Originally Posted by Roger Hicks
If the massacre at Oradour s/Glane -- http://www.oradour.info/
-- was not terrorism, it's hard to see what is. Dictionary definitions are less than worthless in the face of such evidence. And, as Rangefinderfreak says, there really are times when "terrorist" and "freedom fighter" depend purely and simply on your political and moral views. Another good example is Uighurstan.
Yes, the word has been defined in many contexts, and, as we see here, to many people it may be summed up simplistically as "terrorism is that which causes terror (as in extreme fear)". As is clear in this thread, where practically everyone or everything from politicians spouting rhetoric, to police brutality, to war crimes has been labeled "terrorism", the average RFFer seems to view the term as the ultimate way to vilify that or those that they fear or hate.
There is no value in this way of thinking, unless one has the intent of obscuring the discussion. To me the more useful definitions of terrorism are the academic ones used by people who have made a career of studying terrorism in the practical modern sense. Most that I have seen (Martha Crenshaw, Jessica Stern, etc) are fairly consistent and generally define the actors as non-state or sub-national, the targets as non-combatants, and the motivation as presenting the act to a large audience in order to influence political policy. A topic must be defined in a fairly consistent and accepted way in order for the topic to be studied and understood.
Is mass murder of civilians by a military force during war really more vile and condemnable if labeled "terrorism" rather than an "atrocity of war", "massacre" or perhaps "genocide" ( as applicable)? Does police brutality really need to be called terrorism in order to be condemned and punished? Should people who get anger and make vague or idle threats against an overzealous local government be tried as terrorists?
Of course not - "No" is the answer to both of those questions; insisting on using the term terrorism as a label in these cases is an attempt to recast the act itself, rather than describe it.