Defining Modern Terrorism and Resisting Stereotypes: Update 1

Prior to beginning the in-depth research of my project, I conducted a preliminary interview with a retired Army colonel and current FBI agent, Col. John Tumino, in New York City.  Through this interview, I gained important insights regarding the topic at hand, specifically that he believes in the necessity of a universal definition of terrorism.  To paraphrase Col. Tumino’s words, in a world where information is so easily recorded and accessed, it is essential to have very specific guidelines that leave little room for discretion.  Furthermore, in his opinion, most of the mass murder case studies that are going to be discussed in my research should not be considered terrorism (domestic or otherwise).  According to Tumino, classifying events such as school shootings, etc. as terrorism ignores the role of mental illness; in a society where mental illness is so stigmatized, we cannot afford to discount its involvement in certain cases.  If we treat someone with a mental illness as a terrorist, that could create an even larger stigma and lead to more issues.

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Defining Modern Terrorism and Resisting Stereotypes

Due to recent incidents, the word “terrorism” has been plastered on countless headlines and news articles, regardless if the subsequent story fits the actual definition of the abhorrent crime.  In order for a crime to truly be terroristic in intent, it must be politically motivated.  Many of the terrible, heart-breaking mass shootings that have been so prevalent in recent events cannot be considered terrorism, despite being falsely identified as such in everything from news sources to Twitter posts.  Throughout this research, a case by case examination will be given, analyzing these crimes and discussing whether or not they can be categorized as terrorism.  It is essential for the general public to become more educated on this topic, as terrorist organizations tend to claim these acts in the name of fear-mongering – they are able to maintain a greater presence in the United States by taking ownership of mass shootings, bombings, etc.  Furthermore, it is important for people to understand that, although much of terrorism is deemed “Islamic terrorism,” it is not in any way a representation of true Islamic values.