“It’s all my fault, comrades!”
Terrorism (Latin: terrorius) is the ideology that any problem in the world, be it economical, societal or political, can be solved through violence and terrorising those who are responsible for causing the problems. Terrorism has, since ancient times, been associated with the Three V’s – Vandalism, Vigilantism and Vegetarianism. Terrorism exists in many forms, and most of these are illegal in most sovereign states most of the time.
Terrorist (adj.) acts typically involve destruction of property, livelihoods and even human lives, often in small scales, although significant and history-altering exceptions have also been documented. There is no specific or official definition for terrorism, other than it involves the use of fear as a weapon by either individuals or groups.
Terrorism in History
Terrorism took place as early as approximately six million years ago, when the first humans lived under the constant threat from dinosaur raids. These raids were carried out in the form of swift, small-scale attacks and occasionally kamikaze velociraptors would destroy huts by self-explosion. Carnivorous dinosaurs, such as Godzilla, drove the Donkey Kongs (primitive apes with near-human intelligence) into total extinction. According to ancient cave drawings, the ‘Neanderthals’’, the wisest and most advanced branch of the human race, decided to reshape the world into the ‘Garden of Eden’ (see Project Eden), where mankind could roam the world naked and unmolested and eat any fruit besides apples (because they are in fact computers and not an edible fruit). The Neanderthal elders, in an effort to destroy the world, rolled a snowball from atop the Himalayas, the tallest mountains on earth. Shortly afterwards, the snowball grew in size as it rolled downhill, eventually becoming large enough to consume the world and covering the landscape in ice and snow, marking the beginning of the Ice Age and giving rise to the modern term ‘snowballing effect’.
And then there was the Bible.
Ancient Greece gave birth to the idea of democracy. As a result, people resorted to violence to make sure their opinions are voiced, comparable to their modern counterparts. These violent traits were demonstrated in Ancient Greek wars. During the Peloponnesian Wars in 430 BC, the warlike Spartans, unable to conquer the city of Athens, discharged Sarin gas and their wastes into Athens’ only water supply. This brought about thousands of reported cases of food and water-poisoning, and also led to the death of the Athenian leader, Pericles. The Athenians subsequently surrendered in fear.
The most well-known case of terrorist attack in history happened in the Roman Empire. In 44 BC, the Roman Emperor, Julius Caesar, drove his chariot in front of the Senate of Rome. His dissenting friend, Brutus, who had planted a bomb in his chariot beforehand, pressed the explosion trigger as Caesar dismounted. Wearing a hoodie, Brutus approached the dying Ceasar and smiled down at him. Caesar uttered the famous last words, ‘And you, Brutus?’ (Latin: ‘Et tu, Brute?’), before Brutus famously responded with, ‘That’s right. I am Kira!’
One of the most celebrated and idolised terrorists in popular culture is Joan of Arc, an ordinary French girl who brought an end to Anglo-French mutual alliances by means of violence and terror. During King Henry V’s reign in the 15th Century, when France was rightfully placed under English rule, a peasant girl sought to defy English sovereignty in the name of God. According to most historians, the French girl likely suffered from a vast array of mental illnesses and thus claimed to have been ordered by God to rebel against the king and slaughter his faithful subjects. She managed to rally support from other mentally deranged locals, forming a makeshift army of her own. During the Massacre of Orleans, Joan of Arc’s forces cut down English troops and French civilians alike while shouting, ‘Deus le Vult’, a Christian fanatic war cry in Latin meaning ‘God Wills It’. The English king subsequently arrested the terrorist and burned her at the stake.
Another famous Medieval terrorist is William Wallace of Scotland, who led an uprising of Scots against the legitimate rule of England. Committing numerous atrocities, his most severe war crime was the sacking and burning of the city of York in Northern England. The Scotsman’s last words, ‘Freedom!’, indicated he suffered from significant brain damage similar to Joan of Arc’s. Scientists and anthropologists suggest that the lack of clean, potable water in Medieval Europe led to widespread mental instability, which further led to the creation of fanatical Christians and the Crusades.
Under the controversial leadership of President George W. Bush, the United States launched the Golf Wars against Iraq for oil. Osama Bin Laden, a war hero with the Mujahidin and a well-known peace advocate, turned to terrorism to counter American tyranny in the Islamic Middle East. Expressing great reluctance, but in a desperate effort to end US military occupation and brutality, Bin Laden launched the notorious 911 terrorist attacks on several major buildings in New York, USA. The attacks led to over a thousand dead and the destruction of two planes and two financial centres.
Bin Laden was betrayed by one of his concubines and subsequently murdered by US Special Forces in 2011. Wikileaks speculates that Bin Laden was swiftly executed before he had the right to fair trial and a jury of peers because he held strong evidence of war crimes committed by US troops in occupied areas, very much like General George Patton before him. This threatened the reputation of the Federal Government.
Forms of Terrorism
Because terrorists adopt different methods, and because it is near impossible to accurately define terrorism, terrorist acts are usually grouped into three categories: real, unreal and surreal.
Real Terrorism involves actual harm of property, body or mind by terrorists. Most acts of terrorism can be classified into this category. One belief of terrorists is that ‘nothing compares to the horrors of reality’. Naturally, it is comparatively common for those who seek to instil fear to do so physically.
Unlike real terrorism, unreal terrorism does not seek to do physical harms, but merely instil a sense of vague, but often foreboding, terror. The Fifth Column during the Spanish Civil War (1936-39) has demonstrated how rumours can succeed in undermining trust and unity within the enemy’s ranks. With the popularity of electronic mass media such as Twitter, terrorist propaganda becomes more efficient and powerful. Twitter is partially responsible for the wave of terrorist rebellions in North Africa dubbed ‘The Arab Spring’. Cyberbullying is a mild, but more common form of unreal terrorism.
Because of their similar sounding names, surreal terrorism is often confused with unreal terrorism. Surreal terrorism is even more unrealistic than unreal terrorism as it usually involves rumours of the impossible, while unreal terrorism spreads rumours of logical and possible events. Both, however, seek to bring about destruction through panic and chaos. The most well-known surreal terrorist attack is the viral internet rumour about The Great Elephant Revolt of 2011.