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TAP definition of Terrorist

From: Dan Brickley <danbri@w3.org>
Date: Fri, 11 Jun 2004 17:11:43 -0400
To: public-rdf-tap@w3.org
Message-ID: <20040611211143.GA1843@homer.w3.org>


Resource  > Agent > Organization >
   PoliticalOrganization > TerroristOrganization

...lists 7 organisations as "Terrorist" without giving any definition
for this notoriously emotive and controversial concept. This worries me, 
particularly as this random selection of violence-tinged organisations
(there are 1000s more) is somewhat weighted towards groups in support of 
largely Islamic populations or causes. I would be a lot happier with TAP
if you could expose (even just in prose/html) the definitional
guidelines you're using to populate these bits of the KB. The single
word 'terrorist' does really clarify things.  

Sadly, many groups try to get their way by using violence, and by using 
violence in ways that kill, wound or distress civilian populations. This
much is widely known, and widely regretted. The word 'terrorist' is 
often used to characterise some such groups; frequently it competes with 
terms that suggest approval, such as 'freedom fighter'. I could dig out
examples (Nicaragua, Afghanistan, etc.) but the point is a well known
one, and not particularly subtle. One person's Terrorist is another's 
Freedom Fighter, as they say. It might be more neutral if TAP instead 
simply indicated whether the groups currently or formerly are seen (by
TAP) as using violence against civilians to achieve their ends. Thinking
about it, my preferred design would try to reflect in some of the
controversy, eg. by making the concept of terrorist explicitly
relational rather than absolute. For eg., Hamas is
denouncedAsTerroristBy USGovt (and vice-versa, no doubt); IRA by UKGovt,

The current TAP treatment also fails to address subtleties of changes 
over time. It doesn't distinguish between groups that are all-out 
violent against civilians, groups that profess to avoid civilian
suffering (but maybe don't try hard enough), and those that have various
forms of association (breakaway groups, rogue elements, etc) with groups
and individuals that are more inclined towards brutality than those
currently dominant within the larger group. TAP's inclusion of the PLO 
is a good example of the lack of subtlety here, both w.r.t. the way that 
the PLO has evolved over the years, and regarding the complex ecology of 
competing groups, views, sub-groups that make up such organizations. On
the specifics of this case see http://www.un.org/Depts/dpa/ngo/history.html and 
for further details (eg. on UN's award of Observer Status to the PLO). 

My point though isn't to argue the specifics of claims that are in TAP,
but to suggest that TAP might see wider adoption if the KB editors tried
to structure things so that the claims and worldview embodied in TAP are
neutral and uncontroversial wherever possible. I think, even in the case
of terrorism, this is achievable, by modeling the controversy (as
sketched above). There is no real need for TAP, TAP's editors, or its 
publishers (Stanford University?) to say "Organizations X, Y and Z are 
'Terrorist Organizations'", when it could instead say, with less
controversy, "Party X denounces Organization Y as terroristic". This
has two key benefits. Firstly it makes TAP more widely adoptable by
pushing controversy down into reported content, secondly it allows 
the basic structure of (certain kinds of) controversy to be modeled and
used in applications. Maybe I've said the same thing twice. There are
two ideas closely tangled up: being uncontroversial isn't the same thing
as being bland, uninformative. Moving to a relational approach to 
capturing the information re terrorism would I believe make TAP more

Received on Friday, 11 June 2004 17:12:20 UTC

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