Inducing terror in people for the purpose of gaining their cooperation. This may be accomplished through highly selective killing of individuals or small groups of people, assassination of leaders, violent destruction of public building or utilities, highly public armed robberies. In extreme cases indiscriminate destruction of life and property may be used. Terrorism also relies heavily on innuendo and propaganda to magnify the terrifying effects of discrete actions.
Terrorism may be used by revolutionaries or governments (State terrorism). In either case the general population is induced to help. Terrorism may be seen as a means of propaganda by deed instead of word. It was used to a great extent by anarchists from 1870 to 1900 in France, Italy, Spain and the USA It is now popular in the Middle East and North Africa, but there is a world-wide terrorist network stretching from Japan, to Germany and Ireland to Africa and to North and South America. Terrorism has links with both communism and organized crime. One supplies ideology and weapons, the other weapons and tactics. Terrorism associated with right-wing extremism is also emerging.
Terrorism will continue to appeal to its perpetrators for mainly three age-old reasons. First, terrorism is a weapon of the weak; it appeals to racist militias, religious fundamentalists, ethnonationalists, and other minorities who cannot match the military might of their "oppressors." Second, terrorism is a way to assert identity and command attention; as such, it is an end in itself. Third, terrorism is appealing, especially to those with a religious fervor, as an expedient way to achieve a new future order if only by wrecking the present.
Political terrorism is an idiom of despair, the last resort of those with nothing to lose, those who feel they have been deprived of their humanity, of people who are convinced that, no matter what they do, they are in a losing race with death, be it from hunger, thirst, pollution, incurable diseases like AIDS, now even from genetically enhanced food. At the same time, they see new vistas for ever more prosperous and meaningful lives opening up before others. So wide is the chasm between the haves and have-nots in the world of today that the latter feel they have nothing in common with the former, not even a shared humanity. Once this sense of alienation takes hold, the indiscriminate killing of the Other can appear as a way of evening the score.
Terrorism is not just a transient aberration, but a basic feature of the present world 'order'. It is organically linked to the process of globalisation, which purports to bring people closer together but which, in a world where two hundred billionaires are richer than 40 per cent of the world's population, seems to be doing just the opposite.
Terrorism often results in increasing counter pressures and escalates the level of violence used by the opposition.