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Reflections on Modern Terrorism

NCJ Number
Terrorism Volume: 1 Issue: 3 and 4 Dated: (1978) Pages: 265-276
G Holton
Date Published
12 pages
This article discusses the historic transition through which type I and type II terrorism are being combined, and describes how the new type of terrorism, type III, disrupts personal and historic memory.
Terrorism is a method of coercion of a population or its leadership through fear or traumatization. Type I terrorism is an act that attempts to impose terror by individuals or small groups on other individuals or groups, and through them indirectly on their governments. Type II terrorism, or the imposition of terror by governments on individuals or on groups of local or foreign populations, has claimed a far larger number of victims. Recent events, such as the training, arming, and financing by Libya of a network of international terrorists may be only a precursor of a collaboration by two distinct types of terrorist agencies in a new type III terrorism. From the earliest historic period to today (1980), methods of type II terror succeeded when they produced a drastic modification of the traditional laws of society and nature within which human life was thinkable. The production of the atomic bomb and the existence of the Nazi death camps are examples of such terror. The historic memory of our time has responded to these events with self-protection on the conscious level and the assumption that, on the whole, the weapons were successful and did not cause severe psychic costs for the user. Three future developments may be expected: the attempt by one or more States to disseminate through hired gangs, the culture and technology of terror; an escalating response by a Nation targeted for the new terrorism; and possible technical failures by terrorists, particularly in the early period, which may signal to us that the transition to type III terrorism has taken place. Footnotes and 10 references are given.


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