Now here is a set of very interesting questions.
- how is terrorism defined?
- Who defines terrorism and why?
- What accounts for changing interpretations of what constitutes a terrorist or a terrorist organisation?
- Is there a single definition of terrorism that is acceptable to all societies?
The article in question talks about how the definition of terrorism has evolved in the UK over the past few decades and is quite interesting indeed. Its extraordinarily difficult to define terrorism and this study just confirms the challenges. I have written before about the problem and basically said that if you did want to define terrorism, then go to the legal definition of a country which has the power to enforce that definition. If not, then its just hot air. But to these questions, here are my thoughts:
- how is terrorism defined? Well, its not easy to define it, but if we are looking at the legal definition, then its mostly drawn up from the lawyers who want to capture as much as possible of the terrorist framework while making sure that the other laws (such as laws of evidence, etc. etc.) are support that definition. For example, wiretapping was a problem for the UK, they could not use wiretapping evidence as evidence to convict terrorist for a long time but it has changed now.
- Who defines terrorism and why? See above, its usually the bureaucrats and lawyers.
- What accounts for changing interpretations of what constitutes a terrorist or a terrorist organisation? Well, usually terrorist organisations either go extinct or they become part of democratic societies or they renounce violence or they win and become political parties, etc. etc. When this happens, their nomenclature changes. As far as the definition itself is concerned, it changes as international experience of terrorism changes, or there are laws and judgements given down from other courts like the European Court of Justice, or other laws are found in conflict with the terrorism laws, etc.
- Is there a single definition of terrorism that is acceptable to all societies? Nope.