Terrorism: Perspectives, Theatre-of Terror Approach and The Internet

Overview of Terrorism            

The word terror comes from the Latin word terrere, which means “to frighten” or “to scare” (Weimann, 2008). The United States Department of Defense defines terrorism as “the calculated use of unlawful violence or threat of unlawful violence to inculcate fear; intended to coerce or to intimidate governments or societies in the pursuit of goals that are generally political, religious, or ideological.” Within this definition, there are three key elements—violence, fear, and intimidation—and each element produces terror in its victims. Terrorism is thus a criminal act that influences an audience beyond the immediate victim.

Three perspectives of terrorism

There are three perspectives of terrorism: the terrorist’s, the victim’s, and the general publics. In the perspective of the terrorist, ideology and motivation will influence the objectives of terrorist operations, especially regarding the casualty rate (www.terrorism-research.com) and the phrase, one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter, is a view terrorists themselves would accept. Groups with non-religious goals will attempt to target as minimal number of causalities in comparison to religious and military oriented who attempt to inflict as many causalities as possible The type of target selected will often reflect motivations and ideologies and they conduct attacks on representative individuals whom they associate with economic exploitation, social injustice, or political repression (www.terrorism-research.com). Also, due to the secretive nature and small size of terrorist organizations, they often offer opponents no clear organization to defend against or to deter.

The strategy of terrorists is to commit acts of violence that draws the attention of the local populace, the government, and the world to their cause. The terrorists plan their attack to obtain the greatest publicity, choosing targets that symbolize what they oppose. The effectiveness of the terrorist act lies not in the act itself, but in the public’s or government’s reaction to the act.

As for the victims, they are generally devastated beyond description, and severely traumatized; view the terrorists as extremely volatile, unpredictable, unsympathetic and merciless. They do get help and aid from the government, but live the rest of the lives in paranoia and suffering, emotionally, physically and psychologically. The effects reverberate throughout their lives.

The general public is very adversely affected too, though to a lesser extent in comparison to the  victims, they generally become more alert to the world happenings, governmental processes, and protests and uproars from different segments of the world’s population. In Dec 2001 as stated in the Ministry of Home Affairs Webpage, the ISD disrupted a terrorist cell here called the Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) which is part of a larger regional network with cells in MalaysiaIndonesiaSingaporeSingapore played and the importance of having a strong, promising and reliant police force. Till this event occurred, there was complacency among the general public that no event this big will occur in this small city-state. Today, majority of Singaporeans realize that terrorism can happen anywhere, anytime, without warning and can be very deadly., the island-wide anxiety over Mas Selamat Kastari’s escape made the general public understand the role the police force in . The local JI members were planning to attack targets like Western embassies and personnel. Following leads from the first arrests, the ISD conducted another wave of arrests in Aug 2002 to detain more JI members. As a result, the local JI network was seriously disrupted. Back here in and

Theatre of Terror Perspective of Terrorism

Terrorism operates through symbolic expression, just as how dramaturgy works. From the  theater-of-terror perspective, the September 11 attack on America was a perfectlychoreographed production aimed at American and international audiences (Weimann, 2008). “Terrorist attacks are often carefully choreographed to attract the attention of the electronic media and the international press. Taking and holding hostages increases the drama. The hostages themselves often mean nothing to the terrorists.


Terrorism is aimed at the people watching, not at the actual victims. Terrorism is a theater” (Jenkins, 1975). Karber (1971) suggested a new model of analysis: “As a symbolic act, terrorism can be analyzed much like other media of communication, consisting of four basic components: transmitter (the terrorist), intended recipient (target), message (bombing, ambush) and feedback (reaction of target audience). Most modern terrorists are well-to-do, highly educated, resourceful and intelligent and hence are well versed in the four basic components. They do not attack blindly or impulsively but have a whole list of goals and outcomes mapped out systematically before the attack is carried out.



Terrorists and the Internet


Postmodern terrorists are taking advantage of the fruits of globalization and

modern technology—especially the most advanced communication technologies—to plan, coordinate, and execute their deadly campaigns (Weimann, 2008). With the growing infiltration of the internet in our daily lives, having a widespread effect throughout the world, the Internet has become a forum for Terrorists to spread their messages worldwide and this has also paved way for cyber-terrorism, where groups  attack computer networks. Thus, terrorists are simultaneously using and abusing the Internet, and benefiting from it in great amounts.



Conclusively, terrorism cannot be understood just by reading the news and watching reports but one has to understand how such networks operate, their mentality, goals and desired outcomes they are aiming for. However, with the increasing extent and speed of globalization, terrorist exploitation of the Internet seems to make the work of curbing and hunting down terrorist and terrorist networks even harder. But surely, terrorist use of the Internet will grow; it will become more sophisticated and more manipulative. This will cause government agencies to step up measures and enforce stricter rules to counter terrorism, which will inevitably set a chain of reactions, causing more displeasure and frustration among the terrorists, causing them to seek out more ways to oppose the governmental agencies, both locally and internationally, which leads to accelerated recruitment of a wide range of members and planning of more impactful and deadlier attacks by the terrorists due to the build up frustration and displeasure.








Jenkins, B. (1975). International terrorism. Los Angeles: Crescent.


Karber, P. (1971). Urban terrorism: Baseline data and a conceptual framework. Social Science


Quarterly, 52, pp 527-33.


http:// www.terrorism-research.com , International terrorism and security research.

http://www.mha.gov.sg/isd/ct.ht, Ministry of Home Affairs, Internal Security Department


Weimann, G. (2008). The Psychology of Mass-mediated Terrorism, American Behavioral

Scientist, 52(1),pp 69-86.




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