Terrorism for Dummies II: This Totally Wasn’t the Title of the Last Post on Terrorism

When we last left off, I made some observations about terrorism. In the wake of the Boston Marathon Bombing, I personally believe it’s important for us to know what terrorism is – beyond us just shouting ISLAM (conservatives) or TEA PARTY (liberals). We’ve already defined terrorism and the conditions that make it ripe for the exploding. Now, let’s take a look at the history of terrorism. Again, I’ll be using the chickenscratch notes I took in a foreign policy class in college.


I need to apologize here. I am going just a wee bit outside the original timeline I was planning to use, but Anarchism needs the proper introduction.

When most people think of anarchism, there is a sudden image of V plotting to blow up parliament. Some history nerds might believe that the original Guy Fawkes was an anarchist. However, they fall truly short of the definition. Anarchism is the desire for a people to be stateless. It is the belief that all government does is get in the way. Rather than wish for transition, these folks believe that government in all forms should be abolished.

At the center of this, around the turn of the 20th century, was an idea. We refer to it as the Propaganda of the Deed, which sounds like the Hitler way to win a game of Monopoly.

Goebbels wanted the four railroad squares for nefarious purposes.

Goebbels wanted the four railroad squares for nefarious purposes.

The term, actually, is a lot more complex than its meaning: Actions speak louder than words (sorry, Joe Goebbels) (you’re a dick for stealing my name). There are four key events that more or less ushered in the era of anarchism and anarchist terrorism.

  • 1881: the assassination of Russian Tsar Alexander II, by the group Narodnaya Volya
  • 1894: the assassination of the French president Marie-Francois Sadi Carnot
  • 1894: Bombing of Greenwich Observatory in London
  • 1901: the assassination of American president William McKinley in September 1901, by an anarchist, Leon Czolgosz.

These events actually at one point led the international community to believe that there was a vast, interconnected anarchist organization. There wasn’t, but that kind of tinfoil-hat thinking is always fun.


Much like anarchists, anti-colonials had a wee bit of a problem with government. That’s about where the similarities end, however, and where a sense of nationalism enters the terrorist’s feelings. This era of terrorism came around the end of World War I with the Treaty of Versailles (the thousandth one, I think). Primarily wanting to break free of British rule (there were anti-colonial movements elsewhere, but since the sun never set on the British empire, we can only assume other people wanted some of the sun for themselves), many of these groups found out that “terrorist” had become a really bad word. The preferred “freedom fighter,” but that wasn’t happening when their opponents was politicians, who would never, ever use name-calling as a means discourse with another side, right???


First of all, my liberal friends, this is not some partisan hackery. This is an actual description of the next gen terrorism.

Think of the Neo-Left as the Wii U of the terrorist history.

Think of the Neo-Left as the Wii U of the terrorist history.

The Neo-Left wave of terrorism was the Soviet/Communist era of history. The Western world (headed by Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher) saw itself as the savior of the masses. In response, using both terrorism and nationalism, the Soviets encouraged leftist groups in developing nations to do whatever they needed to get recognized and, more importantly (to the Communists), disrupt the West’s anti-commie movement. In Latin America, for example, groups moved from the countryside to the cities, and one revolutionary wrote a book called The Mini Manual of the Urban Guerilla, which if you are still considering the Wii U a good analogy for the Neo-Left movement, would make one hell of a Donkey Kong game.

In the 1980s, this wave of terrorism began to die down. Though that might have been self-inflicted, seeing as how this became the era that high-jacking planes had become popular.


Oh. Oh no. Do I have to do this? …The page of notes dictates it must be so. Deep breaths, everybody. I’m not sure any of us are ready to talk about this at all.

The 1980s, while being the era in which the Neo-Left movement as we knew it died, was also the era in which religious terrorism became a thing. Now, I think it’s important here to realize something: religion had almost always been a factor in some way when it came to a lot of terrorism. Especially in the era of the Neo-Left, when nationalism had taken a more prominent role than even in the Anti-Colonial wave. With nationalism comes ethnic identity, which usually overlaps with religion. Take the Irish Republican Army, for example.

Now, of the major religions, the three monotheistic ones have some of the more prominent records of terrorism done in their name. In the current climate, we like to think of Islamic Radicalism as the religious terror out there, but don’t forget the American Christian Identity movement that also utilized radical and extreme interpretations.

Islamic radicalism, however, is the most prominent of the religious terrorism wave. Three political events really motivated the rise of Islamist terror: The Iranian Revolution, the Afghan liberation and the Muslim turn of the century in 1979, which traditionally is when a “redeemer” steps forth to save the people. Oh man, did that last one have some influence. The Sunnis went at it like never before and, during this period, the suicide bomb became the biggest thing in terrorism since stealing planes.

Which Brings Us To The Present?

That’s about it, right now. However, it should be said that while these “waves” were separated into specific eras in the late 19th and throughout the 20th (and now 21st) centuries, that doesn’t mean they outright died when the era passed. Chechnya, for example, is an Islamic state, but often commits acts of violence for nationalist purposes, not religious. Though, as I mentioned, it’s more impossible to fully separate nationalism and religion than Simon and Garfunkel (in my heart, at least).


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