Terrorist Rationalization of Violence
D. Guttman (1979:525) argues that "The terrorist asserts that he loves only the socially redeeming qualities of his murderous act, not the act itself."
By this logic, the conscience of the terrorist is turned against those who oppose his violent ways, not against himself. Thus, in Guttman's analysis, the terrorist has projected his guilt outward. In order to absolve his own guilt, the terrorist must claim that under the circumstances he has no choice but to do what he must do. Although other options actually are open to the terrorist, Guttman believes that the liberal audience legitimizes the terrorist by accepting this terrorist rationalization of violence and murder.
Albert Bandura (1990) has described four techniques of moral disengagement or terrorist rationalization of violence that a group can use to insulate itself from the human consequences of its actions.
First terrorist rationalization of violence, by using moral justification terrorists may imagine themselves as the saviors of a constituency threatened by a great evil.
For example, Donatella della Porta (1992:286), who
interviewed members of left-wing militant groups in Italy and Germany, observed that the
militants "began to perceive themselves as members of a heroic community of generous
people fighting a war against 'evil.'"
A third technique is to minimize or ignore the actual
suffering of the victims. As Bonnie Cordes (1987) points out, terrorists are able to
insulate themselves from moral anxieties provoked by the results of their hit-and-run
attacks, such as the use of time bombs, by usually not having to witness first-hand the
carnage resulting from them, and by concerning themselves with the reactions of the
authorities rather than with civilian casualties. Nevertheless, she notes that
"Debates over the justification of violence, the types of targets, and the issue of
indiscriminate versus discriminate killing are endemic to a terrorist group." Often,
these internal debates result in schisms.
Psychologist Frederick Hacker (1996:162) points out that
terrorists transform their victims into mere objects, for "terroristic thinking and
practices reduce individuals to the status of puppets." Cordes, too, notes the role
reversal played by terrorists in characterizing the enemy as the conspirator and oppressor
and accusing it of state terrorism, while referring to themselves as "freedom
fighters" or "revolutionaries." As Cordes explains, "Renaming
themselves, their actions, their victims and their enemies accords the terrorist