- / -
This note endeavours to clarify the variety of ways in which terror is deliberately caused or experienced. The purpose is to provide a reminder -- which should not be necessary -- that the phenomenon of "terrorism" also exists outside the specific domains in which "anti-terrorist" security measures are taken. Ironically it could be argued that the official focus on the more narrowly defined forms of "terrorism" is one of the most effective means of obscuring other forms of terrorism to which far more people are exposed. Typologies and taxonomies of "terrorism" seldom make any reference to such other forms of terrorism and should therefore be considered incomplete in the acknowledgement of the variety of ways in which people are intimidated. It is worth recalling that the prime objective of "terrorism" is inducing a climate of fear.
And yet it is precisely such other, more widespread, forms of "terrorism" which are characteristic of any "breeding ground" for "terrorists" in the narrower sense. It could be argued that many of these other varieties of "terrorism" are not "serious", and some may even be understood as negligible since they imply no threat of death. But the question is whether they give rise to commensurate fear -- as perceived and experienced by those exposed to such intimidation -- or whether such fear is to be devalued and demeaned in comparison with that associated with the more narrowly defined forms of terrorism.
It is useful to reflect on how it is that the most powerful nations in modern civilization have invested so much in countering the narrower form of terrorism, whether in terms of funds, human resources or intelligence. And yet relatively little is effectively invested in the response to the forms of terror that many experience on a daily basis. It is almost as though resources are allocated in highly visible response to an elusive enemy as a means of avoiding any response to far more frequently experienced forms of terror in the daily lives of many. The systematic counter-terrorist security measures might even be said to be engendering more terror than those deliberately undertaking occasional conventional "terrorist" actions.
It is also worth recalling that it is not only the prospect of physical violence that causes fear but also various forms of contextual or structural violence. Fear is an unpleasant feeling of perceived risk or danger, real or not. Fear also could be described as a feeling of extreme dislike to some conditions/objects, such as: fear of darkness, fear of ghosts, etc [more]. Inability to guarantee sufficient food or water, especially for vulnerable dependents, may engender deep existential fear on a daily basis.
Institutionally-induced terror (through abuse of power and authority)
Socially-induced terror (groups)
Socially-induced terror (individuals)
Personal and domestic terror
It may well be that a more appropriate approach to a framework for a taxonomy of terrorism is a mix of the following:
Origins of European understandings of "fear": The work of Jan Edward Garret (see Table 1) distinguishes varieties of fear in the classical Greek and Roman literature that is basic to understanding of so many terms in European languages. He notes the classical definition of fear as a disorder arising from expectation of evil; a belief of threatening evil which seems to the subject of it insupportable
Table 1: Varieties of Fear
The Passions according to the Classical Stoa (2000)
Jan Edward Garret
|Variety of fear||Definition||Greek||Latin|
|Sluggishness||Sluggishness: fear of ensuing toil||oknos||pigritia|
|Shame||Shame: fear of disgrace||aischunê||pudor|
|Fright||Paralyzing fear which causes paleness, trembling and chattering of teeth||ekplêxis||terror|
|Timidity||Fear of approaching evil||deima||timor|
|Consternation||Fear upsetting the mental balance||-||pavor|
|Pusillanimity||Fear following upon the heels of fright||agonia||exanimatio|
|Bewilderment||Lust for beholding someone who is not present||thorubos||conturbatio|
Understanding of himsa in Sanskrit: The concept of ahimsa is based on recognition of the forms of injury (himsa) to which any philosophy of non-violence (ahimsa) must necessarily be attentive. It is notably fundamental to the Jain religion but has been central to some understandings of peace activism. In Table 2, a simplified version of the Jain approach to himsa is presented.
Table 2: Himsa
(from a Jain perspective)
|Arambhaja or Arambhi Himsa,
|Udyami Himsa, (industrial injury)||
|Committed in the performance of necessary domestic acts, such as preparation of food, keeping the house, body, clothes and other things clean, construction of buildings, wells, gardens, and other structures, keeping cattle, etc.|
|Virodhi Himsa||Committed in defense of person and property, against thieves, robbers, dacoits, assailants and enemies, in meeting their aggression, and in causing the least possible injury, necessary in the circumstances, in which one may find oneself.|
Anarambhaja or Anarambhi or Samkalpi Himsa
Cross-cutting distinctions are made between
Panetics: The systematic work of the International Society for Panetics, founded by Taoist R G H Siu, is concerned with the sensitivity and vigilance required of any ethical system. Its focus on suffering and its infliction raises the question of the relationship between suffering and the fear it engenders. This work has notably identified:
Varieties of love: The very extensive literature on the varieties of love and loving (as the polar opposite of fear and terrifying) suggests that the methodology employed in such studies might be used for a better understanding of fear (cf Robert M. Young. Love: from libido theory to object relations). This is especially the case given the intimate relationship between love and fear in love-making (versus rape, for example) and the recognized eroticism of torture -- as well as the justifications advanced for responding to "terrorism" in the name of a Christian-inspired civilization emphasizing "love". Just as Sanskrit distinguishes some 80 terms for love, the point has been made by Stephen Post (Unlimited Love and Ultimate Reality, 2003) that:
The Greek' s were more careful to make linguistic distinctions. They had a myriad of words for love: "eunoia" refers to good will or benevolence, "physike" to kindness toward people of one's own race, "xenike" to kindness toward guest's and strangers, "erotike" to sexual desire, "eros" to impassioned attraction, "philia" to friendship, "storge" to tenderness, and "agape" to a disinterested affection. Agape, divine limitless love, would be taken up by emergent Christianity and identified as the essential nature of God. This affectionate love for all humanity seems to have at least some place in all major religious traditions of the world.
Metaphoric articulation of fear: Several authors have explored the consequences of the creative and uncritical reframing of fear through metaphor.
Table 3: Five Kinds of Fear
(adapted here into tabular form)
[more | more | more | more]
|The fear of a lion for a mafgia ("a small animal with a loud voice")||This fear is a fear rooted in ourselves--there is no real danger, and yet we feel consumed. Our spirit, our strength, flies away.|
|The fear of an elephant for a mosquito||The mosquito flies up the elephant's trunk. The mosquito cannot kill the elephant, he can barely hurt him, but he drives the lumbering beast crazy...terrorists are like a mosquito in a nation's trunk. They can do real damage yes, they can kill persons--many, many persons, but they cannot destroy a People. They can drive a whole nation crazy|
|The fear of a scorpion for a spider||In rabbinic lore, a topical treatment of crushed spider juice is the antidote to the bite of a scorpion. From the perspective of a person, then, the spider is a life-saver, but consider what this means for the scorpion. What is a scorpion without his venom?--just an oversized spider. The spider steals the scorpion's power|
|The fear of an eagle for a swallow||The little swallow perches under the wings of the eagle, preventing the great bird from spreading her wings... this as a moral fear. The swallow does not allow the eagle to soar.|
|The fear of Leviathan||A smothered Leviathan sinks to the depths, and with him sink our faith, our hopes, our commitment to waiting and working for a better world. This last fear is the gravest fear of all: a fear that evil rules this world, and that this world is all there is.|
Engendering fear through the arts: Given the overwhelming role of the entertainment media in seeking innovative ways to engender fear (see below), the understanding of the varieties of fear as aesthetic devices is instructive for a broader understanding of terrorism. Oscar Sharp with Tom DeVille have produced such a taxonomy as a guide to developing horror films (see Table 4).
Table 4: Taxonomy
Oscar Sharp with Tom DeVille
(adapted here into tabular form)
|Modes of cinematic fear||Anticipatory fear "Something's coming..."|| Suspense: narrative anticipation
of the known
Tension 'dread): narrative anticipation of the unknown
Terror: empathic anticipation of the known
Tension: empathic anticipation of the unknown
Extra-narratalogical anticipation of the unknown
Making what is usually nice - or just everyday - seem
|Instinctual fears||Loss of control - Helplessness||
Empathic loss of control
|Need to protect||
|Phobia||Stimulating common irrational fears|
|Pain|| Empathic physiological pain
Direct physiological pain
|Emotional contexts that inspire fear||Discomfort|| Direct physiological discomfort
Empathic physiological discomfort
Empathic psychological discomfort
Narrative psychological discomfort
|Disgust|| Direct disgust
Ironic empathic disgust
|"The Monster"||Non-human|| Natural horror
|Human|| Physiological horror
In reviewing frameworks like those above, some guiding questions include:
Fear can be described by different terms in accordance with its relative degrees. Fear covers a number of terms -- terror, fright, paranoia, horror, persecution complex. Terror then refers to a pronounced state of fear, where someone becomes overwhelmed with a sense of immediate danger [more]. In distinguishing degrees of fear and terror, how relevant are the following frameworks:
A fundamental question that might be asked is why no corresponding threat level scales exist for the kinds of terrifying situation experienced by many independently of any terrorist threat (narrowly defined)? For example:
Table 5. Estimated
suffering in megadukkhas
inflicted by Americans on fellow Americans in 1979 (*)
(R G H Siu. Panetics and Dukkha: an integrated study of the infliction
of suffering and the reduction of infliction. 1993; Chapter 4, Table 2)
|Career government officials||1,080||105||3||9||11||-||-||-||1,208|
|Public media persons||1,080||105||3||22||29||165||68||945||2,417|
|Others, including parents||3,600||315||26||130||147||341||341||3,150||7,821|
|Total||35,280||2,100||160||450||590||1, 100||1, 100||6,300||46,320|
(*) Estimates based on incomplete data
In exploring a more general taxonomy for the varieties of fear and terror -- which may well drive terrorism as now publicized -- there is an important case to be made for attentiveness to definitional game-playing and conceptual gerrymandering [more]. Definitional boundaries are in process of being promoted and institutionalized for political reasons. This strategy is bracketing off the forms of terror that many experience but that have not been legitimated by the preoccupations of the Coalition of the Willing.
Any web search of "terrified by" and "terrified of" (respectively 57,800 and 149,000 documents via Google) is indicative of the range of sources of terror beyond those of the preoccupations of the Coalition of the Willing. Who, or what, are the causative agents of all these other kinds of terror? Surely not al-Qaida? Is there a real danger that the outmoded mindset underpinning racist views of ethnic groups is re-emerging in support of a form of "conceptual apartheid" -- distinguishing forms of terror particularly threatening to the privileged from those that can be neglected in relation to the underprivileged and voiceless?
It might indeed be said of that Coalition that it is above all characterized by a willingness to tolerate all forms of terror bar that for which its institutional systems can be retargeted -- having previously demonstrated far less than modest success in retargeting those systems to address more common forms of terror (associated with poverty, disease, urban violence, etc). The extremely tardy response in 2004 to the major humanitarian disaster in Dafur (Sudan) is but one example. In this sense it might be asked whether the Coalition of the Willing is above all fearful of its own shadow (see Attacking the Shadow through Iraq, 2002). Curiously the old concept of the "bogeyman" is increasingly cited in relation to terrorism. Is the international community basically terrified by the bogeyman under its own "bed", or in its "attic" -- or maybe in its "cellar"?
To what extent should blood sports be considered as a form of training in terrorism? Fox hunting, for example, would appear to offer many parallels to search and destroy missions. Does it develop appreciation of the methods of targeted killing -- and total indifference to the level of terror created in the victim?
It could be argued that such experiences condition people to the acceptability of subsequently engendering terror in those they define as non-human -- a practice developed in relation to slaves, indigenous peoples, and "people of colour", as well as to those of "below-average" intelligence. Michael Moore's movie Fahreheit 911 includes footage of drivers of armoured personnel carriers in Iraq on missions to the accompaniment of suitable music. How does their experience differ from that of video games -- or of the Gulf War "turkey shoot" of which US military boasted in 1991:
U.S. military forces, in violation of international law, fired on retreating and largely defenseless Iraqi soldiers just before the cease-fire. U.S. pilots described it in news accounts as a "turkey shoot" and "like shooting fish in a barrel." [more | more ]
Two days after the Gulf War cease-fire, the 24th Infantry Division demolished a retreating Iraqi Republican Guard tank division near the Rumaila oil field at hardly any cost of American life. [more]
The point is reinforced by the total lack of official interest in documenting the number of Iraqi civilian deaths in Iraq.
Many of the aspects and circumstances of intimidation are repeatedly rehearsed every day on television and on widely available videos and video games. Ironically again, it might be said that television provides continuous "educational" and "training" programmes in support of intimidation and its techniques. It is difficult to imagine how populations could be given a more thorough orientation in support of the techniques of terrorism -- or nourished in their various forms of paranoia.
From this perspective, television provides the most comprehensive, and essentially free, adult education programme undertaken by any civilization -- in the art of terrorism. Specific movies could be usefully associated as illustrative examples of each of the above forms of terrorism -- annotated according to their degree of refinement. What role do movies like Mel Gibson's controversial portrayal of the Crucifixion in the The Passion of the Christ (2003) play in cultivating Christian attitudes to state-sponsored terror against those with whom the dominant majority disagrees?
Golliwogs as a children's toy were eliminated in the 1980s and 1990s in campaigns of anti-racist political correctness. It is therefore curious that, given the terror that it is recognized that a cat engenders in a mouse, even when "playing" with it, there is little sensitivity to the subtle role that a classical cartoon like Tom and Jerry (160 since 1940) may play in reframing terrifying others in one's power as fun? Terrorism as fun? As cited by Carolyn Conley (The Agreeable Recreation Of Fighting, Journal of Social History, Fall, 1999), Don Atyeo point outs:
"The thing about sports is it legitimizes violence, thereby laundering it acceptably clean. Incidents routinely occur in the name of sport which if they were perpetrated under any other banner short of open warfare would be roundly condemned as crimes. . . . The pain inflicted in sport is somehow not really pain at all; it is Tom and Jerry pain, cartoon agony which doesn't hurt." (Blood and Guts: Violence in Sports, 1979)
Many of the strategies employed by terrorists (in the narrowest sense) have been explored (in the greatest of detail and in advance of their use in practice) in such movie scenarios -- including many employing the use of airplanes [more | more | more | more]. Many also focus on rogue agencies, rogue agents and various levels of covert action and denial. Movie producers exploit every opportunity to respond creatively to new scenario possibilities for engendering fear -- to the extent that the Pentagon has called upon Hollywood to enhance anti-terrorism preparedness [more | more | more]. In a real sense the population is programmed to anticipate -- and possibly to engender -- new sources of fear (bioterrorism, aliens, doomsday scenarios, etc).
What such movie scenarios are unable to achieve is the articulation of a credible imaginative approach to the ordinary terror tainting so many lives. Basically it does not make for good television. It it is not focused on the excitement of terrorist action as an "evil" happening and the response to it in the short-term by heroic "special forces" (with playing-card wanted lists, using targetted extrajudicial assassinations, etc) in defence of the "fundamental values" of civilization -- the "good guys" versus the "bad guys".
The focus is on destructive remedial action ("action movies" by "alpha males") with a positive resolution in the short-term. Such programming suggests that viewers have become addicted to "terrorism" in some form -- with media companies effectively acting as "pushers". The "quick fix" such programmes provide in the "reel world" frames expectations with regard to terrorism and the response to it in the "real" world". Exposure to "evil" elsewhere would appeare to be a vital stimulus to life in modern civilization (cf Needing Evil Elsewhere, 2001)
The movie industry responds extremely poorly to the need to give credibility to alternatives that address long-term systemic ills rather than short-term disasters. In that sense it not only offers training to those inclined to terrorism as an alternative but also fails to articulate those alternatives that might remedy the systemic ills that engender them. Indeed movies tend to reinforce any tendency to conflate terrorism with dissidence and alternative modes of action. Ironically they also highlight the probability of betrayal of fundamental values by those in authority.
|Arguments for or against "moral equivalence" are
of course pure exercises in scholasticism
to those terrorized by unrestrained violence -- irrespective of the belief of those perpetrating it.
It is perhaps useful to distinguish between:
The media incapacity described above, with respect to collective imaginal enhancement, frames and biases the response to terrorism into a short-term, "fix-it" mode (terrorism-alpha). This may well be completely incompatible with the creativity and strategic innovation required to address the systemic ills associated with the ordinary terrors (terrorism-beta) -- that sustain those inspired to terrorism in its narrowest sense. The historically myopic focus on terrorism-alpha, and the principled emphasis on proximate causes ("one stop" emotive explanations), notably obscures the long-term factors and the root causes (of terrorism-beta). These are especially characteristic of cultures with longer memories, as with feuding tribes, the Northern Ireland situation, or in many instances of encroachment (see also Errorism vs Terrorism? Encroachment, Complicity, Denial and Terraism, 2004).
The contrast between terrorism-alpha and beta might be usefully related to the conflict between two quite different senses of time and pace (cf Jeremy Rifkin. Time Wars: the primary conflict in human history. 1987). The alpha variant is the fast-paced, frustrated response to modern civilization's dilatory approach to the immediate suffering associated with terrorism-beta amongst those embedded in a slow-paced, subsistence lifestyle. Those sustaining the beta variant (through their slow-paced, minimalistic adaptation to the basic needs of others) satisfy their own fast-paced needs through violent entertainment -- and by the profitable delivery of increasingly non-essential products and services that significantly fail to address that long-term suffering. The reaction to terrorism-alpha by those primarily invested in the beta-variant then occurs within the urgent time-frame of non-essential product delivery -- rather than in terms of the sustained pacing required in response to the beta-variant.
|"Terrorism-gamma" and "Terrorism-delta"?|
Whilst the response to Terrorism-alpha impedes recognition of Terrorism-beta, it might be asked whether the latter obscures a "Terrorism-gamma". The gamma variant is likely to be much more widespread -- to the point of being endemic in society. It is partially acknowledged, and simultaneously excused, with such phrases as "human nature" or "being only human" -- namely a potential, if not explicit, characteristic of everyone as being in some way responsible for the beta form and the generally unpeaceful nature of society.
More intriguing is the possibility of a "Terrorism-delta". This might be the specific corollary to recognition of the gamma variant, namely the extent to which one is oneself an "Osama bin Laden" in some measure -- carrier in one's own psychic makeup of a covert mindset that engenders terror of the most terrible kind. This possibility would of course be most vigorously denied -- especially by oneself! This would however be consistent with the preoccupations of enactivism. It is also consistent with many spiritual insights, including the Christian sense of personal sinfulness, and understandings of ignorance in Hinduism (avidya), in Buddhism (mithyajnana), or "forgetting God" in Islam). These all understand personal thoughts of violence as the root cause of wider social ills [more].
Together these four forms of terrorism appear to have a curious symmetry. Terrorism-alpha is the extremely focused outward projection of dysfunctionality onto Osama bin Laden, and his like-minded terrorists, as the ultimate evil causative factor undermining the values of the civilized, essentially good, world. The problematic nature of this world, with its many other experienced sources of terror, is characterized by the less-focused, more diffusely widespread Terrorism-beta. This recognition of multiple others as a source of terror in society can however be matched by a recognition of a diffusely shared responsibility with others as contributing to the climate of fear -- Terrorism-gamma. The symmetry is however completed by recognition of Terrorism-delta, of which the engendering source is oneself, as the inner complementary focus of dysfunctionality mirroring the outer focused projection of unmitigated evil. (see En-minding the Extended Body: Enactive engagement in conceptual shapeshifting and deep ecology, 2003).
Could it be that it is through an understanding of the radically existential dimensions of Terrorism-delta that the basis can be found for fruitful dialogue with those inspired to suicide bombing by Terrorism-alpha?
Remarkably, despite the strong resolution expressed by the Coalition of the Willing under American leadership, the "war on terror" remains focused on the narrowest concepts of terror (terrorism-alpha) -- best suited to media coverage and ratings. The need to alleviate the terror experienced in daily life (terrorism-beta) by many is not addressed -- or even recognized. It might indeed be argued that the "climate of fear" which the "war on terror" addresses (and paradoxically feeds) is perceived as distinct from that experienced by individuals exposed to other forms of fear. But how is an individual to distinguish between one "climate of fear" and the other -- between the contextual fear and their personal fear -- when the former can only be sensed through the latter, if at all?
Is revenge in response to a perceived act of "evil" terrorism to be understood as itself involving terrorism or -- being "legitimate" -- is such revenge to be understood otherwise ("an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth"), possibly as a noble act in defence of fundamental values? Is the matching belief of the "evil" terrorists only to be considered an indication of twisted perversion -- or are there other insights to be gained? If the focus is on proximate causes, avoiding any sense of history, how is such a cycle of violence ever to be recognized and broken?
It would appear that legislative measures are now carefully crafted to avoid investment in remedies to "ordinary terror" (terrorism-beta) that do not require strategies and thinking distinct from those of the security-intelligence community and its technology suppliers. How would a "counter-terrorism" unit -- a national "security Tsar" -- respond to information on other forms of terror? How would a Tsar of "homeland security" respond to the many forms of insecurity arising from a broader experience of terror -- amongst the "serfs"?
Ironically the focused institutional re-targeting in the industrialized world against the terrorism (of al-Qaida) is legitimating coordinated determined global strategies that have been lacking in relation to other forms of terror -- notably to those to which the United Nations, however impotent, has been attentive. This irony is only too evident if terror-engendering factors ("poverty", "malnutrition", "injustice", "disease", etc) are substituted for "terror" in any current speech by the leadership of the Coalition of the Willing. This then implies the will to act against "poverty-ism", "disease-ism", "malnutrition-ism", etc -- for which many have waited expectantly for decades.
But, just as al-Qaida terrorism calls for unconventional thinking and has made evident the "failures of intelligence" and "failures of imagination" of the "intelligence" and "policy-making communities", it is only when the implication of such failures for the conventional strategic approaches of the international community are fully recognized that the strategies of coordination appropriate to factors engendering terrorism will be understood (see Transforming the Encounter with Terrorism, 2002). Until then the Coalition of the Willing, through its negligence, is effectively giving form to the four Horsemen of the Apocalypse anticipated by the Christian belief system -- Conquest (of the non-Christian world?), War (against dissidence in any form?), Famine (of increasing proportions of the population?), and Death (notably associated with pestilence?). (see also Spontaneous Initiation of Armageddon -- a heartfelt response to systemic negligence, 2004)
Perhaps most ironic for the Christian-inspired Coalition of the Willing is that their "fear of dialogue" with those of dissident views is far greater than their "fear of terrorism". It is framed as dialogue with the demonic. Any cost in human lives is worth paying to avoid such dialogue and the acknowledgement of some responsibility for the terrible actions of those to whose terror they have not listened. Whose interests are served by this? Who needs the kind of of national unity that is sustained by such quantities of blood and ensures that in consequence many live their lives in terror?
There is a marked tendency to marginalize, and even to criminalize and demonize, any perspective which seeks to transcend the Coalition's framing of "either with us or against us" ("them bad, we good"). The motiviation of "terrorists" is considered to be, by definition, without foundation in comparison with the legitimacy of those who escalate terror in vengeful response. To imply other possibilities is to be identified as a fellow traveller and treated accordingly (as a "terrorist suspect") -- as in the Cold War period. Does this not suggest a fundamental degree of insecurity in relation to the values of civilization as currently interpreted and promoted? Are they indefensible in rational discourse?
The international "war on drugs" has acquired an unusual significance now that Coalition forces are regularly sent to war on drugs in Iraq ('Go pills': A war on drugs? , 2003) [more | more | more]. It might be asked whether this particular strategic twist is also being used by leaders of the Coalition in going to "war on terror". As such are they using the long-term unacknowledged terror of others as their "warhorse" -- whether inadvertently, or deliberately? (see The "Dark Riders" of Social Change, 2002).
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"war on terror" (3,270,000 hits), "war on terrorism" (1,560,000),
" war against terrorism" (385,000), "war against terror" (164,000).
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This work is licenced under a creative commons licence.