Defining Modern Terrorism and Resisting Stereotypes: Update 3

I can’t say that researching and writing about mass shootings and terrorism was an uplifting process, but it is an issue that I feel strongly about and something that must be discussed. The thing that struck me the most while analyzing the case studies was the sheer number of missed warning signs that proceed all of these incidents, especially posts on social media that were not taken seriously enough. While social media platforms come with their own set of issues, they can be used to identify many red flags before it’s too late.

My main conclusion regarding the concept of defining terrorism in modern society was less straightforward than I had hoped. The definition emphasizes that the act must be politically motivated in order to constitute terrorism, however it does not explain what it means by political. This almost leaves it up to a matter of opinion; some people may think that acts against religious groups are political, while others may not. In the conclusion of my paper, I contend that the term “politically motivated” needs to be more clearly defined, however the authorities see fit.

Defining terrorism is the first step in fighting it, and if the definition comes down to a matter of opinion, that leaves a lot of room for error. Another issue that I addressed was how to treat cases in which the terrorist group claims an act, despite the perpetrator having no known ties to terrorism. In this case, it would be unwise to include these acts since that allows terrorist groups to have a greater presence in the United States.

Something else that struck me during my research was the issue of white terrorism. Generally, the image of a terrorist is stereotyped as being non-white, and while this was true for the two cases that were classified as Islamic terrorism, this only represents one type of terrorism. It can take many forms, not just Islamic jihad.

This was an extremely interesting experience and I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to do research on this topic. While it was definitely frustrating at times with very little positivity, I am glad that I chose it since it is such a relevant issue today.


  1. I’m extremely glad you decided to research this topic because it was one I considered myself. Like you said, terrorism is one of the most relevant issues today. Last year, I took a few classes where we spoke about modern terrorism. However, when we were speaking about it, it was not the way most people define or perceive terrorism. These classes were in the GSWS department, so we looked at the way gender and masculinity intersect the conversation about terrorism. I think this would’ve been another route you could’ve taken with your research because there is little acknowledgment of it. I think it is so important that you researched the stereotypes aligned with terrorism. I live in New York City, so I’ve witnessed the terrible effects of an attacks and the even worse xenophobia that follows. I agree that terrorism is too broad of a term and too biased. There need to be ways to communicate with the world, especially the less educated, what exactly is going on so efforts can be put in the right direction.

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