Psychology of Terrorism Thesis

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Psychology of Terrorism

Terrorism Defined: What is Terrorism?

Terrorism has been explained variedly both as a strategic effort as well as a tactic; a criminal act as well as a sacred obligation, a reaction which is justified against oppression as well as abomination which is unpardonable. To be obvious, a lot is based on whose perspective is represented. Acts of terrorism has time and again in a conflict been an efficient approach for the weaker side. Being an asymmetric type of conflict, terrorism bestows coercive power with several benefits of the military force at a minimum of the expenses. Because of the secretive characteristics and minute size of the organizations manned by the terrorists, they offer their foes no clear-cut organization to defend or to dissuade. ("What is Terrorism," n. d.)

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Nevertheless, terrorism constitutes an act of criminal nature that impacts an audience which is beyond the most immediate victim. The action plan of terrorists is carrying out violent acts which attract the attention of the local citizens, the administration and also the world at large to their cause. Noticeably, the terrorists mastermind their attacks to get the maximum publicity, carefully selecting targets which denote what they in opposition against. The success of the acts of terrorism lies not in the very act, rather in the reaction of the citizens or its administration to that particular act. For instance, during the 1972 Olympics held in Munich, the terrorist outfit named 'Black September' gunned down 11 citizens of Israel. However, the real targets were the television viewers whose number was estimated to be around 1 billion. According to research, there are three viewpoints of terrorism. These are the terrorists themselves, the victim and the public. ("What is Terrorism," n. d.)

I. a. Types of Incidents Terrorists Undertaken:

Thesis on Psychology of Terrorism Assignment

Although terrorists continue to evolve and adopt new levels of sophistication, the most common types of attacks that terrorists undertake to unleash their reign of terror are (i) Bombings: By far the most common type of act of terrorism (ii) Kidnappings and Hostage Taking: This strategy is adopted to gain a position of bargaining and gain mileage as far as publicity is concerned. When successful, it allows the terrorists to gain advantageous position in bargaining to release their fellow men from jails and also to achieve publicity for a long duration. Again this procedure also draws media attention as the drama unfolds. (iii) Weapon attacks and Assassinations: 'Armed attacks' also cover ambushes and raids. Assassinations constitute killings of important leaders thereby creating an immediate panic among the citizens. (iv) Arsons and Bombings: These are conducted by terrorist groups with ease and some are conducted with such pre-planning and precision resulting in large scale devastation like the 9/11 incident. (vi) Other forms of Incidents of Terrorism: Cyber terrorism is a modern form of terrorism which results in destroying or disrupting networks and computers. The outcome is that important business linked activities or important governmental activities are interrupted. Cyberterrorism allows terrorists to conduct their operations with little or no risk to themselves. It also provides terrorists an opportunity to disrupt or destroy networks and computers. The result is interruption of key government or business-related activities. "This type of terrorism isn't as high profile as other types of terrorist attacks, but its impact is just as destructive." ("Types of Terrorist Incidents," n. d.)

II. Use of Psychology in Recruitment:

A striking feature of terrorists profiling is that individuals who join the ranks of terrorists are sometimes jobless or socially estranged. Individuals with limited education like terrorists operating in the Gaza Strip might try joining an outlawed group just out of monotony and a wish to enjoy thrill for a cause they regard as justified. On the other hand, there are also educated youths who become terrorists. Certain youths who are highly educated might feel motivated by real political or religious fervor and therefore an individual who becomes a terrorist in the Western nations is normally found to be intellectual and idealistic. Normally, these disillusioned youths, educated as well as uneducated hold protest and dissidence. Those who join terror outfits sometimes belong to support organizations, like prisoner support groups or activists belonging to student activist groups. From the level of sympathizer, one slowly moves towards the level of passive supporter and finally a hard-core terrorist. (Hudson, 1999)

Sometimes aggressive combats with police or other security forces help in motivating an individual who is already socially alienated to join a terrorist group. Various methods of selection processes are implemented to recruit one into a terrorist outfit. Within a time span of a year or more, an amateur moves through a steady and gradual process of attaining full membership within a terrorist group. It is important to note that the psychology of joining the ranks of a terrorist group varies and is dependent on the typology of the group in question. Eminent psychologist Eric D. Shaw advocates "The Personal Pathway Model" wherein terrorists join their outfits. The model states that terrorists are from a chosen population which is at risk, who has been victims from their early damage to their self-esteem. Most of them are those who have failed to get the required status in the society which is responsible for their frustrating attitude. (Hudson, 1999)

III. Psychological Profile:

Research reveals that becoming a terrorist is ideally a continuing process. For instance, a research undertaken by Marc Sageman has underlined that a substantial section of the Al-Qaeda outfit has become 'radicalized as group of friends' and not as 'isolated youth'. After due passage of time, in majority of situations, the group steadily becomes more and more extreme in their understanding on political, religious and social issues and becomes increasingly isolated from the society. It is worthwhile to note that during the initial phase; these groups of youth are not hard-core terrorists; however it is only gradually with time that they tend to identify themselves strongly with issues. Listening to the preaching's of radical gurus and seeing propaganda videos based on violence and hatred, these youth groups become strongly indoctrinated. (Silke, 2006)

Glorification is not the sole or the most vital constituent in radicalization. There are other factors as well which also contribute a lot towards radicalization of the youth. A significant issue is that radicals are of the view that their identity of who they are is 'under threat'. It is a fact that a given society will consist of minorities as also some disaffected groups who think that they are not getting a fair deal and being treated harshly and as it has been rightly said that it is from these pools that terrorists are formed. It is observed that radicals joining terrorist outfits like Al-Qaeda consider that the Muslim community is increasingly under threat in several regions of the world. "Events in Kashmir, Chechnya, Bosnia, Israel/Palestine, Afghanistan and Iraq, all provide evidence to support such a view." (Silke, 2006) Psychological research also underscore the fact that the transition from disaffected to violent extremism is normally aided by exposure to an event or a series of events that serves as a catalyst. Usually, this constitutes a gesture of severe physical violence unleashed by the police or security forces or other opposing group against the individual, family, friends, or just anybody they identify closely with. (Silke, 2006)

Terrorism is a unique form of unusual combat, a type of pressurized coercion, though not always to attain some political gains. Terrorists apply the fear of killing, making injury and devastation either to pressurize the target group or governments into accepting their demands or making some type of environment of disintegration, panic or hesitation that they plan to exploit so as to make publicity regarding their causes or encourage rebellion. Almost all the time, terrorism is used in concert with other types of eccentric war, and hence terrorism is viewed as a more strategic design. Terrorism is fundamentally a psychological instrument targeted not just at its immediate sufferers, rather also at a broader audience. (Merari, 1985)

IV. Justification for their Actions:

Terrorist groups usually portray their activities as being movements of national freedom, or combatants opposing religious, economic, social, or imperialist coercion, or a mixture of all these elements. From another view, it is considered as an 'explicable' endeavor to demean terrorism. The expressions of 'terrorists' and 'freedom fighters' is considered as opposing by politicians. The difference between terrorists and freedom fighters is often blurred. In the absence of any clear-cut views regarding any specific organization's characteristics, attempting to portray "terrorist" as well as a 'freedom fighter' as exclusively mutual is on the whole a logical erroneous notion. The causes of freedom fighting and terrorism narrate 2 distinct characteristics. The 1st one exemplifies an element of struggle, and cause is considered important for terrorism. (Blin; Schneider; Pulver; Browner, 2007)

It is a fact that not all freedom fighters take up terrorism to put forth their cause. To put it differently, some insurgent groups can be considered both terrorists as well as freedom fighters,… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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APA Style

Psychology of Terrorism.  (2009, March 28).  Retrieved August 14, 2020, from

MLA Format

"Psychology of Terrorism."  28 March 2009.  Web.  14 August 2020. <>.

Chicago Style

"Psychology of Terrorism."  March 28, 2009.  Accessed August 14, 2020.