Tuesday 13 July 2021

Introduction to the motivations of terrorists.



Introduction to the motivations of terrorists.


Box, M. (2019). Introduction to motivations of terrorists. www.scholaratlarge.com


Doctor of Philosophy. Federation University


This paper introduces the motivations of terrorists in the context of a study of national security policy. It is an extract of a wider document prepared as part of the conformation of candidature process for a Doctor of Philosophy



The first decades of the twenty-first century have been dominated by the threat which terrorism poses not just at national level but to the whole of the globe. For instance, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) is created under chapter five of the United Nations Charter to have “... primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security...” (article 24(1)). The Security Council Report is a non-government organisation whose mission is ‘to advance the transparency and effectiveness of the UN Security Council’ and is sponsored by a number of governments including Australia. As part of its transparency work, the  Security Council Report (n.d.)  has identified UNSC resolutions relating to terrorism: during the period 2001 (9/11[1]) to 2015 39 resolutions were made relating to terrorism whilst only six were made prior to the attack.

Defining terrorism is a legal, political and ideological process which like nationalism has many different interpretations and theories most succinctly summarised in the old adage: ‘one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter’ (Hoffman, 2006). Nevertheless, this section will take a different tack focusing more on the motives of terrorists rather than defining the act itself. The rationale for this is due to the focus of this project on how actors within the political sphere have responded to this threat – real or perceived – which has become a dominant aspect.  In essence, according to Alexander and Klein (2003, p. 494), “[t]errorism is psychological warfare.” Cary (2009, p. 13) agrees, arguing terrorists are “. . . determined to impose their will upon others. Unlike nation states . . . terrorists resort to violence as the first and final solution.” What Cary has brought to this discussion is the separation of state and non-state actors which would preclude one of the earlier twentieth century’s labelling of terrorism: the strategic bombing campaigns of both Britain and Germany during the Second World War or more recently the ‘shock and awe’ of the 2002 Iraq War. Furthermore, such a distinction is useful when examining the responses of moral entrepreneurs (Morgan, Dagistanli, & Martin, 2010). The non-state distinction was highlighted by Justice  Hope (1977, p. 59) in his Royal Commission report into Australian intelligence and security agencies: “Terrorism may be so widespread as to approach a state of civil war; it may be isolated or irregular and have a limited direct effect upon the country in which it is manifested in violent action.” Tucker (1999) has gone further placing terrorist motives into four, not necessarily mutually exclusive, political aims: (i) nationalist or separatist agendas; (ii) retaliation or revenge for real or perceived injury;  (iii) protest government policy; and (iv) defend animal rights. To which I would add a religious or more rightly a politico-religious aim.

How terrorists go about achieving their aims does form an essential element of their motives though the use of fear which John Gearson (2002, p. 8)  illustrates with a quote from the Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu: “To fight and conquer in all your battles is not the supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting.” Kilcullen (2010, p. 184) concurs, arguing that terrorism is “… politically motivated violence against civilians, conducted with the intention to coerce through fear…”. This nicely brings together the notion that the fear is directed towards civilians just like the moral panic aims to utilise the populous’ fear of a demonised group or the ethnic mobiliser’s identification of the ‘other’.  Williams (2004) also believes that the strategic desire of terrorists is to polarise the population, undermine the government, or cause government forces to react violently. Richardson (2006) summed up these points quite succinctly with her ‘three Rs’ of terrorism:  revenge, renown and reaction.  The reaction in Richardson’s ‘three Rs’ is the blowback elements of terrorist motives. That is, as Pinto and Wardlaw (1989) highlight, to provoke the government to overreact and thereby undermine their legitimacy. This is the essence of the moral panic: the causing of a disproportionate response to a perceived threat.  As Manningham-Buller (2003, p. 3), the then head of British intelligence agency MI5 argues, “[n]ormal life is what the terrorist seeks to destroy and creating fear is part of their agenda.”

Therefore, in summary, it is possible to identify three elements that mark the motives of terrorism according to the literature:

1.       It is performed by an irregular non-state actor wishing to achieve a political/politico-religious aim;

2.       It targets non-combatants to cause fear so as to force them to undertake or refrain from undertaking  a political action; and 

3.       It produces an overreaction by government so as to undermine its legitimacy.

The third point is particularly pertinent as it has commonality with both nationalism and moral panics and hence can cause ‘blow back’ in the national security space.




Alexander, D., & Klein, S. (2003). Bio-chemical Terrorism: Too Awful to Contemplate, Too serious to Ignore. British Journal of Psychiatry, 183, 491-497.

Cary, S. (2009). The Tipping Point: Biological Terrorism. Journal of Strategic Security, 2(3), 13-24.

Gearson, J. (2002). The Nature of Modern Terrorism. In L. Freedman (Ed.), Superterrorism: Policy Responses. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.

Hoffman, B. (2006). Inside terrorism. New York: Columbia University Press.

Hope. (1977). Royal Commission on Intelligence and Security -- Fourth Report -- Vol 1. Canberra: Australian Government Printing Service.

Kilcullen, D. (2010). Counter Insergency. Melbourne: Scribe.

Manningham-Buller, E. (2003). Countering Terrorism: An international blueprint. Paper presented at the Royal United Services Institute Conference: The Oversight of Intelligence and Security.

Morgan, G., Dagistanli, S., & Martin, G. (2010). Global Fears, Local Anxiety: Policing, Counterterrorism and Moral Panic Over ‘Bikie Gang Wars’ in New South Wales. The Australian and New Zealand Journal of Criminology, 43(3), 580–599.

Pinto, S., & Wardlaw, G. (1989). Political Violence. Canberra: Australian Institute of Criminology.

Richardson, L. (2006). What Terrorists Want: Understanding the Terrorist Threat. London: John Murrary (Publishers).

Security Council Report. (n.d.). UN Documents for Terrorism: Security Council Resolutions Retrieved from https://www.securitycouncilreport.org/un_documents_type/security-council-resolutions/page/4?ctype=Terrorism&cbtype=terrorism%2F#038;cbtype=terrorism%2F

Tucker, J. (1999). Historial Trends Related to Bioterrorism: An Empirical Analysis. Emerging Infectious Diseases, 5(4), 498-504.

Williams, C. (2004). Terrorism Explained: The facts about terrorism and terrorist groups. Sydney: New Holland.

[1] 9/11 is the attacks by al-Qaeda on the United States by crashing hijacked commercial aeroplanes into  the World Trade Centre (New York) and Pentagon Building (Washington) which occurred on the 11 September 2001

Saturday 20 March 2021

Introduction to moral panics.


Introduction to moral panics.


Box, M. (2019). Introduction to moral panics. www.scholaratlarge.com


Doctor of Philosophy. Federation University


This paper introduces the concept of moral panics in the context of a study of national security policy. It is an extract of a wider document prepared as part of the conformation of candidature process for a Doctor of Philosophy



The term ‘moral panic’ came to prominence in criminological discourse through the work of Stanley Cohen regarding the way deviant behaviour was politicised. Of importance, Cohen (2002, p. viii) is clear that to call something a moral panic does not imply a rejection of the phenomenon in question rather that “... the ‘thing’s’ extent and significance has been exaggerated (a) itself … and/or (b) compared with other, more serious problems.” Pearce and Charman (2011) argue that there is not a unified theory of moral panics, rather it is a concept which builds upon other criminological theories such as labelling theory. White and Haines (2000) outline succinctly that labelling theory sees crime as a social construct and what and who is ‘good’ and ‘bad’ is determined by human interactions. This is something with which Young (2009) concurs, stating that the deviance is not inherent in behaviour or action but is something which is ‘bestowed’ upon it by the labelling of others. From a consequentialist perspective such points may not be a negative in an overall policy setting; by contrast, from a deontological perspective such labelling would go to the heart of the moral authority of the policy. Young goes on to argue that a tell-tail-sign of a moral panic is the amplification of stereotypes which are grossly disproportionate to the event or activity in question.  This is in concurrence with the argument of Brass (1976) that the nationalist leader sets about placing their group apart from another. Furthermore, the similarity with the third aspect of the motivations of terrorism is stark: that is the causing of an overreaction which will be discussed in the next section. This mutually supportive factor is why this tripartite of theories has utility for this research.

Howarth (2013, p. 689) argues that “…moral panics are more than expressions of outrage and misrepresentation by elites intended to reinforce dominant practices by demonising of outsiders and marginalised groups … [rather it is a] response to perceived danger, and heightened anxiety...”. Nevertheless, he goes on to argue that media in essence place themselves as a ‘moral entrepreneur, public protector and guard of public morality’ which creates a ‘media superstorm’ with “…highly emotive, evocative and mutually reinforcing discourse …”(p. 695).

Dagistanli and Milivojevic (2013, p. 230) bring an interesting contribution to this discussion as they see this notion of a moral panic being the product of “… moral entrepreneurs – such as the media, politicians, police and other criminal justice actors – who assert a self-proclaimed right to determine what is deviant or against the norm of society.” This is an important contribution as it opens the concept of moral panics to include an array of actors rather than focusing solely on the media: political actors and the media are the focus of this project. Soothill (1998, p. 25) argues that these actors ‘react out of proportion’ and a misrepresent of the facts. The overreaction is something which Morgan et al. (2010, pp. 582-583) highlight: after the ‘moral entrepreneurs’ “…the state’s reaction … should be out of proportion to the magnitude of threat posed.” Of significant relevance to this study is their argument that the moral panic is an apt descriptor of reactions to the current intensity of terrorism: “…we argue the concept of moral panic has utility for our analysis; not least since the ‘war on terror’, involving as it does a Manichean struggle between ‘good’ and ‘evil’…” (p. 596).

In summary, it is argued that a moral panic is a phenomenon brought about by heightened public fear of a perceived threat: the reality of which is immaterial. The demonised group is seen as the cause of the threat to social norms which creates a call for action from the public, led in most cases by the media or sections thereof. In response to that call, the government will react in a manner which itself is disproportionate to the threat: in essence the reaction is a political response to the call for action rather than a considered piece of public policy which could ultimately undermine the very essence of national security which the political actor is claiming to be attempting to protect.



Brass, P. (1976). Ethnicity and Nationality Formation. Ethnicity, 3, 225-241.

Cohen, S. (2002). Folk Devils and Morial Panics: The creation of the Mods and Rockers. Routledge Classics.

Dagistanli, S., & Milivojevic, S. (2013). Appropriating the rights of women: Moral panics, victims and exclusionary agendas in domestic and cross-borders sex crimes. Women's Studies International Forum, 40, 230-242. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.wsif.2013.09.001

Howarth, A. (2013). A ‘superstorm’: when moral panic and new risk discourses converge in the media. Health, Risk & Society, 15(8), 681-698. https://doi.org/10.1080/13698575.2013.851180

Morgan, G., Dagistanli, S., & Martin, G. (2010). Global Fears, Local Anxiety: Policing, Counterterrorism and Moral Panic Over ‘Bikie Gang Wars’ in New South Wales. The Australian and New Zealand Journal of Criminology, 43(3), 580–599.

Pearce, J. M., & Charman, E. (2011). A social psychological approach to understanding moral panic. Crime, Media, Culture, 7(3), 293-311. https://doi.org/10.1177/1741659011417607

Soothill, K. (1998). Crime and the Media: A Vicious Circle? AQ: Australian Quarterly, 70(2), 24-29.

White, R., & Haines, F. (2000). Crime and Criminology: an introduction (2nd ed.). Oxford University Press.

Young, J. (2009). Moral Panic: Its Origins in Resistance, Ressentiment and the Translation of Fantasy into Reality. British Journal of Criminology, 49(1), 4-16. https://doi.org/10.1093/bjc/azn074

Saturday 11 July 2020

Students with Asperger’s Syndrome in higher education.

Students with Asperger’s Syndrome in higher education.

Box, M. (2020). Students with Asperger’s Syndrome in higher education. Retrieved from www.scholaratlarge.com

The purpose of this paper is to explore a contemporary issue which is impacting upon the higher educational sector: such an issue is the increase number of students with a diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome and High Functioning Autism navigating the transition from secondary school and attending higher education. Although both these disorders are now placed within the wider Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) it will be argued they remain an important subset as many students may have received a diagnosed under the previous regime  and identify as such (American Psychiatric Association, 1994, 2013). Attending university – as well as being an educational experience – is a social phenomenon and hence this paper will take a constructionist interpretivist epistemological approach (Halperin & Heath, 2012; Matthews & Ross, 2010; Moses & Knutsen, 2007). A constructionist approach – as a posed to the purist naturalist approach – takes account and recognises that the social researcher will bring their own meaning, understanding and experience to any research: having also taught, tutored and mentored others with this diagnose my experiences will naturally influence this analysis (Matthews & Ross, 2010).

The paper will begin with a discussion of the historical context of Asperger’s Syndrome including an exploration of the prevalence of the syndrome in general and higher education in particular.  This will be followed by an exploration of the impact the syndrome has on students – both the student with the diagnose and their peers – which will cover issues such as social, sensory and self-care issues including strategies higher education institutions have used to assist with these impacts. The paper will conclude with a discussion of the impact the issues have had on teaching pedagogy.

Historical context and Prevalence of Asperger’s Syndrome

  Asperger’s Syndrome has its origins in the work of an Austrian physician Dr Hans Asperger who wrote in the aftermath of the Second World War about his observations in treating boys with simular traits: impaired social interactions coupled with repetitive and near obsessed focus on hobbies and interests (Highlen, 2016). The work of Asperger was lost in the chaos of the time: his work was ‘rediscovered’ when it was published in English in the 1980s and finally recognised as a disorder by the American Psychological Association (APA) in 1994 (American Psychiatric Association, 1994; Highlen, 2016; Luckett & Powell, 2003).  Although initially recognised in its own right, Asperger’s Syndrome was subsumed into the wider ASD in the most recent APA manual due to similarities in diagnostic criteria (American Psychiatric Association, 2013; Glennon, 2001; Highlen, 2016). Nevertheless, Asperger’s Syndrome (and High Functioning Autism) remains popular in describing people who fall within the ‘mild’ end of the ASD spectrum: those with above average intelligence and focused interests with no significant delay in language or cognitive development (Barnhill, 2014; Gelbar, Smith, & Reichow, 2014; Norris & Dixson, 2011). Nevertheless, each person follows their own unique trajectory based upon their individual strengths and weaknesses and hence it is possible only to generalise in broad terms (Gelbar et al., 2014; McLeod & Harrison, 2013). Norris and Dixson (2011, p. 39) argue that in many ways students with Asperger’s Syndrome are ‘twice exceptional’ in “… that they compensate so well for processing deficits is a credit to their intelligence …” and their overall prospects to achieve success (See also McLeod & Harrison, 2013).

This incorporation of Asperger’s Syndrome within the wider ASD category makes determining the prevenance of the disorder somewhat difficult. Around one percent of the population have a diagnosis of ASD with many falling within the ‘high functioning’ above normal intelligence category which previously would have led to a diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome: this number has been increasing (Gelbar et al., 2014; Lorenc et al., 2018). In studies assessed as part of this research around seven to eight percent of the student population identify as having a disability in their first year of studies in higher education: only a small proportion of which have Asperger’s Syndrome or the wider ADS traits (Barnhill, 2014; Knott & Taylor, 2013). Barnhill (2014) as attributed such an increase to the growth of antidiscrimination laws and also the general widening of access (See also Australian Human Rights Commission, 2016; Knott & Taylor, 2013).  This is further complicated due to the trajectory of the disorder in that many people are often diagnosed in latter childhood and into adulthood as a consequence they may come to an institution being newly diagnosed and some not even having received a diagnosis (Barnhill, 2014; Glennon, 2001; Norris & Dixson, 2011).  Moreover, even those with a diagnose may choose not to make a disclosure due to fears of segmentation and discrimination.

This section has outlined the background to Asperger’s Syndrome and the prevalence of it within the community: it will now conclude by discussing the reason for classifying it as a contemporary issue for higher education. In a nutshell this is because due to supports provided to students, with or without a diagnosis, through their secondary education many are in a position to be admitted to higher education based upon their excellent academic scholarship (Barnhill, 2014; Highlen, 2016). Therefore, educators have a duty to endure that they succeed. However, given these developments it is somewhat concerning there appears to be a consensus among the literature consulted that there is a significant  ‘gap’ in the research for people with Asperger’s Syndrome other than children (Barnhill, 2014; Gelbar et al., 2014; Lorenc et al., 2018). It is this very gap in knowledge which justifies this issue as one worthy of contemporary scholarly research.

Impact of Asperger’s Syndrome on students

When looking at the impact Asperger’s Syndrome has on students (the stakeholder chosen for the focus of this paper) it is important to highlight at the beginning that this is made up of two distinct groups: the person with the diagnosis and their wider peer group. This section will deal with each group separately: beginning by discussing the individual and then widening that discussion to the student population as a whole. Asperger’s Syndrome very much effects social interactions (the inability to read social cues) and attention deficits (sustaining, filtering, shifting and remembering) (Madriaga, 2010; Norris & Dixson, 2011). As previously outlined, no two people’s experience with Asperger’s Syndrome are alike (Glennon, 2001). Nevertheless, in reviewing the literature there does seem to be three distinct areas where the syndrome impacts on individuals within this higher education sector: mental health, accessibility and self-care. These are not stereotypical disability manifestations as in many cases a person with Asperger’s Syndrome, Glennon (2001) explains, can outwardly appear ‘normal’.

Madriaga (2010, p. 40) highlights that “… physical access into buildings and spaces have always been at the forefront of discussions when exploring barriers if disabled students in higher education …”; however, for the student with Asperger’s Syndrome physical access to facilities is not a problem. One of the characteristics of Asperger’s Syndrome is hypersensitivity to environmental stimuli such as noise, light and sound (Gelbar et al., 2014). This can lead to students self-excluding themselves from such places as university caf├ęs, bars/pubs and increasingly even the library to avoid sensory overload (Knott & Taylor, 2013; Madriaga, 2010). Madriaga (2010, p. 48) argues that “having to exclude oneself from certain university spaces due to institutional misrecognition of one’s impairment is not reflective of inclusive practice …” as universities under discrimination legislation must take positive steps to eliminate such circumstances. Given that interchanges in such places are as much a part of the university experience as study itself. Although the context which Madriaga was writing was the United States, such ‘reasonable adjustments’ are a hallmark of discrimination law in Australia (Australian Human Rights Commission, 2016).

“Once a student has arrived on campus, the social demands quickly become apparent...” (Glennon, 2001, p. 186). This statement is quite clear to see when one looks at the long list of events and activities associated with orientation week at most institutions. These are activities, Madriaga (2010, p. 48) argues, for many students are the “… springboards for social relationships …” which can be inaccessible for someone with Asperger’s Syndrome. Lack of ability to read and process social interactions is a typical characteristic of someone with Asperger’s Syndrome and also something which can preclude them from these important events in their student life (Glennon, 2001; Knott & Taylor, 2013; Madriaga, 2010). However, some institutions have found that structured activities tailored to the needs of people with Asperger’s Syndrome -- such as societies focusing on games, Anime, computers and history --  can be a useful way to facilitate the formation of a peer network amongst this cohort (Highlen, 2016; Knott & Taylor, 2013; Madriaga, 2010). However, as Madriaga (2010) highlights, care needs to be taken in planning and developing such activities so as not to partition the students from their peers. Lack of these supports can see students increasingly isolating themselves, becoming increasingly lonely,  which can lead to a spiral of mental health issues (Madriaga, 2010).

So far this section has examined the impacts which Asperger’s Syndrome has on those with a diagnose. However, there is another group of students who it would be remiss not to mention: their peers. With social relationships being problematic in a place where they are a central part of academic live of an undergraduate this can place undue stress on all concerned if adequate consideration is not undertaken early (Gelbar et al., 2014; Knott & Taylor, 2013). As tertiary institutions in a time of austerity are turning more and more to peer mentoring this can be somewhat problematic if students are confronted with some of the more challenging reactions students with Asperger’s Syndrome may present (McLeod & Harrison, 2013). In implementing a strategy to overcome a crisis situation in a residential college at the Australian National University, McLeod and Harrison (2013) found that the best approach to this type of situation is to bring the peers in as partners but not to require them to actually be involved in any responses. The program which they developed aimed to “… transition students … into university life. … It hopes to assist the student to develop the skills required to successfully engage and participate in academic and accommodation environments…” (p. 38). It is argued that developing such a transition program with support from practitioners is as beneficial to the student’s peers as it is to the individual and help with inclusion.

Impact of Asperger’s Syndrome on pedagogy

The final area to be examined is the impact of having students with Asperger’s Syndrome has on pedagogy: although this paper up until now has focused upon the impact on students rather than the institution it is argued that a change in pedagogy has a direct impact on students. After all the prime purpose of their university engagement is to learn through the delivery of the pedagogy. Although it is conservable that Asperger’s Syndrome can have numerous impacts pedagogy a literature survey highlights two key areas: adjustments/supports and delivery.

It is outlined by Glennon (2001), to be accepted into university it is highly probable that the student will have received supports and adjustments throughout their educational career. In some respects these supports may have been so successful that the school environment becomes an safe place (Lorenc et al., 2018). However, entering higher education can be what  Lorenc et al. (2018, pp. 654-655) describe as going off a “… ‘service cliff’ when eligibility for these services ceases abruptly…” which for some can be an extremely frightening experience (Glennon, 2001). McLeod and Harrison (2013) further highlight that such a ‘service cliff’ can result in a crisis which can escalate to such an extent that the whole cohort is affected (as discussed in the previous section). However, although students with Asperger’s Syndrome would benefit from traditional adjustments – such as alternative means of demonstrating competence – their needs are somewhat unique in comparison with the traditional approach to accommodating learning difficulties (Barnhill, 2014; Highlen, 2016). This is because the adjustments required relate to social interactions: the heart of an Asperger’s Syndrome diagnosis. Just providing alternative assessment methods can undermine some of the ‘job ready’ skills which have been scaffolded into the paedology in activities such as most group work. With this in mind, Madriaga (2010) argues that there needs to be a rethink in how such accommodations are made with more emphasis on supporting students to participate in social interactions rather than find alternatives to it and hence avoid ‘ghettoisation’. The literature supports this notion that the best approach to accommodating students with Asperger’s Syndrome is to provide such supports (Barnhill, 2014; McLeod & Harrison, 2013).

Nevertheless, there are impacts on the manner in which content is delivered that can effect students with Asperger’s Syndrome. This is compounded by the manner in which the student has progressed through their education: the gifted or special needs scheme. Norris and Dixson (2011) argue that this can very much effect how they have experienced learning with their strengths being developed in the former whilst their deficits the focus of intense intervention in the latter. Without the focus and development of their strengths they might in fact appear disinterested and tuned out whist it is that they don’t have the skills to absorb what is going occurring  (Glennon, 2001). Barnhill (2014) is forthright in arguing that there needs to be a change to education to adjust to such diverse skills. As has been a common theme throughout this paper, adjustments for this cohort need to go further than traditional access. There is consensus in the literature that the classroom needs to be welcoming of diverse styles of expression and particularly the provision of structure (Barnhill, 2014; Glennon, 2001; Highlen, 2016). Such an approach has multiple benefits across the whole cohort: for instance making their peers more appreciative of the diversity they will encounter within the workforce. In essence, very much promoting an essential ‘job ready’ attribute. Nevertheless, there is also a common theme that the studies this are based upon have relatively low sample sizes, lack robust methodology and are part of an area which requires wider research (Knott & Taylor, 2013; Lorenc et al., 2018; Madriaga, 2010).


This paper has examined the impact of growing numbers of students with Asperger’s Syndrome – diagnosed, undiagnosed and freshly diagnosed -- attending tertiary institutions. Asperger’s Syndrome is now a subset of ASD with its main characteristics effecting social development and hence a student might be academically gifted but not be able to reach their full potential without supports. Unlike the traditional supports of access and learning support, Asperger’s Syndrome requires a new approach which a focus on social and life skills which are in some respects an extension of the ‘job ready’ skills now being embedded in pedagogy. This paper focused on students and it should be remembered that Asperger’s Syndrome affects both the individual and their peers due to the disruptions which can occur. Therefore, it is important that pedagogy be adapted so as to support students with Asperger’s Syndrome without removing the embedded job ready skills: this requires academic and disability support staff to work closely together. Such support has a benefit for the wider cohort as it will expose them to the diversity of the workforce. Finally, despite the impact Asperger’s Syndrome on the lives of students there is a significant gap in research with the majority of studies with a strong scientific methodology focused on children.


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