Truth In Terrorism Labeling (TITL) – A Starter Set

Sam Biddle‘s recent post: Facebook’s Tough-On-Terror Talk Overlooks White Extremists, is a timely reminder that “terrorism” and “terrorist” are labels with no agreed upon meaning.

To illustrate, here are some common definitions with suggestions for specifying the definition in use:

Terrorist/terrorism(Biddle): ISIS, Al Qaeda, and US white extremists. But not Tibetans and Uyghurs.

Terrorist/terrorism(China): From: How China Sees ISIS Is Not How It Sees ‘Terrorism’:

… in Chinese discourse, terrorism is employed exclusively in reference to Tibetans and Uyghurs. Official government statements typically avoid identifying acts of violence with a specific ethnic group, preferring more generic descriptors like “Xinjiang terrorists,“ “East Turkestan terror forces and groups,” the “Tibetan Youth Congress,” or the “Dalai clique.” In online Chinese chat-rooms, however, epithets like “Uyghur terrorist” or “Tibetan splittest” are commonplace and sometimes combine with homophonic racial slurs like “dirty Tibetans” or “raghead Uyghurs.”

Limiting “terrorism” to Tibetans and Uyghurs excludes ISIS, Al Qaeda, and US white extremists from that term.

Terrorist/terrorism(Facebook): ISIS, Al Qaeda, but no US white extremists (following US)

Terrorist/terrorism(Russia): Putin’s Flexible Definition of Terrorism

Who, exactly, counts as a terrorist? If you’re Russian President Vladimir Putin, the definition might just depend on how close or far the “terror” is from Moscow. A court in the Nizhniy Novgorod regional center last week gave a suspended two year sentence to Stanislav Dmitriyevsky, Chair of the local Russian-Chechen Friendship Society, and editor of Rights Defense bulletin. Dmitriyevsky was found guilty of fomenting ethnic hatred, simply because in March 2004, he published an appeal by Chechen rebel leader Aslan Maskhadov — later killed by Russian security services — and Maskhadov’s envoy in Europe, Akhmet Zakayev.

Maskhadov, you see, is officially a terrorist in the eyes of the Kremlin. Hamas, however, isn’t. Putin said so at his Kremlin press-conference on Thursday, where he extended an invitation — eagerly accepted — to Hamas’s leaders to Moscow for an official visit.

In fairness to Putin, as a practical matter, who is or is not a “terrorist” for the US depends on the state of US support. US supporting, not terrorists, US not supporting, likely to be terrorists.

Terrorist/terrorism(US): Generally ISIS, Al Qaeda, no US white extremists, for details see: Terrorist Organizations.

By appending parentheses and Biddle, China, Facebook, Russia, or US to terrorist or terrorism, the reading public has some chance to understand your usage of “terrorism/terrorist.”

Otherwise they are nodding along using their definitions of “terrorism/terrorist” and not yours.

Or was that vagueness intentional on your part?

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