The Perception of Terrorism
A few days ago, a bomb went off during the Boston Marathon that killed three people and injured hundreds more. On that same day, President Obama almost received letters that were confirmed to have been full of Ricin, a dangerous poison. Since then, the perpetrators of both these events, especially the ones that were responsible for the Boston Marathon bombing, have been caught and taken into custody. One interesting thing that arose from these events is the perception behind the word terrorism, which has been used during the September 11th attacks and again during the past few days.
The main questions about this idea of terrorism is how is terrorism defined and what constitutes as terrorism? This gets interesting because the answers to these questions vary depending on people’s perceptions and on the time and event that has happened. For example, the way people perceived the idea of terrorism prior to 9/11 was completely different than the way it was perceived after 9/11. So, to answer the first important question, what is terrorism? Various scholars and dictionaries define terrorism as the “use of violence and fear to achieve political agendas.” However, as with perceptions, this definition fluctuates with the each circumstance, which changes for every event. What makes matters more complex is that since there are no criteria for determining what constitutes as terrorism or terrorist, it is impossible to identify when acts of terror are actually being committed and if a person is actually a terrorist.
The problem with perceptions is that often assumptions are made based on these perceptions, which tend to be inaccurate and misguided due to various factors. These assumptions can have negative consequences for example, when the investigation for the Boston Marathon bombings first began, one of the “suspects” the media wrongly accused was a high school student named Salah Eddin Barhoum, who happened to be standing with a hat and a backpack near the finish line and happened to also have dark skin. The high school student is also of Moroccan descent and because of our misguided perceptions, many Americans began to feed this idea that someone of Arab or Muslim descent must have caused this tragedy. However, these false assumptions are not new and have been around since the days of post 9/11. Since then, our ideas of terrorism have focused on a specific community and this belief that no one other than this specific community is capable of doing dangerous things.
While the tragedy in Boston will forever be in our memories and those people forever in our prayers, it is important to understand how these events affect us not just on an emotional level, but on a social level as well. It is important to understand that before we begin pointing fingers and making assumptions, we should ask ourselves whether or not we are perceiving things as accurately as possible. We should also be vigilant about what factors into our perception making process. Much of today’s news and media coverage tend to put out either inaccurate or biased information, which can have an impact on the perceptions we make about the world, especially terrorism.
Written by: Adriana Batista