toward a definition of

There are two terms to consider = Terror (extreme fear) and Terrorism (the provocation of terror by threats of violence, or actual violence).

Terror is an emotion widely different and widely felt. Extreme fear is possible without anyone trying to provoke it. Terror is experienced most often without a terrorist involved.

Terrorism therefore has to be understood separately from terror. This is an "ism", a political doctrine or platform that seeks to provoke terror in order to influence behavior. Terrorism is always more specific than terror; it is always political because it means someone’s threat OR actual use of physical violence or other harmful physical action in order to shape behavior of others, those targeted or in the vicinity of those targeted. Even if the threat or action is against an inert object, the target is still the sentient beings who identify with the object, and it is their behavior that the threat, or action, aims to change.

The behavioral change desired may be "positive", not in the evaluative sense ("good") but in the technical sense of provoking specific desired and positive actions. It may also be "negative", as in the Russian notion of disorganizatsiia, rendering the target irresolute or ineffective.

Disorganizatsiia was the Narodnaia volia [ID] word, and at this time it also became the policy of Sviashchennaia druzhina [Holy Retinue (ID)] against tsarist political opposition. The example of the Holy Retinue reminds us that to provoke "fear of terrorism" ("terror about terrorism") for purposes of influencing behavior can be a form of terrorism in itself.

So terrorism may be the policy of governments against people or of people against governments, people against other people or governments against other governments. The first famous instance of European political terror was the French Revolutionary government’s "reign of terror" [ID].

Terrorism is, however, most often the weapon of last resort employed by the weak or the few against the strong or the many.

Terror may be a spontaneous knee-jerk, born of desperation and the murderous desire for REVENGE, whether justified or not [EG]. I would say, however, that TERROR can follow from an emotional atmosphere of revenge, but TERRORISM almost never does. In all doctrines or platforms called TERRORISM, emotional urges are an aura surrounding core policy. It is often difficult to see through the foggy atmosphere of terror in order to perceive the core policy [EG].

Another befogging element is this = Some consider terrorism to be "demonic possession" or "evil" in an almost theological sense, but it need not be considered in this way. Terrorism can be understood in the way we try rationally to understand other forms of behavior.

We might also distinguish between focused and unfocused terrorism. Assassination represents a good example of focused terrorism.  Assassination represents a discrete threat or actual violence aimed at politically significant individuals (in government or in opposition to government).

Try this LOOP on terrorism (including assassination) in the Russian 1860s-1880s

Some have thought of Russia as a nation especially wracked by terror, but notice these pan-European events =
*1894:Assassination of French President Marie François Carnot
*1897:Assassination of Spanish Premier Canovas del Castillo
*1898:Assassination of Austrian Empress Elizabeth
*1900:Assassination of Italian King Humbert
*1901:Assassination of USA President McKinley
*1908:Assassination of Portuguese King Carlos and the crown prince

Then try this LOOP on Russian terrorism in the years before the 1905 Revolution.


Torture of captives is another form of focused terrorism. The effort here is to influence a given individual's behavior (in the direction of gaining confession or other information) through violence or threat of violence.

Bombs in the Winter Palace or under railways and roads, though intended for the tsar, expand in their implication toward more clumsy or indiscriminate violence, and thus this other variety of more generalized or unfocused terrorism [EG]. The same could be said of the Russian Imperial policy of arbitrary seizure of peasants from an unruly crowd for severe physical punishment (sometimes resulting in death) "for the encouragement of the [unspecified or generic] others".

Since there can be no "reformatory" consequences of capital punishment, and also because its application can be so arbitrary, it too represents a form of terrorism. Governments are jealous of their "monopoly on violence", so execution in state prisons has continued to have more support than public lynching. Capital punishment, whether delivered officially or by public volunteer action, is often justified as an influence on the behavior of others who might otherwise consider criminal action. Combining the notion of "punishment" with "persuasion", execution bears strong resemblance to other forms of terror.

Assassination, torture and capital punishment are forms of terror, but they do not require adherence to a more general doctrine of terrorism.

Finally, there is out-and-out indiscriminate threat or actual violence, for example, troops firing on villages [EG], bombs in public markets [EG] or means of transportation, suicide airplane collisions with buildings, or saturation bombing of whole cities [EG].

War is not just physical destruction of a target or an enemy but is frequently described by phrases like "shock and awe", clearly indicating the terrorist dimension of war. Many historians emphasize the role of the two atomic weapons dropped on Japan in August, 1945 [ID], as a warning and restraint on the Soviet Union. In the era of the "Cold War", the threat of global pan-destruction was credited with disciplining and thwarting the behavior of both sides.

The children (and just about everyone else, parents, grandparents, teachers, custodians, etc.) of Beslan school in Chechnya [ID] were victims of indiscriminate violence. The perpetrators killed in the action were victims in a very different way. The security troops that surrounded the building were also victims in a very different sense.

But however well planned, and however "terrible", nonetheless the attack on Beslan school or the earlier attacks on the Twin Towers in NYC were examples of contemporary terrorism such that no Russians or Americans (nor just about everyone else) experienced prior to the 20th century.

The origins of our modern, monstrous variety of terrorism are to be found in the globalized standards of industrialized imperialism and mechanized "total war" [ID], now powered up here and there by ancient, primitive concepts (eastern or western concepts, never mind), concepts of eternal heavenly reward for dastardly acts on this ephemeral earth.

2010no07:ERG| Robert Pape [ID], "What Triggers a suicide attack?"| Pape's University of Chicago Project on Security and Terrorism [CPOST] analyzed each of the more than 2,200 suicide attacks that have taken place throughout the world since 1980. Among the many causal factors, "the primary driver of suicide terrorism is foreign occupation" [YouTube Pape lecture].