Myths about Terrorism


Should 'high-profile' events like 9/11 and the recent attacks in Woolwich guide counterterrorism policy agendas? Gary LaFree thinks not. In today's video presentation, he dispels a number of myths associated with terrorism and argues against counter-terror policies largely defined by 'black swan' events.

On 22 May 2013, we hosted the latest installment of our ISN-CSS Roundtable Discussions. After previously focusing upon the expanding role of Political Islam, the topic of discussion this time was Public Policy and (Myths About) Terrorism and featured the University of Maryland’s Dr. Gary LaFree.

In this video presentation, he argues that 1) counterterrorism policy agendas are often set by high-profile and yet atypical ‘black swan’ events, and 2) when these events are incorporated into broader statistical analyses, we see that they actually fit into preexisting and long-term patterns. Indeed, by using data that is freely-available in the open-source Global Terrorism Database (GTD), LaFree goes on to dispel many prevailing myths about terrorism that we may have. In doing so, he also points out that terrorist incidents tend to be highly concentrated in time and space and often occur in small clusters or self-duplicating “bursts.”

If you are statistically-minded and are interested in recent terrorist activities, you might want to review the US State Department’s "Country Reports on Terrorism 2012."

The recently released report notes, for example, that there were 6,771 terrorist attacks in 85 countries last year and that they caused 11,098 deaths. Of those totals, however, 55 percent of the attacks and 62 percent of the fatalities took place in just three countries: Pakistan, Iraq and Afghanistan. And in the case of Iraq, 97% of the strikes that could be traced back to their source were ultimately attributed to al Qaeda in Iraq. 

Source: ISN

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