Feeling of “Terror”


This is a word we’ve heard quite a lot the past 6 years. I can’t recall too many speeches given by our president that hasn’t mentioned this word or “Terrorism” a couple dozen times. It’s not like it was an unfamiliar word before 9/11, but I don’t feel it had the same effect, or rather, lack of effect as it does today.

I was having a conversation with family today about schools and zero tolerance policy. If a 2nd grade student is in Cub Scouts and attends school forgetting to leave his pocket knife at home, he can be expelled from the school, even if he gives the teacher the knife the moment he realizes and explains the situation. I commented, sarcastically, that this is necessary to weed out the 2nd grade terrorists.

People laughed at my comment, but then I began to think about it. It seems that when I hear “terror,” “terrorist” or “terrorism” brought up these days, it’s used as part of a sarcastic comment or something. Rarely do I hear it in the context of something to be concerned about or something taken seriously. “Dirty clothes” is a more concerning topic. Maybe it’s just that I live in California, or because of the people I hang around.

And yet, when I hear “Night Terror” or “Reign of Terror,” I get a whole different feeling.

So have we in the US reached a point where the topic of terrorism just isn’t taken as seriously anymore, and if so, is it just because we’re used to hearing it in Bush’s speeches and on the news, or has it been this way for even longer? I’m curious as to what people think first when they hear the words “terrorism,” “war,” and “war on terror.” I’m sure this does depend heavily on region and to people’s personal connections to tragic events.

(And now I can’t help but read “terror” as “t-error.”)

5 thoughts on “Feeling of “Terror””

  1. Rather Anonymous

    Personally I get the feeling that all over the world terror is used as a cheap excuse to get more power for the state.
    “We need to watch everyone with cameras to be able to catch those bad terrorists.”
    “We need a Trojan horse to be able to spy on the bad terrorists.”
    I won’t go into what Mr. Bush justifies with terror. I think you know better anyway and it might sound like America bashing, but it is a lot.

    If terror is only a joke this days why does the larger part of the population of (seemingly) every country blindly except terror as an excuse for introducing such laws?

  2. when I hear “war of terror” I hear Fascism, whatever the spelling.

    but when I hear “terrorism” I just hear media gimmick , old news, advertisement to sell me more stuff.

    in France, we have “vigipirate” (vigilant pirate ?) , everywhere it’s the “vigipirate” program. month after month vigipirate was “reinforced” ( I just love when TV say “the vigipirate program is ‘reinforced’ ” , reinforced in WHAT?? don’t know..) . so there are guards in public administration, in public places, in university, to watch your bags. Policemen in trains stations, sometimes even army.

    but whatever, in a few month/years “vigipirate” was just landscape, background, noise, just a thing here. no more concern, no more interest, it’s just plain old news. media can scream it, hurls it, repeat it, to sell cars and perfums with it, it’s just OLD !

    it is the same with “terrorism” in america, you are just fed up of the politics and medias, the word has no more meaning. it is depleted. everyone, everywhere just need a new fear.

    the main problem is, with media and time : EVERYTHING becomes a GIGANTIC JOKE ! and it is WRONG !

  3. Having lived in a country that spent 35 years suffering at the hands of terrorists, I can confirm that the comic reaction is a natural one. Most of our comedy and jokes over the part 30 years have revolved around terrorists.

    Recently, while in the middle of a 24 marathon, we joked that we should make a Northern Irish version of 24, where some terrorists have planted a bomb, everyone looks at it going “Oh…a bomb, lemme see?” (etc) and the politicians take 24hours to agree that they’ll sit at a table and talk to each other.

    There was fear in the population of N. Ireland in those days (and sometimes even today, when the various groups sporadically attack each other), but that fear was put there by the terrorists. To me, the reaction of the US government has created any fear that might be there. It might sound heartless, and I don’t intend it to so please don’t take it the wrong way, but to the best of my knowledge there has only been three real terrorist attacks on the US in (my) recent memory(*): The first attack on the WTC in the early 90s, The Oklahoma bombing and Sept 11th. Sept 11th was a large attack and killed as many people as 30 years of bombs did here, but it was just one attack and if you aim at a big target, you’ll kill lots of people. I think what I’m saying is that the US government response security wise was a complete overreaction and one that whether intended or not created more fear in the populace than the actual attack did.

    I was living in the US on Sept 11th, and I know how truely scared everyone was, but I think that had an appropriate response been made people would have eventually forgotten that fear when they realised that there wasn’t a terrorist hanging around every corner waiting to blow them up, or poison them with anthrax. The population forgot their fear after the Oklahoma bombing and the first WTC attack, so why not after Sept 11th? Constantly bringing up terrorists, terrorism, the threat level has kept the subject in people’s memory for these last 6 years, and I think the cockup about the light things in Boston shows that people, deep down, are still frightened. The threat level meter especially is not a method of helping people, it only possible outcome is telling people that they should be afraid, that they could be next.

    As an aside, I wonder how programmes like 24 play on these fears and whether that is for the better or worse
    (* like I say, I might be wrong and have forgotten/been unaware of some, but I think my point still stands)

  4. I feel pretty unaffected by the term, especially now. I live in a country that hasn’t yet had a terrorist attack on its soil (AFAIK), has had few overseas casualties, and has fairly positive or at least neutral relationships with most foreign countries. (That number was higher before the whole Iraq business).

    These days it’s terrorism-this and terrorism-that, and I just ignore the lot of it. Even if there were some real and identifiable threat, it’s not worth wasting my life being scared! I’m certainly not going to bring my children up to be constantly afraid of terrorism (or anything else for that matter) unless there is a damn good reason!

    As we kinda discussed in an earlier post here, I’m more concerned about governments messing my life up than terrorists.

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