Daily (Or When The Mood Takes Me) Gripe: When is Terrorism…Terrorism?

I thought it was really important as a city leader to stress that this is a one-off, isolated event by someone who shouldn’t have been out on bail, a very violent background, clearly a mental illness,”
So said Clver Moore, the City of Sydney Lord Mayor, on 15 December – the day of the first anniversary of the Lindt Cafe shootings, in Martin Place. It caused an outcry.
Now, I’ll be the first to say that Clover Moore has outlived her usefulness as Lord Mayor. She has been in the job for too long, and is mainly notable for her outrageous (or is it a touch of genius?) suggestions for moving Sydney, kicking and screaming, into the 21st century.

And here, I have to say…I agree with her in this instance! This was not a terrorist attack – it was an event planned and carried out by a mentally disturbed man. Now before you all start jumping up and down – and trolling me on social media – let me explain my point-of-view.

The statement by Clover created commentary on just about every front – and considering the particular day she chose to make this controversial  statement – that is probably the appropriate response, and in many regards it was a heartless and tactless comment that should have been better thought out.

But it does raise the question – just what is terrorism?

Dictionary.com defines it as

[ter-uh-riz-uh m] 


1.the use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce, especially for political purposes.

2.the state of fear and submission produced by terrorism or terrorization.

3.a terroristic method of governing or of resisting a government.

And the Oxford Dictionary as “The unofficial or unauthorized use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims:

the fight against terrorism

international terrorism”

In my mind, and looking at terrorism as I have seen it over the last 15-odd years, in the wake of 9/11, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, and the rise of ISOL it is acts of terrorism caused by, and enacted, by individuals or groups in the pursuit of political and religious aims. How they achieve these aims is usually through violence, acts designed to shock and alienate, and uncaring of collateral damage.

In times past, Man Haron Monis would have been called a nutter! He was not associated with ISOL, despite having their flag with him in the cafe, and any connection to them was either just in his mind, or to create a statement implicating a group that he knew ignited public fear and outrage.

On one particular chat show, it was stated by one of the commentators that to him, tertorism was any act that caused terror, the act of colloquially terrorising people. This is a huge step in the public perception of terrorism…so much so that it concerns me that we are not only pandering to terrorist organisations in that EVERY act will now be tied back to them – something that would please them greatly – but that our use of the word is now distorted. If we look at it from the commentators perspective, every mentally disturbed person who goes out and takes a life, or creates a hostage situation, will no longer be what they are – mentally disturbed. They are now terrorists! Ipso facto, how then do we define those who deliberately go out, with full knowledge and consent, and create acts of violence? Do we need a new word? 

In the court of punlic opinion, the Lindt Cafe seige was an act of terrorism. And Paris was an act of terrorism! The differences to me are immediate – Paris was a planned incursion, deliberately designed and enacted to take lives, to create havoc and fear and deliberately push the cause of the ISOL politico-religious group. The Lndt Cafe situation was instigated by an individual with a clear history of mental illness, someone who had slipped through the cracks of both the police force and the court system. He didn’t select the Lindt Cafe for religious or political reasons – he picked it for its close proximity to a local news service, to draw attention to himself. The outcome of his demand for notoriety had tragic consequences, and is now a part of the history of the dark sude of this city. But an act of terrorism? Or the act of a lone nutter?

I don’t feel that Clover’s statement was inaccurate…though I do feel it was badly timed! Maybe it is a discussion that we need to continue having. We cannot allow ourselves to pander to the ego and demands of terrorist organisations…nor can we neglect the needs and care of those who commit acts without really realising what they are doing. And we need to have this discussion away from the sensationalism of social media, talk-back and television chat shows. 

Language can be used as a way to create or alleviate fear in our society. We need to use it carefully, and with consideration.

Tim Alderman (C) 2015


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