Airplanes Lined Up on Runway
Photograph ©2008 by Brian Cohen.

Why We Should Stop Using the Word Terrorist

A s ridiculous as this may sound, people are affected by the use of certain words. For example, announcements by pilots aboard the airplanes of certain airlines over the years have switched from using the word turbulence — which causes a reaction of fear in some people — to the term rough air, which is perceived to sound less threatening.

Why We Should Stop Using the Word Terrorist

Despite the fact that a person has a substantially greater chance of being killed in an automobile accident than be confronted by a terrorist, people think nothing of stepping into a car to get from one place to another; and yet what can be perceived as an imbalance between safety and convenience for passengers pertaining to commercial air travel exists because some people are so terrified to fly as passengers at the slightest hint of a threat from terrorists that they will agree to almost anything in the name of safety and security — no matter how inconvenient or invasive.

That may not seem logical. After all, a death is a death — right?

Technically, the answer is yes. However, I have known people who feel that they have more control overall when driving a car than being a passenger aboard an airplane — despite the rather stellar safety record of air travel overall.

Before this article continues, the word terrorism is defined — according to the Oxford Dictionaries — as “the use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims.” Think about that for a moment. Terrorism is typically a premeditated crime where casualties are secondary only to the power which intimidation gives the terrorist…

…so when a government forces a policy upon people — causing constituents to change how they live their lives — as a result of heinous acts committed by a terrorist, some people say that the terrorists have won…

…but when a government forces a policy upon people  — causing constituents to change how they live their lives — as a result of the potential of terrorism and not caused by an actual act, the terrorists theoretically win without even having to leave home to commit an act.

That is insane. Terrorists crave the attention and feed upon the fear. It is their fuel and encouragement which emboldens them; gives them the feeling of invincibility; gives them the potential status of martyr if and when they are killed…

…and the career of a politician or government official is virtually certain to be terminated if the risk was perceived to be ignored and something significant happened — so they err on the side of caution.

We have to stop giving terrorists attention. We have to stop fueling their thirst to spread their propaganda in order to advance their agendas.

Think about when was the last time you have heard of an incident where a person runs naked across a stadium for attention. Those incidents have decreased ever since a decision was reached to not have them on camera, which saps them of the attention they crave…

…but you have heard about naked people in airports in recent years. Articles have been written about them; they have been recorded in photographs and videos; and their names are published and broadcast. As long as they receive the attention they crave, these incidents will continue.

The same should apply to terrorists. Without attention, they cannot use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims. We can all start by not using the word terrorist to describe them anymore. I am not certain as of yet which term should replace the word terrorist; but upon initially asking some random people their thoughts, the words coward, dogbuffoon, idiot and clown came to mind.

“Some buffoon attempted to commit a heinous act at the airport in East Squeedonk, Idaho; but law enforcement quelled the attempt.” That certainly sounds better than “a terrorist attempted to kill dozens of people at the airport in East Squeedonk, Idaho; but law enforcement stopped them before they could attack innocent men, women and children as young as two years old.”

Semantics? Mere words? I could not agree more. The entire point is to pay as little attention to the perpetrators as possible…

…but do people really fear dying?

Automobile Accident Death Statistics

How often do you hear about people being killed in car crashes?

When an airplane crashes — which is a highly unlikely event — an undue amount of attention is paid to it by the media; and that causes a sensationalistic effect. If no one survives, the incident can be horrifying — especially when 300 people die all at once. Mention the word terrorist in relation to the crash; and the tragedy can be amplified exponentially…

…but when 300 people are killed in automobile accidents in a day all over the world, no one really pays attention. A news item may appear in the local news and get 30 seconds of airtime — two minutes if teenagers caused the accident; a celebrity is involved in the accident; or if toddlers or babies were seriously injured or killed in the accident.

Statistics of estimates included in this document created earlier this year from the National Safety Council suggest that deaths resulting from the use of motor vehicles increased by six percent in 2016:

With continued lower gasoline prices and an improving economy resulting in an estimated 3% increase in motor-vehicle mileage, the number of motor-vehicle deaths in 2016 totaled 40,200, up 6% from 2015 and the first time the annual fatality total has exceeded 40,000 since 2007. The 2016 estimate is provisional and may be revised when more data are available. The total for 2016 was up 14% from the 2014 figure. The annual total for 2015 was 37,757, a 7% increase from 2014. The 2014 figure was less than 0.5% higher than 2013. The estimated annual population death rate is 12.40 deaths per 100,000 population, an increase of 5% from the 2015 rate. The estimated annual mileage death rate is 1.25 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled, an increase of 3% from the 2015 rate.

Medically consulted motor-vehicle injuries in 2016 are estimated to be about 4.6 million, an increase of 7% from 2015.

The estimated cost of motor-vehicle deaths, injuries, and property damage in 2016 was $432.5 billion, an increase of 12% from 2015. The costs include wage and productivity losses, medical expenses, administrative expenses, employer costs, and property damage.

Those statistics suggest that an average of greater than 110 people per day are killed in the United States alone as the result of using motor vehicles. That is the equivalent of roughly 76 Airbus A380 or Boeing 747-400 airplanes using a typical full capacity of 525 people. Imagine the panic which would result from 76 airplane crashes in one year…

Aviation Accident Death Statistics

…but in 2016, there were 19 fatal accidents, resulting in 325 deaths — which decreased in number from 560 in 2015 – and with approximately 3.5 billion air passengers flown, that is an average of just one death per 10,769,230 travelers, according to the airline accident statistics of 2016 of the Aviation Safety Network.

There is some disagreement about the odds of dying in an airplane crash: according to this article from The Economist, the odds for a British person are one in 3,500,000; while according to this article written by David Ropeik for Public Broadcasting Service television program NOVA, the annual risk of being killed in a plane crash for the average American is about one in 11,000,000…

…but in this article which I wrote last year, the odds of you being hit by a car and killed is only one in 701. A car almost hit me a couple of days ago: I was in a crosswalk crossing a street and the traffic light was green. A car with a couple of kids driven by a woman sped up and swerved around me instead of stopping for a few seconds. I glared at her; but she glared back at me as though I committed a crime and that the near-incident was my fault.

Need I also include statistics from other myriad causes of deaths — such as from diseases or from poor diets as only two of many examples to point out what can be considered an overblown fear prevailing in traveling by airplane?


After reading this article, you probably still will not hesitate to use a motor vehicle for transportation — and that is good. Mitigating and being averse to risk is one thing; but attempting to completely eliminate it is foolhardy and a pipe dream…

…which is why I vehemently oppose the rumored restrictions of electronics larger than a mobile telephone; the liquids in a baggie nonsense; removing shoes when passing through security checkpoints at airports; and other ridiculous measures which I am convinced were more for show than for effective safety. Remember the placement of armed soldiers at airports throughout the United States to protect travelers soon after Tuesday, September 11, 2001? Remember the absurdity of being pulled over for secondary screening at the gate simply for being first in line to board? Remember that advisory system with the five pretty colors to inform us of the threat level of flying as a passenger on that day? Remember having to digitally expose our naked bodies through backscatter machines, which some claimed that the radiation was unhealthy?

One veteran — who held the rank of Chief Warrant Officer 4 in the United States Army and has extensive experience — offered his thoughts on how to fight terrorism in this controversial article. Of the 32 years in which the highly-decorated officer served his country — he has been honored approximately 80 times in his career — 27 of those years were spent on the ground in the Middle East, southwest Asia and the horn of Africa. I am awaiting a counterargument by an experienced official with a high rank in the military to hopefully be posted in a future article.

Over the years, I have written in numerous articles — such as this one commemorating the fifteenth anniversary of the horrible events which occurred on Tuesday, September 11, 2001 — the following thoughts:

All I wanted to do that day was find the tallest building and get to the top of it; or fly as a passenger on an airplane. I wanted to shout to the adversaries that if they wanted a war, bring it on, for they will be sorry. I wanted to show those low-life terrorists that they don’t scare me; that our country will only be stronger; and that the United States will be better than ever despite their attempts to destroy it.

Alas, people were afraid — especially in New York, where people are known to be tough and resilient. The routine life of air travel in the United States has significantly changed — and there are those who say for the worse; that the terrorists have won; and that the freedoms and liberties fought for by countless brave soldiers in many wars have diminished or disintegrated because they have been sacrificed in the name of safety and security.

People all over the world need to work together not only to fight terrorism effectively, but to also mitigate — and even eliminate — the reasons behind what causes terrorist acts to happen in the first place. That includes — but is not limited to — correcting misunderstandings and stereotypes pertaining to one another; increasing tolerance and awareness to help decrease ignorance, indifference and hatred; listening to each other; and learning from each other in the hopes that we will respect and celebrate each other, our beliefs and our differences…

…but we also need to let — pick a word instead of terrorist: cowards, clowns, dogs — know that we are not afraid of them and that we refuse to give them the attention that they crave by violence and intimidation. We will not automatically empower them by calling them terrorists. We need to let our representatives in government know that we refuse to live in fear; and that they should not dictate policy in what seems to be at the whims of those cowards, clowns or dogs. We need to show the perpetrators that they will not change how we conduct our lives. We need effective safety and security with minimal adverse effects on our freedoms and liberties.

However, as long as someone repeats the mantra of “well, as long as we are safe, I am okay with it” to excuse the poor implementations of infringements and invasions of the freedoms and liberties upon which the United States was formed, we will never accomplish victory in the war against — dare I use the word one more time — terrorism.

Photograph ©2008 by Brian Cohen.

  1. Political correctness was well and truly punted on November 8th, 2016. And thank goodness.

    So what the hell are you thinking even writing this crap? Next thing we know you will want to “reach out” or “be on the same page”. Even weirder, you won’t call radical islamic terrorists “radical islamic terrorists”. Why call it out for what it is when you can continue to pretend we live in the past. PC days are gonski baby! No more worrying about a few snowflakes feelings being hurt. Hallelujah !!!

    1. The article I wrote was completely the opposite of “political correctness”, which I eschew, Robbo.

      The point of the article is to strip the “radical Islamic terrorists” of their power — starting with what we call them. Whether we want to admit it or not, that name simply scares a lot of people into a virtual submission — not just a few people.

      I also dislike the term “snowflake”; and there are many other people to whom I would rather first “reach out” or “be on the same page” than a “radical Islamic terrorist”…

      …but I can tell you one thing: the passing of November 8, 2016 could mean more difficult travel for us than the easing of terrorism — starting with the rumored restrictions on portable electronic devices.

      Is that what you want?

  2. Meh – off with those rose colored glasses.

    A terrorist is a terrorist is a terrorist – Gertrude Stein
    A terrorist by any other name would smell as stink – William Shakespeare
    Truths and terrorists have thorns about them – Henry David Thoreau

    1. “Rose colored glasses”, AlohaDaveKennedy? Hardly.

      I agree with your quotes; but when there are frustratingly so many people who will give up anything in the name of safety — to the point where government policies affect travelers like us to placate those people — what do you propose we do instead?

    2. Meh – off with those rose colored glasses.

      You completely and utterly missed Brian’s point. Seriously. What a drive by. He wasn’t putting on rose colored glasses. He was saying that calling them terrorists plays exactly into what they are trying to accomplish. How does calling them cowards or dogs equate to rose colored glasses? My God, digest what he’s saying, don’t just skim it and offer some banal response implying you didn’t grasp anything near his intention.


  3. Many of these arguments can be made to defend 2nd amendment rights. People use the PC term “gun violence” to discribe crimes that bad people commit. Guns don’t kill people any more than laptops kill people.

    It’s also hard to be tollerant of groups that just want you or your group dead. Many people preach that we should love all Muslim people and it would solve all our problems. My heart breaks for many people that live in oppression know as Islam. That doesn’t change the fact that many Islamic people would like to see me, my faith, family or fellow air passengers die to further their agenda.
    I also feel that we should refuse to let the terrorist win. Groups like ISIS, Hamas,BLM, etc. All threaten our liberty.

    1. …but the irony is that governments seem to be complicit in the goals of those groups to threaten our liberties, DaninMCI.

      I am not looking to be tolerant of those groups which you mentioned. Rather, I am seeking to strip them of their psychological power on the people who fear them — starting with not using the word terrorist.

  4. Brian, your blog is like reading the New York post – cat litter lining without the paper. Ditto to Robbo and AlohaDaveKennedy.

    1. Hmm…cat litter lining without the paper.

      I might just submit that idea to the patent office, Alan. That could be a potential money maker…

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