Few definitions are freighted with as much political baggage as the definition of terrorism. Arguments over the frequency and severity of terrorism often hinge on how that term is defined. Author Bruce Hoffman ambitiously starts this book in search of a satisfactory definition for the word, going back as far as the French Revolution, when the term was popularized.
In one interesting table, Hoffman takes 109 definitions of terrorism and breaks them down into a list of the most frequently mentioned elements. The use of force or violence tops the list, appearing in 83.5 percent of all definitions. Other terms that commonly appear include "political" (65 percent of definitions), "fear" (51 percent), and "threat" (47 percent). Only 14 percent of these definitions require that a group, movement, or organization be the perpetrator. For the purposes of this book, Hoffman finally defines terrorism as "the deliberate creation and exploitation of fear through violence or the threat of violence in the pursuit of political change."
With preliminary matters aside, Hoffman gets into the meat of the book. After analyzing the Palestine Liberation Organization, widely considered to be the first truly international terrorist group, Hoffman explores the surge of religious terrorism and white supremacist groups. The critique is thorough and excellent.
A whole chapter is devoted to terrorism and the media, as every terrorist group strives for maximum publicity. And those attention-getting efforts seem to work. A 1989 RAND Corporation study found that public approval for terrorists was "effectively zero," but that the public had a "Profound fascination with both terrorists and terrorism." While many critics decry the media's attention to the terrorist message, newspapers and television stations have helped bring terrorists to justice. The Unabomber's reign of terror only ceased, for example, after his raving 35,000-word manifesto was published in the Washington Post, which gave the world important clues to his identity.
Hoffman's final chapter is a peek into the future of terrorism, in which he warns of increasing state use of terrorists as "surrogate warriors." He also tries to dispel the notion that terrorists are uninterested in weapons of mass destruction. With the alarming simplicity of developing chemical or biological weapons, and even of fashioning low-grade nuclear weapons, the world may see a "bloodier and more destructive era of violence...than we have seen before."
Inside Terrorism is a fine up-to-date analysis of terrorism, complemented by an impressive notes section and bibliography. With its relevance to all facets of the security profession, this book is recommended to everyone in the field.
Reviewer: Adrian A Barnie, CPP, CFE (certified fraud examiner), is manager of the background investigations unit for Progressive Insurance, Mayfield Village, Ohio. He is a member of ASIS.
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|Author:||Barnie, Adrian A.|
|Article Type:||Book Review|
|Date:||Dec 1, 1999|
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