A timely story was reported about the U.S. Department of Defense's employee test that asked a multiple-choice question of what would be an example of "low-level terrorism." I am not certain what was meant by "low-level," as all terrorism terrorizes the populace, the only difference being the degree of terror an attack causes. However, it was not the question that has generated controversy, but the answer.
The four choices for what would constitute an example of low-level terrorism on the Pentagon's test were the following: 1) "Attacking the Pentagon," 2) "IEDs," 3) "Hate crimes against racial groups" and 4) "Protests." The correct answer was #4, "Protests." So-called civil libertarians objected to the implication that dissent equates to terrorism, however an analysis of the question and answers would suggest that the so-called civil libertarians are not necessarily correct.
First, it is necessary to demonstrate why the first three answers are incorrect, and therefore why the fourth answer is the most correct. Attacking the Pentagon would be attacking a military target, which would not represent an example of terrorism, as terrorism targets innocent civilians (by "innocent," I do not mean civilians working for government, such as civilian employees working at the Pentagon, which does not imply in any way that civilian employees of the government are "guilty," as opposed to "innocent," as the latter terms means only that they are not participants in any conflict, such as to be considered a legitimate target in war). Note: The September 11, 2001 attack on the Pentagon is a terrorist attack, however, because of the method of the attack, which was the hijacking and crashing of a civilian airliner into the building. Also, the attack on the Pentagon was part of a coordinated terrorist attack on other civilian targets. However, the September 11 attack was an exception to earlier other attacks on the Pentagon, which were militant attacks like other attacks that target the military, and thus not examples of terrorism. It is critical to understand that attacks on the military are not examples of terrorism because a failure to understand the particular evil of terrorism, which targets innocent civilians, allows both the terrorists and their sympathizers and apologists to make a moral equivalence between terrorist acts and military forced used in resistance to terrorism.
IEDs (improvised explosive devices) are not an example of terrorism because they are weapons, not attacks. Yet even an attack by IED would not necessarily constitute terrorism because the target might be military, or the reason for the attack may not be in order to terrorize the populace. For example, it could be an act by an insane person, a crook, a disgruntled employee or a jilted lover, let alone be motivated by some sort of political reason. Even if it were politically motivated, it would not necessarily be a terrorist act. As I have noted before, terrorism is in the target (innocent civilians, not individuals whom the attacker opposes), not the method.
The third answer, "Hate crimes against racial groups," would not necessarily constitute a terrorist act, even if the attack were some sort of massacre. Genocide is the killing of a people. Terrorists often kill people, but not strictly for the sake of killing out of some bigotry that causes them to want to eliminate entirely that group of people. Terrorists kill some people within a populace in order to terrorize all of the other people in that populace. In other words, the intended target of the terrorist is not only the innocent people he kidnaps, injures or kills, but every other innocent person within that populace because he wants to intimidate them into acquiescing to his demands. A terrorist cannot get a populace to give in to his demands if he kills all of them. A person whose intent is strictly to hurt or kill people is not a terrorist. Regardless of how much hatred a terrorist might have for the people he targets, a terrorist's intent is to terrorize, as the word terrorism implies because a terrorist terrorizes people not necessarily out of hatred for them, but for a political motivation.
The fourth answer, "Protests," is the most correct, even though some protests may not be terrorists act at all because they may have nothing to do with terrorism or resistance to it. Some protests, however, might be examples of terrorism, which makes this answer the least incorrect, and thus the most correct one on the Pentagon's test. A mass protest organized by a terrorist group or terrorist-sponsoring regime is obviously an act intended to terrorize by intimidating a populace to give into the terrorists' demands. It is critical to understand that an act does not necessarily have to injure or cause any damage in order to terrorize people. For example, even though an unexploded bomb planted in a public place does not cause any any physical harm, it is sufficient to terrorize people. Even a false bomb scare has the same effect. Therefore, the media is wrong to call all false bomb scares "hoaxes," as these might be acts intended to terrorize even if no physical harm potentially can be caused, or are intended to probe defenses or cause such weariness as to decrease vigilance (in other words, in order to get people to become complacent and drop their guard). The possession of weapons of mass destruction by a terrorist-sponsoring regime is ipso facto an act of terrorism, such as North Korea's current attempts to intimidate all Americans within range of its nuclear missiles. A protest by terrorists or their sponsors demonstrates the terrorists' zeal for their cause and is an attempt to show their popular support, which suggests that they have adequate motivated personnel in order to carry out numerous attacks.
A protest by those sympathetic to, or who are apologists for, terrorists, is not quite as obvious a terrorist act, however, it could nonetheless also be an example of terrorism. If someone improves the morale of an enemy, while harming the morale of the soldiers of his own country, he is aiding and abetting that enemy, which, in wartime, meets the definition of treason. A protest that opposes fighting the enemy is an example of aiding and abetting that enemy. Thus, "peace" protests are truly violent acts, whether intentional or not, just as the so-called peace protests during the Vietnamese War led to the violent deaths of more than a million Indochinese civilians because the protesters achieved their goal of ending U.S. involvement in that war. Protests against the War on Terrorism are protests against fighting the terrorists, which means that they are protests in favor of victory by the terrorists, just as protests against the Vietnamese War were intended to produce a victory by the Communists. Just as Communists and their sympathizers helped to organize the protests against the Vietnamese War, so too do those sympathetic to terrorism or other anti-Americans help to organize protests against the War on Terrorism. Note: I am referring in particular to protests against the War on Terrorism in general, which I have observed firsthand, which are not protests against this or that particular government policy, but against the entire concept of opposing terrorism militarily. Protests that suggest that it is illegitimate to fight terrorists are intended to unilaterally disarm the United States in the terrorists' asymmetrical fight against the U.S.
As I have noted, the goal of terrorists is to intimidate a populace. When some within that populace begin to agitate for acquiescence to the terrorists' demands, even if they are doing so out of fear, they are doing exactly what the terrorists want them to do, even if unintentionally. Thus, they are force multipliers of terrorists, especially within a pluralistic society, even if they are not part of a "Fifth Column" like terrorist sympathizers and apologists. However, such foolish protesters are not guilty of committing an act of terrorism, even if the act is effectively an example of terrorism, because their intent is not malice, but cowardice. I am not referring to such cowards, but to those anti-Americans who protest against the moral legitimacy of any resistance to terrorism at all, who are demagogues because they use the legitimate fear of terrorist attacks as a justification to avoid fighting terrorists, all the while falsely claiming to be patriotic by availing themselves of the right to assemble, and claiming to represent the best interests of the U.S. that they truly despise. They fail to note the qualifier "peaceably" before the right "to assemble" in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. A protest intended to give a military victory to an enemy is not a peaceable assembly, even if no violence occurs at the protest. Protests are violent if they are intended in favor of rewarding violence, whether organized by terrorists or their anti-American sympathizers. Therefore, protests may be acts of terrorism, which would make the fourth answer in the Pentagon's multiple-choice question the most correct one.