When I grew up, terrorism was hijacking planes, attacking civilians like the 1972 Olympics attack by Black September and stuff like that. The people of Vietnam weren’t terrorists, they were freedom fighters or at least guerilla fighters fighting France, then the US. The mujahedin in Afghanistan likewise, except they were fighting the Soviets.
After 2001-11-09 that changed. The quintuple hijiack was more of a coordinated assault than a “regular” terrorist attack. A bit like high-tech one-shot guerilla warfare in somebody else’s country. Even though it was “too big” to be labeled a terrorist attack, I don’t have a problem with calling it that. In the aftermath however, more or less any disruptive activity is labelled terrorism.
Sharing movies and music with peer-to-peer technologies is now terrorism, demonstrating for or against something is terrorism. Open source is terrorism. The people in Iraq who are trying to eject the US armed forces from the country are all labeled terrorists, even though it’s the US forces who invaded the country an instantiated a government fairly undemocratically. I’m not agreeing with them attacking the US forces in any way, but they are not terrorists. They might be insurgent or rebels, though.
This makes me sad, not only because people go about being scared about terrorism all the time, being blown to pieces, but also because it makes the word unusable for what it is meant to describe.
So, please don’t use the word terrorism unless you actually mean terrorism.