“Terrorism” is a Useless Word

Yesterday some murderer detonated two bombs near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. At this point, we know that three people were killed, and about 176 were injured. It was a bad, horrible crime, and really, that’s all that we need to think of it as.

People use the word “terrorism” to describe crimes like this. I can understand that. We hear about these crimes and many people are quite terrified, which arguably is the point of them. However we also feel terrified, at least as a people, when something like the shootings at Sandy Hook go down. That wasn’t about terror so much as it seems to have been about killing as many people as possible, which, ultimately, also seems to be the primary goal of terrorism. We might also experience terror when hearing about a serial killer in the area, yet most people wouldn’t think of that as terrorism.

“Terrorism” as a word is completely useless, and shuts down any attempt at rational conversation for most people. I would argue that we need to purge it from our collective vocabulary. What happened yesterday was a crime. A crime that resulted in three dead people. The specific crime of “murder” is enough. We don’t have a “terrorist” with all the cache that goes along with that word; we have a murderer. We have some asshole who wanted to kill people. His or her motivations don’t matter a whit.

And really, every act of what we think of as terrorism is essentially just another crime with an adjective added on. Hijacking a plane is already illegal. Killing people is already illegal. On 9/11, murderers and hijackers did what they did and that’s all we need. We don’t have to have a special word to describe it.

So let’s try not to use the word “terrorism” anymore. It serves no useful purpose and only empowers those would want to cause terror.


One Response to ““Terrorism” is a Useless Word”

  1. Susan Says:

    I would argue that “terrorism” is an act specifically designed to instill fear in many people, even those not affected directly by the incident. It’s all about control. Terrorism can occur without loss of life when even the threat intimidates people.

    Murder, on the other hand, can be motivated by many things — greed and passion being the two most frequent motives.

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