The Evolution of Terror

  Terrorism in our world has existed since the first century.  The Zealots of Judea, also referred to as dagger-men by the oppressing Romans, initiated underground operations against the Roman forces and any Jews they believed to have been collaborating with the enemy.  Their reasoning?  The Zealots believed they could not remain faithful to the dictates of Judaism while living under Roman rule.  Did they win their “war” against the Romans?  Not quite.  Their end came as the result of their mass suicide, committed at the fortification of Masada.

The Assassins, and independent faction of Shia Islam, were the first group that would turn to the assassination of enemy leaders through the skill of a lone assassin.  Due to the groups low numbers, sending in an army was not an option.  The lone assassins were committed to the cause, often laying down their own lives to see their objective reached.  This faith in their actions, to the point of their own death, revered as a sacrifice to the cause, often inspired fear, but also respect and awe within the enemy’s ranks.

As our species evolved, so too did the means by which we could effectively use terrorism as a form of political warfare.  With the rise of kingdoms, states and nations came fantastic leaps in organization, communication and political authority.

It would be the French Revolution where we would see the words terrorist and terrorism enter our vocabulary, through 1795’s Reign of Terror that was brought about by the revolutionary government.  This revolution would be the example for future states in the oppression of their populations and citizens.

During the 19th century there was an increasing wave of nationalism throughout the globe.  Tying people, beliefs and borders together gave citizens only two choices; they could assimilate or rebel. One such conflict of these times still remains unresolved today as the struggle of Irish Nationalism continues.

It would be the Russian Narodnya Volya (Peoples Will), a terrorist group from the 19th century, that would be the first group to display the traits that we have come to associate with terrorism today. Perhaps the main trait was their tendency to increase acts of violence in direct correlation to any mounting political pressure enforced on the group.

The main event that brings us into our modern age of terror was a 1968 hijacking of an EI AI airliner by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.  The plane was hijacked based on its carrier’s Israeli nationality.  This was also the first time the world would witness hostages who were deliberately used as bargaining chips for demands against the Israeli government.  This event remains one of the most significant in the internationalization of terror, whereby cooperation amongst such extremist groups means more effective results through the sharing of training, information, support and operations.

September 11, 2001 remains the largest and most significant act of international terrorism in our history.  I think we all saw and perhaps more importantly, felt, just how powerful terror as a weapon of war can be.  It was the day the world changed.  The day we all realized just how thin our perceived safety blanket had become, in this new and modern age of terror.

It’s not right to respond to terrorism by terrorizing other people. And furthermore, it’s not going to help. Then you might say, “Yes, it’s terrorizing people, but it’s worth doing because it will end terrorism.” But how much common sense does it take to know that you cannot end terrorism by indiscriminately dropping bombs?

HOWARD ZINN, Terrorism and War


4 thoughts on “The Evolution of Terror

  1. “…September 11, 2001 remains the largest and most significant act of international terrorism in our history. I think we all saw and perhaps more importantly, felt, just how powerful terror as a weapon of war can be. …”

    Yes, but terrorism by who?

    Certainly not Osama Bin Laden. We know that the FBI never formally indicted Bin Laden for the events of 9/11 because in the words of Rex Tomb, Chief of Investigative Publicity for the FBI, “…….the FBI has no hard evidence connecting Bin Laden to 9/11”.

    Therefore, by dictionary definition, OBL’s involvement in the crime of 9/11 is a conspiracy theory. He’s never been charged with involvement in 9/11, let alone put on trial and convicted. I am not saying the man didn’t mastermind 9/11 from a cave in Afghanistan. Perhaps he did. I’m just saying he has never been officially connected to the crime. Of course the mass media suggested his involvement before the twin towers had even come down, a conspiracy theory encouraged and supported by the US administration. But that conspiracy theory speculation is not the same as evidence based trial and conviction. At least it wasn’t the last time I looked! (but perhaps 9/11 really did ‘change the world forever’ with regard to how one is made guilty of a crime).

    And while on the subject of ‘conspiracy theories’, it’s worth pointing out that to question the official conspiracy theory of 9/11 (with verifiable facts, evidence and critical thinking) or even to simply examine the official 9/11 conspiracy theory does not automatically make one a ‘conspiracy theorist’***. It makes one a challenger of an existing conspiracy theory. Challenging existing theories (of any kind) with evidence and reason is the basis of the scientific method.

    ***Not that there’s anything wrong with formulating a conspiracy theory. The world is full of conspiracies after all, from price fixing to bank robberies to inside trading to surprise birthday parties etc….

    To NOT challenge existing theories (perhaps due to the fact that they come from an authority and represent the current media generated consensus) is how society operated in the dark ages of superstition. Superstitions which usually benefitted the rulers (the church, state, aristocracy etc) of a rigid and brutal hierarchical society. The enlightened, scientific age requires people to challenge all theories all the time based on facts and reason… not authority (hierarchy). Without challenging existing consensus-based theories (about the worth and role of women, the cause of disease and infections or the shape of the earth!) or we would not have any scientific or social progress.

    The fact that those who challenge the consensus based conspiracy theory of 9/11 today are usually referred to as ‘conspiracy theorists’ is a frightening example of what Gorge Orwell called ‘double think’. To challenge or question a conspiracy theory makes one a conspiracy theorist. Do you see how twisted this ‘logic’ is?! Had you ever noticed this ‘double think’ before? If not – why not? (see also: “giving up our freedoms to protect your liberty” … “peace keeping forces” … “spreading democracy’ … “defence contractors” … and even “the war on terror”)

    By contrast, few people have ever considered that the theory that in 2003 Saddam Hussein and his regime were conspiring in secret to amass WMD’s and that he posed a dangerous and immediate threat to the west is a conspiracy theory by dictionary definition. This particular conspiracy theory turned out to be completely untrue. Upwards of a million people have died and been injured as a result of belief of this conspiracy theory. It must rank as one of the most dangerous and destructive conspiracy theories is modern history. Just recently Bush and Blair have been found guilty of war crimes and added to the War Criminals Register by a Malaysian tribunal. Their horrific war crimes were supposedly justified by the WMD conspiracy theory.

    Has the whole issue of Saddam’s WMDs ever been defined by the mass media or the ‘establishment’ in terms of the conspiracy theory it so obviously was? No. However, they are always quick to condemn those who question the conspiracy theories promoted by the ruling class – such as the official conspiracy theory of 9/11. Is anyone noticing a slight double standard here?

    The entire ‘war on terror’ is justified to the public by a conspiracy theory: that invisible terrorists are forever plotting to commit acts of ‘terror’ at any time and any place on the planet and that this conspiracy is so huge and widespread that the only way to match it is for the public to give up all their freedoms and liberties to a hi tech surveillance police state authority with access to our every movement, communication and even our thoughts in order to keep us safe from this elusive and relentless enemy. Even street lamp posts fitted with secret microphones are being installed in western nations in an attempt to combat the perceived threat envisioned by this conspiracy theory. And by contrast those who question this ‘global terror’ conspiracy theory are often portrayed as paranoid! (another example of ‘double think’?)

    Given that more people die each year from DIY accidents than international terrorism (statistically speaking), one might be forgiven for regarding the conspiracy theory driving the WoT as extreme and even a little paranoid and deluded. It is certainly dangerous (in terms of the wars, genocide, torture and authoritarianism it has produced around the world).

    We are without doubt living in a age of ‘terror’. But where does this terror actually come from and what is its actual purpose?

    At this stage, I humbly suggest that we need to get our heads around what ‘terrorism’ actually means!

  2. First and foremost, your “comment” is more interesting than my piece! I have my own thoughts on who lies at the root of the 9/11 attacks, and thus made no reference here. The definition of terror, for me, is how quickly our quality of life, our sense of safety, as naive as some consider it to be, can be stripped from us, at the hands of unknown offenders. We are, in my humble opinion, nothing more than pawns in a world wide game of risk, where the people of this planet, bought and paid for by the select few, are nothing more than plastic tokens in a game no one asked to play. But that…would be more for an opinion piece 😉

    • Er yes, sorry for the mega comment. Ever since the 10 year anniversary I keep being mind-blown about this event – especially the psychology/ language/ perception aspects of it. Can’t stop thinking/ writing about it.

      I thought I was coming to a natural ‘conclusion’ about the whole thing ….. and then today this happened!

      If we have become plastic pawns it is only because we have allowed ourselves to become perfect reflections of our ‘rulers’. I think they are as trapped in the ‘game’ as we are – in fact a lot more so. But things ARE changing. Sure, 9/11 has produced lots of fear and terror …. but beyond all of that it’s an amazing ‘teacher’ and more than anything it can inspire a sense of awe. I believe awe is the natural antidote to fear, and that maintaining a sense of awe about these things is even more important than being ‘right’ 🙂

      (OK, I shut up now LOL)

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