What makes a terrorist a terrorist?

Gary Nolan (and THE Scrappy Doo)
Gary Nolan (and THE Scrappy Doo)

As I watch the news about the latest incident in London, I couldn’t help but notice David Cameron didn’t hesitate to call it a terrorist act. When Obama refuses to call similar acts terrorism here, you wonder why? The media have often made a big deal of whether or not something is referred to as terrorism by our political leaders, and I find this semantics argument somewhat nauseating. People are dead because of a senseless act, or at least senseless to those of us not mired in dogmatic ideology anyway. Does it really matter what words we use to describe it? What we call it doesn’t change the nature of the act, but merely changes our attitude about it.

Dog Giving Birth To A Terrorist
Dog Giving Birth To A Terrorist

Being a peaceful agnostic/atheist, I think killing in the name of religion is just as senseless as killing for any other personal reason. Unless that person was about to kill you, your loved ones, or was otherwise threatening to infringe on your rights, you have no reason to use deadly force against them. Per Greg Gutfeld’s public request, I’ve attached a proper picture of a terrorist being born, so as not to give fame or infamy to the real terrorists.

Nonetheless, it seems clear that Obama avoids using the word for two likely reasons:

  1. He doesn’t want to offend Muslims at home and abroad.
  2. He doesn’t want to admit that maybe his administration is vulnerable to terrorist attacks more so than his predecessor, since he was so vocal in criticizing Bush’s handling of this issue.

I find both of these reasons pathetic, and anti-leadership in nature, but Obama seems to relish the idea of somehow being a leader who doesn’t lead.

As far as I know, there has been no official definition that we can apply to decide whether a murderous act should be called murder versus terror. I feel like I know it when I see it, but defining it with words is difficult.

To me, I feel it has something to do with sending a message. Murder is just killing someone because you have an issue with them and you want them dead, or in the case of some serial killers, because you simply enjoy the rush of killing.

Terrorism however is killing someone so that it serves as a message to others to not cross the person or party committing the act—thus spreading terror to others.

Nonetheless, since many seem to want to differentiate between murders & serial killers versus terrorists, I’ll throw it to you, my readers and people who just accidentally stumbled here via a Google search for something quite possibly completely unrelated.

How would you define terror versus murder? What quality or qualities do you think one has that the other doesn’t? Does it matter to you what the president calls it so long as he vigilantly pursues the people who commit such acts? What say you?

3 thoughts on “What makes a terrorist a terrorist?”

  1. The lines between murder and terrorism are blurred just as anything else having to deal with morality. The difference is that murder comes from within while terrorism comes from without. Murder evokes true emotion from a small group effected by their loss while terrorism feels like an attack on a larger group even though it does not effect every person in that group. In the event of a localized tragedy the community may rally around those effected though a large portion of them are completely not effected. Though no one wants to admit it they are not sincerely empathetic to victims they do not know. They can not even be really sympathetic. It is impossible for a person to care about people they have never met. (It is a built in response to maintain or build bonds which has guilt included to make sure you are cooperating) The same applies to a terror attack. You can not feel real empathy for the victims unless you were directly involved. Instead we feel victimized by outsiders as a group because they are not attacking personally they are making a spectacle. If the events of Boston were done by a single person found out to be a jilted lover sickly exercising his heart ache we would call him a sociopathic murderer because it is targeted at a person without concern for others. Terrorism is sociopathic murderers targeting a certain group whether or not they act independently because there is believed to be a group behind it. Group A on Group B violence is an innate call for universal defense/war.


  2. Dead is dead. Call it what you may but the president must agree to take action against the attacker to protect and serve the rest of us from any further harm.


    1. Agree wholeheartedly. So many people think it’s an important distinction. Although, I guess maybe it has to do with the war on terrorism. If we call it terror, we can legally treat them as enemy combatants I guess, but that’s the only reason I can think of for the distinction being important.


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