Avoiding “terror” doesn’t solve anything


By Hayley Nagelberg, Columnist

It was intentional, it was a violent act, it was certainly a criminal act, it was a bombing.”  Reading these four clauses, what do you think of?

This is what New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said following the explosion near Chelsea Market on Saturday night.

This weekend, there were multiple attacks around the country; attacks took place in Minnesota, New Jersey and as the quote above discusses, in New York.

Following the news as these stories developed, I was struck by multiple thoughts.  My first reaction was how little coverage the events initially received from mainstream media. If it were not for Twitter notifications and Facebook trending tags, many people would not have known that anything had even happened.

While the mainstream news did eventually pick up the stories and reported on them throughout this week, it is notable that so much information and understanding of this story came from individual citizens who happened to be in the vicinity of the attacks as they happened.

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This raises many questions as to the ways and means by which news is shared.  The impact that each and every person can have on the way the world will come to process a series of events,  positively or negatively, is remarkable.

The second thing that came to my mind was the absence of the word “terror.”  And more than just the absence: The seemingly deliberate avoidance of the word in reporting of the events over the weekend, and in the last number of months, has become increasingly evident.

Merriam-Webster defines terror as “a very strong feeling of fear; something that causes very strong feelings of fear: something that is terrifying: violence that is committed by a person, group, or government in order to frighten people and achieve a political goal.”

De Blasio and others said the reason they were not prepared to call the attack an act of terror was that they did not know the intent of the act when initially responding to it.  And while this sounds like a reasonable answer, it doesn’t address how much was already known.  Many people online have pointed out that when the reports on the Chelsea Market attack were made, we already knew some of the details of the pressure cooker with wires and phone that were found to be the source of the explosion.

People immediately noted how similar these devices were to those used in the bombing at the Boston Marathon in 2013.  Many questioned what other possible reason could be held for making this homemade bomb besides terror.

Words have power.  We see this every day, from the arguments regarding free speech on a national level to the words we study in our textbooks for our midterms.

It is said that the first step in solving any problem is admitting that there is one.  The word terror carries with it a strong connotation, but it is not one to be so afraid of.  When an act of terror takes place, we should call it like it is.

We live in challenging times, and it is important that we do not rush to rash decisions on major events. But we also should not hide behind our fears and internal qualms over the weight of words.

Hayley is a sophomore in ACES.
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