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Terrorism and the Internet Essay

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Terrorism and the Internet Essay

Terrorism is a “complicated, electic phenomenon”(Cronin, 2002), which can be defined as “the threat or use of seemingly random violence against innocents for political ends by a nonstate actor” (Cronin, 2002). Following the 9/11, George W. Bush stated: “Americans have known the casualties of war, but not at the centre of a great city on a peaceful morning. Americans have known surprise attacks, but never before on thousands of civilians. All of this was brought upon us in a single day, and night fell on a different world» (Bush, 2001) The unique character of trauma of this attack forced the world to consider the fact that terrorism at the dawn of the twenty first century had changed, more dangerous than it had ever been in two thousand years. This leads us to the following question: what differentiates Terrorism, as we knew it in the Twentieth century, from Terrorism in the Twenty-first century?

This essay will argue that it is the major Revolutions of the 21st century, in the world of Telecommunications, the Internet and the Medias; Armament and Science that are at the source of all the major changes in twentieth century's Terrorism.

Firstly, I will explain how the Internet revolution as part of the revolution of Telecommunications brought about great change in the structure of Terrorism in the 21stcentury. The fact of the matter is that the Revolution of the Internet and other mobile telecommunications allowed the creation of a new “networked structure” (Tucker, 2002). This change indirectly led to a new “distribution of power”(Viotti, 2009) which gradually enabled independent individuals around the globe to interact with terrorist organizations and adhere to them on the basis of “nothing more than a common purpose” (Tucker, 2002) the national scale of terrorism in the 20th century became an international one. Moreover, it is worth mentioning the fact that terrorists organization such as the “Israel's Kahane Chai, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the Kurdistan Worker's Party, and Peru's Shining Path » (Cronin, 2002) own a website, whether there be official or not. Those Websites are far-reaching, somehow discrete, accessible by everyone and inexpensive, there are very effective in spreading ideologies and recruitment. Terrorist groups in the 21st century have the means to be much more efficient and organized than those in the 20th century. Furthermore, it goes without saying that the creation of those websites is made possible by a mere Internet connection. This implies that anyone who wishes to form a terrorist movement can do so through the Internet, without private funding. Being a terrorist in the 21st century is easier than it has ever been. In addition to that, and as opposed to the 20th century, today's terrorist movements do not have a hierarchical structure. This means that they cannot be “beheaded” nor targeted as easily as before. In fact, this “expansion of the global reach” (Viotti, 2009) originated in a critical “shift in the geography of terrorism” (Brown, 2003). Not only is the revolution of the Internet at the source of the phenomenon, it is also strengthening it. Indeed, only by the way of telecommunications is the organization and efficiency of such geographically spread groups rendered possible. Also, the Internet is a new arm in the hand of terrorists. The 21st century saw the emergence of a new threat, commonly called “Cyber terrorism”. In my views, there can be no doubt that this threat is an ever growing one. Even though for the present, terrorists have a preference for bombs as opposed to bytes, we should bear in mind that the next generation, growing up among those technologies, know them and will probably be the ones to use them. Cyber-terrorism, whether it is implanting a simple virus in a government's branch or dismantling the whole banking system of a country, would be devastating. The rising complexity of the Internet makes its control difficult. If it was to happen that a terrorist breaks into a governmental system and destroys it data, it would destroy in one shot the whole western economy and society. The destruction of a model is a great risk, one that did not previously exist. “We children go to sleep, and our toys stay up and play”(Brown, 2003), the information technologies are evolving fast, and it might be impossible for us to grasp the full extent of their dangers, especially in the hands of terrorists.

Secondly, it will be argued that the revolution of the Medias, the other main part of the revolution of Telecommunications, held a crucial role in changing the face of terrorism in the 21st century. It must be admitted that “terrorism and the media are bound together in an inherently symbiotic relationship, each feeding off and exploiting the other for its own purposes” (Hoffman, 2006). In fact, since the launching of the first television satellite by the United States in 1968, the role of the medias in giving terrorists the publicity they need keeps increasing. “Indeed, without the media's coverage the act's impact is arguably wasted, remaining narrowly confined to the immediate victims of the attack rather than reaching the wider” (Hoffman, 2006), without the medias,“ terrorist acts would be like the proverbial tree falling in the silent forest”. By enlarging the audience, medias of the 21st century strengthen terrorism. Moreover, the revolution of the Media allowed the creation of terrorists' own television station. The example of the Hezbollah's channels “Al-Manar” is enough to show the impact it has on spreading ideologies, the same way that the Internet does. If we agree with Bruce Hoffman in saying that “a terrorist movement's longevity ultimately depends upon its ability to recruit new members as well as appeal to an expending pool of both active supporters and passive sympathizers”, then, in a nutshell, our revolution in the media is what is keeping terrorism alive. Also, I will argue that it is the critical observations made by the medias at the western world that give grounds to terrorists to attack the Western Model. “Seemingly invulnerable states however powerful and wealthy they may be, have innate weaknesses that can be exploited in an era of asymmetric warfare”(Rogers). By showing the United States flows for instance, its weaknesses, faults and failures, you justify the will to destroy the American and provides them with sound arguments. This alleged credibility allows enables terrorists to gain support; a support more universal than this they had in the 20thcentury.

Thirdly, the point can be made that the revolution of armament differentiates terrorism in the 21st century from thus in the previous century. Indeed the end of the 20th century saw a “convergence between civilian and military technologies”; a phenomenon commonly called “weapon proliferation”. Various means of destruction suddenly became available to weaker actors, providing terrorist actors with access to weapons they did not previously have. The fact of the matter is that “the end of the cold war and the disintegration of the soviet union have expanded the illicit arms transfer significantly” (Brown, 2003). This means that it has become possible for terrorists to have a hand on arms, without the previously needed unofficial state-support or network. This phenomenon is part of what is called the “privatization of terrorism” (Viotti, 2009). Moreover, due to the previously mentioned revolution of telecommunications, information on armament is largely diffused. “How to make its own bomb” is open information on the Internet, information largely diffused by terrorists websites such as www.terrorist.com. In addition to that emerges the problem of Weapons of Mass Destruction's proliferation, especially Nuclear Weapons and thus since the end of the Cold War, indeed “WMD have gone from being symbols of great power status to a “poor man's” source of influence”(Brown, 2003). The dismantling of “the Con network” at the beginning of the 21st century has made the world acutely aware of an existing black market, recently rendered accessible to terrorists, among others. However, this essay does not aim at dealing with the dangers of nuclear weapon, even though there is much to be said; it aims at assessing its danger in terrorist hands. What is reassuring about Nuclear Weapons is the assumption that the cost of their utilization is too high for them to be rationally used. This sets the question of their risk when in irrational hands, terrorists' hands. The fact is terrorists' goal in an attack is to be “purely destructive” (Townshend, 2002); as the former leader of the United Red Army states “we want to shock the people (…) it is our way of communicating with the people”, what best way to shock I ask you but to use spectacular weapons such as WMD? The risk is real, many terrorist groups are interested in increasing the lethality of their attack, «among the groups interested in acquiring CBNR (besides al-Qaeda) are the PLO, the Red Army Faction, Hezbollah, the Kurdistan Workers' Party, German neo-Nazis, and the Chechens » (Cronin, 2003) Such a risk of complete and irrational destruction was not a threat in 20th century terrorism as they did not have access to such weapons. All things considered, terrorists in the 21stcentury have a more developed access to means of destruction than they used to.

Last but not least, the revolution of Science too, altered Terrorism in the 21st century. Indeed, This last century saw the establishment of science as the “Western God”. I will argue that this is directly linked with the fact that ”the powerful attraction of religious and spiritual movements has replaced the nationalist or leftist political revolutionary ethos and become the central characteristics of a growing internal Trend”(Brown, 2003). I'll emphasize the fact that Science, by the rationalization of death and nature, that leads to the destruction of many religious beliefs, provoked the rise of its opposite in religious fanatics, the revolution of science “promises conflict between prospective beneficiaries of the new technologies and defenders of religious influence”( Brown, 2003). We can see a shift back to the first “sacred terrorism”. In fact, none of the classified terrorists groups could be qualified as “religious” in 1968 whereas in 1995, there were 25 out of 58 groups (Brown, 2003). In the 20th century, famous terrorists groups such as the RAF, the IRA, were fighting against distincts political system; today however groups such as Al Qaida fight for a sacred cause: the Jihad. The target is modified. Moreover, the religious terrorism that was triggered by the revolution of Science represents more danger than nationalist or leftist terrorism. As a matter of fact, Michael Brown explains it by the fact that followers of religious terrorist groups operate a “Manichean struggle for good against evil” which leads them to the “dehumanization of their victims” categorized as “infidels”. Also, they fight “to please the perceived commands of a deity” unconstrained by any human, secular values or laws. Furthermore, their “complete alienation from the existing social system” gives them grounds to destroy it and no reason to stay in it, which explains the phenomenon of suicide bombers. Finally, their “dispersed popular support in civil society” is impossible to track, especially since made so efficient by the revolution of telecommunications.” (Brown, 2003) Another consequence of the revolution in Science is a deepened gap between rich and poor countries, between those with access to technology and those lacking it. In my views, the fact that the United States usually takes the lead when it comes to scientific technology has increased global resentment among developing countries towards America and an established worlds order. Science has given a new enemy to terrorists in the 21st century. Also, Science has allowed the development of new extremely dangerous weapons. In addition to the previously mentioned Weapons of Mass Destructions, which came to be developed at the end of the nineteenth century, twenty first century terrorism gained biochemical weapons; their innovative character does not provide us with any experience in how to deal with them or protect us from them, hence their danger.

Every epoch carries its own burden and it looks like the 21st century brought a new, more menacing terrorism, on itself. The differences between the epochs determine the differences in the terrorism. By developing telecommunications, the western has allowed is dispersed enemies to form a united front, difficult to track because of its global spreading; By developing science and weapons of mass destruction it has allowed terrorists groups to access means of destruction and by imposing the rationalization of life and the cult of science, triggered irrational and deeper conflicts than it had ever been. The 20th century saw terrorists groups fight for their country, for their political ideas; the 21st century will see terrorists fighting against a certain world order, an utopian cause which will allow all the excesses. But what it all really comes down to is “Globalisation”, like any business at the dawn of the twenty first century, terrorism spread around the world, thus gaining in efficiency, in danger. It now comes down to us to realize that it is …”the world's fight (…) the civilization's fight » (Bush) and to adapt our security systems accordingly, to globalise it too.

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