A Fun Quiz About America: Terrorism or Not Terrorism?


It’s 2016. The United States remains one of, if not the most powerful nation in the world. Obviously the only thing tighter than our security is the asses of some of our right-wing leaders who insist on us protecting it. And despite our prominent position as a world leader, we can’t seem to come to a consensus on exactly what terrorism looks like when it happens on our own soil by our own people.

Terrorism is defined as the use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims. And while some instances of violence are appropriately categorized as terrorism almost immediately, others are not. And then there are those incidents that are curiously labeled as terrorist for all the wrong reasons. With all of this confusion, let’s test your knowledge of terrorism.

The situation: On April 15, 2013, two Chechen brothers motivated by extremist Islamist beliefs, but with no ties to any outside terrorist organizations, set off two pressure cooker bombs near the finish line at the Boston Marathon. The explosion killed three people and injured hundred of others.

How the news spun it: OMG a bomb in a heavily populated area! Definitely terrorism!

Was it terrorism: Yes. Textbook.

The situation: On June 17, 2015 a white American man named Dylan Roof walked into a black church in Charleston, SC and killed 9 people. A 10th person was also injured in what Dylan admitted to was an attempt to

How the news spun it: Roof was mentally disturbed and had a black friend. In other words, this was not a terrorist attack. When his bond was set the judge demanded that the family of his victims consider his family as well.

Was it terrorism: Yes. It was violence enacted as a result of the hatred and ignorance of Roof about black people. This hatred and ignorance is the result of a country whose entire legacy is undergirded by anti-black racism in the political, social, and economic realm.

The situation: 21 trans women were murdered in 2015.

How the news spun it: *crickets*

Was it terrorism: A specific community is extraordinarily prone to murder and violence as a result of their gender identity. There are little to no political, economic, or social protections offered to this community to decrease the risks they face daily. Institutionalized violence against a specific community is inherently political, as is the ongoing denial of rights and protections to that community. By that definition, this is ongoing terrorism.

What happened: On November 27, 2015 a white American man named Robert Dear Lewis, Jr. held the Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood at gunpoint. He killed three people and injured nine others, later claiming that he was a “warrior for the babies.”

How the news spun it: He is a troubled man with a criminal history and extremist views. Terrorist seems like a strong word to use.

Was it terrorism: Absolutely. Dear disagreed with the constitutional right of people to terminate pregnancies should they choose. Women’s bodies have been the site of political debates for year, much to the dismay of those who actually have to live with those bodies.

What happened: Between 6,000 and 12,000 children, mostly of color, have been exposed to drinking water with high levels of lead in Flint, MI as the result of a water supply change. When switching to the Flint River for its water source, officials failed to make sure that corrosion inhibitors were working effectively.

How the news spun it: Who is really to blame here? This is an unfortunate mistake but there was no terrorism involved at all.

Was it terrorism: As with the trans community, when the health of an entire community is neglected to save a few bucks, it is a violent act. When that entire group or community is historically and consistently neglected, and elected leaders fail to help them, there are political implications. Sounds like terrorism to me.

What happened: In December 2014, a group called “The Guardians of Peace” hacked Sony pictures, the media production/distribution company responsible for a film called The Interview, which satirically plotted the assassination of Kim Jong Un, leader of North Korea. They leaked a series of confidential emails where Sony execs talked trash about their colleagues, employee records, and unreleased movies. They followed up with threats of violence if The Interview moved forward in theaters. While it was confirmed that the attacks originated in North Korea, the North Korean government was not involved.

How the news spun it: An oversees dictator is out to censor our right to make fun of him! This is terrorism!

Was it terrorism: Yes, because a group threatened violence in order to prevent a North Korean political leader from looking bad on the big screen… not because some Sony execs were outed for talking shit about people.

What happened: On June 12, 2016 an American man killed 49 LGBTQ people, most of them of color, at a nightclub during Pride in Orlando, FL. He had declared an allegiance to ISIS, a militant group that follows Islamic fundamentalist doctrine.


Was it terrorism: Without a doubt. It appears that this massacre was violence enacted in the name of homophobia, aimed at terrorizing and oppressing the LGBT community. It’s terrorism by that definition alone; the identity and religion of the perpetrator aren’t relevant in determining whether it fits the definition. And while this act was the worst of its kind in living memory, it wasn’t the first and, sadly, won’t be the last.

Terrorism is enacted on US soil almost daily against marginalized communities, including those located in Pulse Nightclub earlier this week. In many cases, the terrorist is not a foreign person hating on America from afar. In fact, they are the very embodiment of America: violent, xenophobic, and imperialistic. Despite the fact that terrorism is a buzzword used to stereotype and demonize Muslims, there are no specific requirements pertaining to religion, creed, or race that dictate whether or not one is a terrorist. But if we’re being real, it might be useful to note that most domestic terrorists are white Christian men. Just sayin’. Terrorism threatens the safety and basic human rights of others to exist peaceful within their rights as a result of the terrorists own view of the world, which is always politicized in some way or another. Outdated gun laws, a severe lack of resources dedicated to mental health care, and an overall obsession with violence means that we reproduce our greatest threats over and over again.