The aim of this article is to counter the general fear that has spread around European citizens after the recent terrorist attacks, through the only means we have: rationale and cultural tools. In fact, after Orlando and Nice, criminal experts raised the following issue: are we sure that we are not confusing general acts of troubled people, which result in mass murderers, which have long existed, with terrorism? Be it the trace of ISIS influence, we may need to start differing the two things. And not for the enjoyment of definitions themselves, but because we need to rationalise fear so as to find efficient tools to contrast the cause of that very fear – terrorism.

In order not to fall into terror and easily point at any situation, in indiscriminate ways, as “terrorism caused”, we should understand and differ what is terrorism and what is mass murder.

Mass murder is defined as ” the act of murdering a number of people, typically simultaneously or over a relatively short period of time and in close geographic proximity”. That is to say, mass murders can be committed either by individuals or by organisations, but their motives vary, even though one of the most diffused is the need for attention and fame. As far as the organisations are concerned, they can enact mass murders in order to support their political aim.

An official definition of terrorist attack, on the other hand, has not been adopted yet, since governments and government organisations cannot be tied by a strict formula if they want to intervene, adapting to the different forms these attacks result in. However, one of the main definitions adopted is “the use of violence or threat of violence in order to purport a political, religious, or ideological change”.

With this in mind, it is evident how terrorist attacks coincide with mass murders put in an act by organisations. On the contrary, mass murders realised by individuals are not that easily ascribable to terrorism, since the whole organisation should back the attack up.

In order to understand in practice how these theories apply, let’s look at the Orlando and Nice cases.

As far as Orlando is concerned, the killer had pledged an alliance to ISIS which not only was not confirmed later by the FBI, but it was stated that the man was troubled and the act was more probably caused by hatred towards homosexuality. In light of this, we should ascribe this terrible event to mass murder. We might talk of different kinds of terrorism, among which we might acknowledge a “terrorism against homosexuality”, which would therefore include all the murders dictated by homophobia. However, given the definition of terrorism we now know, it is not possible to deliberately talk about terrorism and that we must stick to determined criteria.

The Nice case is different: we have an organisation behind and among the members, one is believed to be part of ISIS, which claimed its connection with the attack.

To draw the conclusions on the matter, labelling all murders and attacks as terroristic doesn’t help us face with rationality and calmness the situation we are involved in, because fear of a phenomenon leads to fear of others.

– Chiara Merlino, Correspondent (Our World)