Special Series on Terrorism: Debunking Myths and Getting Oriented
In September 2014, the Huffington Post observed that CNN mentioned the Islamic State more than 3,800 times in the course of about two weeks. According to Smart Politics, President Obama has mentioned terrorism or a related term 1,469 times from the time he became president to the Boston bombing. That breaks down as follows: “terrorist” 712 times, “terrorism” 435 times, “counterterrorism” 216 times, “terror” 77 times, “terrorize” 18 times, “bioterrorism” five times, “antiterrorism” four times, and “counterterrorist” and “narcoterrorist” once each. Suffice it to say we have been inundated with these phrases and media coverage on terrorism. Notably, a 2014 Washington Post/ABC News Poll indicates that 91 percent of Americans see the Islamic State as a “threat to the vital interest of the United States.” And in February 2015, a Gallup Poll found that 8 percent of Americans specifically cited terrorism as the most important problem facing the United States today—up 6 percent since January 2015 and the highest since January 2010.
In this deluge of information, how well informed are we about terrorism and its implications? If you feel out of your depth when it comes to filtering news coverage on terrorism, you’re not alone. Reporting on and interpretations of terrorist activity vary significantly. For example, Graeme Wood’s recent article in The Atlantic, “What ISIS Really Wants,” describes ISIS as “a religious group with carefully considered beliefs, among them that it is a key agent of the coming apocalypse.” By contrast, in “Why Does ISIS Keep Making Enemies,” CNN National Security Analyst Peter Bergen points to actions like beheadings that seem to make no sense and writes that “[t]he mistake some make when viewing ISIS is to see it as a rational actor.” Meanwhile, in the recent Summit on Countering Violent Extremism, President Obama stated: “We are not at war with Islam. We are at war with people who have perverted Islam.”
So what’s really going on? To help navigate these issues, the Chicago Policy Review interviewed three experts with different perspectives and insights. Professor Robert Pape, University of Chicago political scientist and Director of Chicago Project on Security and Terrorism (CPOST), dispels myths about ISIS and suicide terrorism. Duke University history professor Dr. Martin Miller considers the roots of modern terrorism as outlined in his recent book and highlights key takeaways for the present. And former counterterrorism advisor to Secretary Clinton and current Senior Fellow at Brookings Institution, Daniel Benjamin, assesses U.S. counterterrorism efforts and evolving threats. Join us this week as we try to get oriented in the midst of unrelenting news feeds.
Feature Photo: cc/(Victoria Pickering)