On Monday, a student at Ohio State – who was also a permanent United States resident from Somalia – injured 11 people on the University’s campus. He did so using both a car and a knife. Because he is Muslim, posted his displeasure at perceived treatment of fellow Muslims on Facebook, and included a vague threat there, the first response of many has been to assume terrorism. This is entirely the wrong response.
There have been a number of different definitions of terrorism used both by government agencies and in scholarly discourse. These definitions focus on many aspects of terrorism, but one stands out: terrorism is a tactic that necessarily employs an intermediary in order to have an effect.
There’s an unfortunate role the media too often plays when covering terrorism.
There’s a tendency to sensationalize terrorist attacks and the people who commit them. This is highly detrimental when trying to reduce terrorism, as it induces fear among the public — just as the terrorists want.
It’s difficult to balance rights and security, particularly when it’s difficult to measure security. That’s one reason why the debates on gun control that follow mass shootings rarely lead to compromise solutions.
There are components of the debate that should be easy, though. One relates to the no-fly list, and was brought up recently by President Obama.
In the aftermath of a horror like the Orlando mass shooting, we often turn to religious or political ideologies as explanation. For example, the shooter’s last-minute pledge to ISIS must have signified the real reason he committed such a heinous act.
There is some truth to this. Certainly your beliefs influence how you treat others.
But a focus on ideology ignores two things.
<Variant Version at Political Violence @ a Glance>