By Robert White
There has never been a period of peace in Ireland. And they tell us that’s because the fucking Irish are always causing the trouble. … They started it off. They formed a national army to take over Ireland. Colonize it. They kept the army here over a period of a couple of hundred years after that, to hold it. They then planted it with Protestants. … They formed a very tight, close-knit society, where no Catholic or no Irish person, ethnic Irish, could join. … And they ruled Ireland with a mailed fist. Literally. A grasp of iron and nobody stepped out of line. And it’s only natural that a people are going to breed at some stage someone who says, “I am not going to take that.” Now what does that make him? Does that make him a rabble-rouser? Does it make him a troublemaker? Does — it ought to. I mean obviously if he stands up and hits back it makes him a combatant. A combatant, right? And it makes him therefore eventually a rabble-rouser and a murderer and a terrorist, you know? And if that’s what a terrorist is, I want to be a terrorist.
— Provisional Irish Republican Army veteran (1984).
Scholars and government officials have spent countless pages trying to define “terrorism.” They should instead follow Charles Tilly’s definition of political violence:
any observable interaction in the course of which persons or objects are seized or physically damaged in spite of resistance (Tilly 1978, p. 176).
What is often termed “terrorism” is more properly the use or threat of political violence.
A virtue of Tilly’s definition is it acknowledges that state and non-state actors engage in (and threaten) political violence. Unfortunately, many scholars who study “terrorism” explicitly exclude state actions from their definition or they include the potential for state violence and then selectively focus on non-state activists. This is misguided, at best.
From my perspective, “terrorism” is a label used by elites to smear dissenters. Continue reading