of thousands of bouquets of flowers accumulated in the city squares of the capital cities of Western countries as occur when white lives are lost to tragedy. Had the 700 been white they would have been rescued. It is a harsh statement but true.
In Italy in 1970 a revolutionary organisation formed, The Red Brigades (Brigate Rosse). The paramilitary organisation terrorised Italy in its mad struggle to ignite revolution in a bid to remove Italy from NATO. They were described by the media as terrorists – they assassinated and kidnapped. Today they would be described as a revolutionary mob and not as terrorists because they cannot be badged Islamic.
Terrorism should not be propagandised. Those most complicit in sustaining this are the media. From the instruments of the state we expect little better, but the media depletes itself when it functions effectively as an organ of the state. Obviously I am writing about western media. The Oklahoma City bombing in 1995 was a terrorist act; a truck bombing perpetrated by Americans Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols. The bombing killed 168 people, injuring nearly 700, the blast damaging 324 other buildings in a 16-block radius. Terrorism is not a property of Islamic jihadists and radicals – it should never be racialised and politicised.
Originally the term ‘terrorism’ came from the French ‘terrorisme’, out of the 1793-94 Reign of Terror. The Latin derivative ‘terrere’ means ‘to frighten’. In 2003, during the war in Iraq, the CIA terrorised detainees in Abu Ghraib prison – but white on brown; or those of Christian values or faith punishing, frightening, murdering those of Islamic values or faith are not defined as terrorists. The vile abuses included sexual abuse, rape, sodomy, and murder. Yet the CIA and the American military have not been referred to as terrorists. If the gospel is humanity and hence inherently in its universality then rightly so these perpetrators of such cruel abuses should be known for what they are, terrorists.
Terrorism is not something black, brown or white, it is not something Islamic or Christian. During the 1930s and 1940s Zionists, calling themselves the Jewish Resistance Movement, perpetrated terrorism, act after act, in order to force the British to renege a 1938 intention to give independence to Palestine. The terrorist acts continued for 10 years until Britain terminated a mandate for Palestinian statehood and instead established the state of Israel in 1948. In 1946, the Zionist movement bombed the King David Hotel – where British bureaucrats lived; 91 people were killed. It was an act of terrorism.
When scores of people have been killed by a bomb or by individuals carrying guns, the media should not be stating that it is ‘yet to confirm whether this is a terrorist incident’. It’s terrorism. Chaos, madness, lies will continue long into the human narrative, and racism will be intertwined to fuel hate. Humanity may never save the show, vile acts of terror may continue forever and a day but let us not pretend these abominable acts of violence are limited to people of ‘certain colour’, of ‘certain cultures’, of ‘certain faiths’. There have been nearly 100,000 terrorist incidents since the turn of the century.
* Gerry Georgatos is the nation’s most prolific writer on suicide prevention; he is a suicide prevention and prison reform researcher and advocate with the non-tertiary Institute of Social Justice and Human Rights. He is a member of national projects to further develop suicide prevention, and well-being and education programs in prisons.