A person who uses unlawful violence and intimidation, especially against civilians
Types of Terrorism
Terrorists on the left and right
Terrorist acts connected to political ideas
Terrorist acts that are influenced by devotion to religion or a radicalized interpretation of a religion
Terrorist acts for the purpose of committing crimes and gaining a profit.
One of the first instances of terrorism in the United States was the assassination of Abraham Lincoln in 1865 (Johnston). Lincoln’s assassination played a key role in history, especially in terms of terrorism, since it kickstarted one of the most deadly terrorist groups in history, the Ku Klux Klan, and showed how much power and political disarray can come from extreme terrorist actions (Wilkes). The precedent set by Lincoln’s murder was that large-scale terrorist acts like this assassination can be very effective in both causing a state of panic and confusion and accomplishing the terrorist’s goals.
Next came the Ku Klux Klan, which was one of the most awful, most prevalent hate groups in US history, and resulted in thousands of deaths. The Klan started terrorizing blacks by using intimidation techniques like costumes of dead soldiers and burning crosses into lawns, and also lynching, torturing, and murdering people in cold blood (“Ku Klux Klan”). However, until 1871, the US government didn’t label the KKK as a ‘terrorist’ group (“Grant, Reconstruction and the KKK.”). Once they finally did, with the Ku Klux Klan act of 1871, the Klan immediately died down, since members would now legally be tried as terrorists and the government actively fought back against them (“Ku Klux Klan”). The Klan was an example of far-right terrorism.
Throughout US history, there have also been some very notable terrorist attacks by individuals, especially recurring attacks that weren’t caught until many people were killed or injured. One of these terrorists is Theodore J. Kaczynski. Kaczynski was infamous for his attacks, where he sent bombs to innocent people (specifically professors and scientists) and on planes (“Ted Kaczynski: The Unabomber.”). Kaczynski targeted people because of his vendetta against technological advancement, thinking that it would destroy the world around him if he didn’t go to extreme measures to try and stop it. His campaign against industrialization ended up killing 3 people and severely injuring 23 others before he was caught by the FBI from a tip by Kaczynski’s brother, who recognised his handwriting. Kaczynski was a very obvious example of left wing eco-terrorism because he fought for his political ideal of ending industrialization.
Theodore J. Kaczynski, A.K.A. the Unabomber
Why This Topic Interests Me
These topics really interest me, since I have always had an interest in terrorism, and the incentives and investigations behind them, and especially how they can have huge effects on the country as a whole. I was born in February of 2002, 5 months after the 9/11 attacks riveted the entire nation. Even though I wasn’t alive during the attack, I grew up in the era afterward, where the number of terrorist attacks was continuously rising, especially in regards to radical religious terrorism. Terrorism always interested me; however, the event that really made me want to choose this topic was the attack four months ago, in lower Manhattan. Just one year before, my sister had moved to Manhattan to work for an ad agency, and from having talked to her, I knew she lived near the area of the attack, and I knew she had started to go on runs in the city. When I heard about the attack that day, my heart practically stopped. I immediately texted her to make sure she was okay, and when she finally responded, I was extremely relieved. Ever since that day, I have realised how scary it is, knowing that a terrorist attack could happen at any time, and knowing that the 8 people who were killed that day were completely innocent people like my sister, going along their day, going on a run. It made me realise that terrorism is a problem, and that it somehow needs to be addressed and solved, so that an innocent person, who could easily be you, or me, doesn’t have to think about the possibility of getting shot by a terrorist with an automatic gun at a concert, or of taking the subway and being killed by a makeshift bomb.
The Current Problem
The most recent bout of terrorism, that is majorly affecting modern day politics and lives, is the problem of radical Islamist terrorism. There have been many instances of this, for example, the truck driver in New York who killed eight people, or the Orlando shotting, in which 49 people were killed. These attacks have been headlines in the news, and they get a lot of press for being attacks from ISIS. Many people blame this terrorism on religion; however, as the LA Times puts it, “‘Radical Islam’ is a set of political, not religious, beliefs. It compels its believers to make war not only against Israel, the West, and India, but especially against Muslims who reject their political vision. That vision includes killing people who convert from Islam, brutally murdering homosexuals, the forcible subjugation of women, and reclamation of any land that has ever been in Muslim hands” (McLaughlin). This means that these radical ‘Islamic’ terrorists can’t be associated or affiliated with people who worship Islam, for they have completely different beliefs. The stigma around Radical Islamist Terrorism started after 9/11, when Radical Islamists took responsibility for the 9/11 attacks. To create mayhem and more false impressions about Muslims, these radicals embraced the religion as their own, even as they are only a fraction of a percent of the 1.6 billion Muslims in the world (McLaughlin). This causes us as a country to label the entire religion as radical, even though the few extremists that do exist have completely different interpretations of the Quran, and they use and twist the words to support their radical agendas (McLaughlin). Another misconception is that all of the terror attacks are performed by radical Islamic terrorists; however, this is not true, and racist far-right terrorism has resulted in close to the same amount of deaths as radical Islamic terrorism has since 2001.
We also think of these extremists from coming into our country; however, a study since 9/11 showed that there were practically no radical Islamists who conducted a lethal attack who were not from the United States and converted in the United States (“Who Are the Terrorists?”).
The form of terrorism used by these radicals attempts to pit us against these other countries and religions, in hope that it will create more conflict, and encourage other Muslims to radicalize and join their cause. Even though our president tries to impose travel bans on other countries to try to prevent Radical Islamic Terrorism, the true problem is already inside the US. The travel bans and crackdowns on screenings and visas are worthless because first of all, almost all of the terrorists are already legal US citizens or born in the US, and even when they do immigrate in, most of them are children. All of this is pointless because “no foreign terrorist organization has successfully directed and orchestrated an attack in the United States since 9/11”(Valverde). The real problems we need to be addressing is what we can do inside the US in order to try to stop radical terrorism all around, and not just trying to use racist and islamophobic methods to fix a problem that doesn’t exist.
Here is a short, interesting video on how president Trump is actually making what he pledged to do, prevent terrorism and stop ISIS, even harder, and how his illogical reasoning and allegiances may end up harming America.
Terrorism in the United States is not an easy problem to find a solution to; however, there are many steps we can take to both prevent misconceptions from spreading and make the US a safer place for everybody. One step is just to spread accurate information about the problem. As I have said above, many people have very little and very inaccurate information about radical Islamic terrorism, and trust information coming from inaccurate sources (our president). One goal should be to educate as many people as possible about the true facts behind these terrorists, and how a) they don’t represent the religion of Islam, and b) how the threat is actually coming from inside our country. We need to provide comprehensive resources and information that can be taught in schools and seen on news channels. The more awareness we have about the true facts about modern day terrorism, the better we can work towards goals and laws that will help, not hurt, the American people.
What you can do
To learn more about terrorism and the true facts behind it, the FBI has made an interactive game –
“Grant, Reconstruction and the KKK.” PBS, Public Broadcasting Service,
Johnston, Robert. “Terrorist Attacks and Related Incidents in the United States.” Johnston Archives, 31 Jan. 2018, www.johnstonsarchive.net/terrorism/wrjp255a.html.
“Ku Klux Klan.” Counter Extremism Project, Counter Extremism Project, 2016,
McLaughlin, Dan. “Yes, Radical Islamic Terrorism Is Different.” Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Times, 2 Nov. 2017,
“September 11th.” Khan Academy,
“Ted Kaczynski: The Unabomber.” Crime Museum, 2017,
“The History of ISIS.” History, www.history.co.uk/article/the-history-of-isis.
Valverde, Miriam. “A Look at the Data on Domestic Terrorism and Who’s behind It.” PolitiFact, 16 Aug. 2017, www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/article/2017/aug/16/look-data-domestic-terrorism-and-whos-behind-it/.
“Who Are the Terrorists?” New America,
Wilkes, Donald E. Jr., “Lincoln Assassinated!” (2005). Popular Media. Paper 121.