All posts filed under: Vol. 1: Terrorism

Editorial Issue #1: Understanding Terrorism

Dear readers, Finally, the very first issue of 42 is out! The founding team of 42 Magazine and I are very proud to share our new, socio-political interview magazine with you. About a year ago, we, six young women, decided that we could no longer settle for oversimplified explanations of complex, societal developments. At a time, when the globalised world is becoming ever faster and increasingly complicated, we are quick to accept simple answers – even when they are wrong or abridged. Finding profound opposing positions can be quite difficult for the following reasons: On the one hand, they are usually more complex than populist messages. On the other hand, the gap between the scientific world and the broad population has grown. The gap has created an inaccessibility to the broader population to many of the important and useful explanatory models that may solve many of the challenges we face. These models often compete with one another within the ivory tower of academia. Access to the tower is often restricted, often due to the complex …

Terrorism and Sociology

Terrorism is a social phenomenon to the core.” Dr Daniel Witte, Käte Hamburger Kolleg “Recht als Kultur”, Internationales Kolleg für Geisteswissenschaftliche Forschung 42: Is terrorism a topic with which sociology should concern itself? Daniel Witte: Terrorism is an innately social phenomenon and therefore a research topic in sociology. Though this sounds dreadfully trivial, it is not. Modern terrorism is in its causes, its structures and dynamics as well as its effects a thoroughly social matter. If all terrorists were psychopaths, then sociology should probably leave questions concerning action theory to clinical psychologists. The question regarding the specific social circumstances that lead people to decide to use terroristic strategies – which is a sociological question – would then have been incorrectly phrased to begin with. But this is precisely not the case: statistically speaking, terrorists are astonishingly normal people, as research shows time and time again. Modern terrorism also emerges in social forms that we know from completely different areas of life: e.g. as an organisation or a network. Furthermore, terrorism is not primarily concerned with killing …

Terrorism and the Media

“We need more digital citizens.” Prof. Dr Caja Thimm, Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn 42: Prof. Thimm, what do you understand as “terrorism”? Caja Thimm: To me, terrorism is defined as violent aggressions against state authorities, people who represent states, or state establishments. The Red Army Faction (German left extremist terrorist group active 1970-1998), the murders of Jürgen Ponto and Hans Martin Schleier – those are my own early memories. Of course, modern terrorism presents itself quite differently, it is far less person-orientated but aims to act symbolically. Today, it is more about general world views and ideologies, rather than state terrorism, as it used to be. 42: In your research, you focus heavily on online media. Terrorism has existed for a long time – social networks haven’t. How do terrorists use this new tool? CT: Terrorists act intensively and professionally – to some extent with help from the West. There are examples of high-skilled British and German online journalists who co-operate with Al-Qaeda or the Islamic State. They shoot high-level videos, specifically aimed at online platforms such …

Terrorism, Gender Studies and Popular Culture

“Just because you weren’t there, the trauma still carries on and becomes a part of your identity.” Don Varn Lowman, MA, MBA, Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn 42: Don Varn Lowman – How does queer theory approach the issue of terrorism? Don Varn Lowman: First of all, we look at identity. We can also look at the othering of people, where one person or the actions of one person defines the actions of everyone. Othering is a significant theme in queer studies. Within queer studies, we challenge the idea that there is only one identity with the notion that identity is fluid and changing. This goes into what Judith Butler would say – that gender is socially constructed. With regard to terrorism, I would also agree that the identity, or maybe the idea behind certain religions, is socially constructed. If we look at terrorism, it has now become associated with Islam. Of more than a billion Muslims in the world, somewhere around 0.0001% are terrorists or support terrorist actions. The actions of that 0.0001% now define all of …

Terrorism and the ‘Western’ World

“We need a milieu movement that can reinforce and give strength to each other’s views.” Prof. Dr Frank Furedi, University of Kent 42: As a sociologist, would you define terrorism differently after 9/11? Frank Furedi: I wouldn’t. I think defining terrorism is always problematic because it is difficult to distinguish it from other forms of political violence. I deny that 9/11 was a major singular event, but it has had its impacts on the global environment. We feel insecure. But essentially speaking, the key element of terrorism is to inflict terror – not only on the people you target to kill but also on the population as well, and this distinction is very important. Secondly, it’s about provoking a reaction of the population. That is much more important than the act of terror itself. People should recognise that. But those factors and elements are just as important today as they were in any other historic moment – not just since 9/11. 42: What do you think is the predominant feeling in Western societies after terrorist …

The Language of Terrorism

“Our knowledge about weeds, cancer, and evil is mentally transferred onto terrorism.” Prof. Dr Daniela Pirazzini, Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn 42: How would you, as a linguist, define terrorism? Daniela Pirazzini: The term, terrorism’ is derived from the Latin verb terrere which translates to, to frighten’, to scare’, to terrify.’ The term terrorism is nowadays commonly used to designate the committing of violent acts, spreading fear and dread. From a linguistic and discourse analytical point of view, we are only able to define the meaning of the term systematically. Examining how the term is used in a specific time in written and spoken texts of a specific language and culture community – for example the Terreur referring to the terror reign during the French Revolution which claimed thousands of lives. The different aspects of the meaning of a word are always constituted within a verbal discourse based on the conjunction with other words of the text.When we speak of la violence du terrorisme in French and la violenza del terrorismo in Italian for example, one can …

Terrorism and Social Networks

“The most important thing is to coordinate a digital solution on a global level.” Kyle Matthews, Concordia University 42: Mr Matthews, why is the jihadist propaganda via Social Media so successful? KM: Nations no longer have a monopoly on violence, and the media have lost the monopoly on information. Extremist messages, like the one ISIS propagates, are easily spread via the internet: „We are fulfilling the prophecy – We are founding a caliphate“.This message distinguishes ISIS from other Islamist organisations. They work on actually realising their goal in Syria and Iraq, and they are creative in their actions, in hijacking hashtags, for instance. Recent examples include the 2014 World Cup and the 2015 Deutsche Welle Global Media Forum. Trending hashtags are used in order to spread their ideology, and they produce well-made parodies which use humorous content to attract followers. This allows them to gain an incredible number of supporters worldwide who propagate their ideology and it creates a strong connection to the culture of young people. That is what makes ISIS immensely strong. 42: …

Terrorism and Security Studies

“The question, whether ‘the war on terror’ can be won, must be answered with a definite no.” Prof. Dr Julian Wucherpfennig, Hertie School of Governance 42: Prof. Dr Wucherpfennig, when talking about terrorism nowadays, on the basis of terrorist attacks of the past months, we think about Islamist terrorism. From a scientific perspective, is that proportional to the actual extent of the threat? Julian Wucherpfennig: No, this perception bears no relation to the actual threat. In two respects: First, the objective threat emanated from the terror in Western Europe is minimal. It is far more likely to drown in one’s own bathtub, to be struck by lightning or to be killed from furniture falling over, than to be killed in a terrorist attack. Secondly, the threat is in no way greater than in the past. Terrorism in a greater extent has existed in Western Europe since the 1960s and 70s, for example through the RAF in German, the ETA in Spain, or the IRA in Ireland. The assumption that there has been more or a …

Islamwissenschaften und Terrorismus

Terrorism and Islamic Studies

“Fundamentally, the issue revolves around today’s interpretation and application of respective passages in the Koran.” Prof. Dr Christine Schirrmacher, Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn 42: Prof. Dr Schirrmacher, what is the relationship between terrorism and Islam? Christine Schirrmacher: In this context, terrorism means an execution of violence against dissidents justified by a misappropriation of Islamic scripture. Ironically, the violence is directed against Muslims in particular: on a global scale, they – and not as one might assume, non-Muslims, are most often the victims of Islamic terrorism. In addition, I would label the condemnation of Muslims as non-believers by other (extremist) Muslims – the so-called takfir – a form of psychological terrorism. This psychological terrorism results in hatred, contempt, and conflicts, and in extreme cases leads to the killing of those deemed inferior and less religious than oneself. This is exemplified by the activists of the so-called “Islamic State”. 42: Throughout Europe, Islam has become a dominant theme of discussion, especially in the aftermath of terrorist attacks and crimes, Islam frequently becomes the focus of discussion – for …

Terrorism in History

“As historians, we want to understand why people in certain historical moments regard terrorist actions as legitimate.” Dr Sebastian Gehrig, University of Oxford 42: Dr Gehrig – how would you, as a historian, define terrorism? Sebastian Gehrig: That is a difficult question. There are different conceptions. For me, a more recent explanation goes in the right direction which categorises terrorism as a form of political violence and political language. Communication research specialists have been intensively studying how terrorist groups, whether of an ethnic-, left-wing terrorism- or Islamic terrorist nature make use of violence to communicate certain political claims or statements. This depends on which types of attacks are chosen by terrorist groups and how these are prepared and executed. 42: This means terrorists as distributors of a certain message. What are the reactions to such a message? SG: You must ask questions like: Who feels solicited by terrorism? What kinds of reactions does it provoke in the population? How does the nation proceed? Not only about police-led countermeasures but also in terms of the portrayal …

The Psychology of Terrorism

“In the light of a certain ideology, terrorists consequently act by all means rationally.” Prof. Dr Rainer Banse & Michaela Sonnicksen, M. Sc., Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn 42: Mrs Sonnicksen, Prof. Dr Banse – how is terrorism defined in the discipline of psychology? Michaela Sonnicksen: There is no coherent definition, as it is the case in other disciplines. Terrorism is the end product of a process of radicalization. All people who become radicalised are going through this process, but not all of them make it to the end. Many are radical without ever becoming terrorists; they are organised in groups which aim to hurt others physically with their actions. Terrorism, however, aims for the psychological consequences of using force, to spread fear, rather than aiming for physical harm primarily. Tyrannicide, coups, or guerrilla actions, however, are an exception from the definition as they have a clear goal: To liberate zones from the enemy. Terrorists, on the other hand, aim to spread fear and hatred. What’s also important to realise: One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom …