Since the destruction of the New York World Trade Center in 2001, everyone is talking about terrorism. It is top priority at the United Nations and in the politics of the great powers, especially the United States and the European Union. And, of course, the terrorists themselves are mobilizing their own people with public statements from time to time. Meanwhile, the headlines of the mass media seem to thrive on terrorism. They often make it seem like there are simply two sides, one right and one wrong, but on closer analysis there are differences, problems and contradictions. Before analyzing them, however, let's listen to these actors one at a time.
First, it is necessary to define terrorism for the purposes of this paper. This is not simple because, as pointed out on the website of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), there is no definition that has been formally accepted by the UN. In fact, as will be shown, the definition of terrorism and of terrorists is an issue of contention among the actors. To begin the present analysis, however, here is a definition drawn loosely from the "academic" definition provided on the UNODC website:
Terrorism is violence carried out by individual, group or state actors designed to frighten a non-combatant population for political reasons. The victims are usually chosen randomly (targets of opportunity) or selectively (representative or symbolic targets) from a population in order to pass a message which may be intimidation, coercion and/or propaganda. It differs from assassination where the victim is the main target.