Top 5 Controversial Terrorism Facts

Written by Sean Newman It’s an ongoing, and horrifying phenomenon that plagues mankind on a far too regular basis. Welcome to WatchMojo’s Top 5 Facts. In this instalment, we’re counting down our picks for the top 5 most thought provoking facts about terrorism. Special thanks to our users Godslayer79for submitting the idea using our interactive suggestion tool at WatchMojo.comsuggest

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Written by Sean Newman

Top 5 Facts About Terrorism

It’s an ongoing, and horrifying phenomenon that plagues mankind on a far too regular basis. Welcome to WatchMojo’s Top 5 Facts. In this instalment, we’re counting down our picks for the top 5 most thought provoking facts about terrorism. Discussion surrounding terrorism takes place on the news, in the classroom, and at the dinner table, and a well-informed understanding of its history, meaning, and philosophy may prove helpful when forming an opinion. Or, make you sound smarter than the other people at the dinner table.

#5: There Isn’t an Exact Definition of Terrorism

The word terrorism is far more likely to be used politically than empirically. That’s because its definition is fluid; with the FBI stating that violent and unlawful acts against human life and the intention to coerce civilian populations or government policy are the main qualifiers for terrorism. From there, it really depends on how you look at a situation in many cases. For example, during the Reagan administration, the Afghan Mujahideen were given aid from the U.S. to help fight the Soviet Union. They were aptly referred to as Freedom Fighters. Several decades later, a new generation of Afghan fighters emerged who are unanimously referred to as terrorist by The West. More recently, after the July 2016 shooting in Dallas, law enforcement officials and the White House refused to label the shooter, Micah Johnson, a terrorist because he was not connected with a foreign terror organization.

#4: Terrorism Comes from Both Right-Wing and Left-Wing Extremists

As mentioned earlier, terrorism can be a highly political word, and tragic events are sometimes used to point out the flaws of those across the political aisle. The truth is, there are countless examples of terrorism from both right and left-wing extremist groups. Organizations such as The World Church of the Creator and The Aryan Nations strive for racial supremacy and small government, with violence sometimes used as a catalyst. On the other hand, left-wing extremists such as the Mexican Zapatista Army of National Liberation and the Earth Liberation Front strive to protect people from the likes of capitalism and imperialism. There is also a third type known as special interest terrorism, which focuses more so on a specific issue than a broader political revolution, although overlap does take place at times.

#3: The Majority of Terrorist Attacks Take Place in Just a Few Countries

In 2012, a University of Maryland study found that there were more than 15,000 deaths a year from terrorist attacks. While this number is certainly unsettling, the real kicker was where exactly these attacks took place. Pakistan, Iraq, and Afghanistan alone laid claim to approximately 54% of attacks and 58% of fatalities. Terrorism is understandably a major concern for many, with its increasing prominence and unpredictability, but in reality, most developed countries are far from harm’s way. For example, statistics from the Centers for Disease Control show that Americans are about 35,000 times more likely to die from heart disease than a terrorist attack.

#2: Counter-Terrorism Can Become Its Own Form of Terrorism

Gandhi once said that “Terrorism is a weapon not of the strong, but of the weak” and these sentiments certainly hold true in many situations. Richard Jackson, a UCLA Professor has argued that there are four conditions that can lead to counter-terrorist efforts becoming acts of terror. A failure to distinguish between innocent and guilty, highly disproportionate retribution, intimidation of a wider population, and a specific political agenda are all factors that may result in a different breed of terrorism from the powers that be. Counter-terrorist efforts in Tunisia have been cited as an example of this. In late 2014 an ISIS suicide bombing of a security forces transport led to an excessive counterterrorism response that saw approximately one percent of the population arrested in the first half of 2015.

#1: Some Philosophers Believe Terrorism Can Be Morally Justified

It would be hard to imagine the debate in our newsrooms and political outlets changing from “was this attack terrorism” to “was this terrorist attack justified,” but that’s that’s exactly the sort of question that philosophers often ask. Terrorist groups like the Italian Red Brigades have long followed the doctrine that violence should be used when it “constitutes the most efficient and essential instrument without which the revolution cannot succeed.” Consequentialist philosophers like philosopher Kai Nielsen believe that the question of whether an act of terrorist violence is justified must be answered based on its outcomes, regardless of if the victims were innocent or not. Others argue that targeting innocent people can never be justified, since terrorists always have the alternative of targeting their opponent’s military establishment. This debate is nuanced and multifaceted, and we’ve just barely scratched the surface here.

So, a YouTube comment section is probably one of the worst places to discuss this, but what the hell: do you think terrorism can ever be morally justified? For more empirical Top 10s and unforgivable Top 5s, be sure to subscribe to

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