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.

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Defining Modern Terrorism and Resisting Stereotypes: Update 2

As of a week ago, I completed (almost) all of my research and travelled to W&M to meet with my advisor and discuss my process thus far.  I have narrowed my case studies to the past 5 years, looking at the seven mass shootings with the highest mortality rates within that time period (San Bernardino, Umpqua Community College, Pulse nightclub, Sutherland Springs, Las Vegas, Parkland, and Santa Fe).  One of the more interesting things I’ve noticed through researching via news sources is how differently the cases are treated based on whether or not there was a connection to Islamic terrorism.  When the shooter had declared an allegiance to the Islamic State, there is very little mention of their background or their mental health; however, when the motives of the shooter are unclear, there is a more thorough investigation into their childhood, home life, and mental health problems.  I am planning on doing some further research and analysis regarding the implications of this.

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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.