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Silvia Lucia Alarcon April 22, 2013

Writing Section 01

The multiple faces of Colombias terrorism in the ongoing armed conflict

Since the 1950s, several sub-state insurgent groups have flourished in Colombias
unstable political environment, to join the armed conflict that has shaped the country's
history and current political situation. Leftist militant groups, such as the Revolutionary
Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia
(AUC), have engaged in numerous criminal and illegal activities like kidnappings,
harassment, sabotage, ambushes, murders and the narcotics trade. Paramilitaries and
guerillas terrorism has led to the persistence and recrudescence of the violence in the
country. However, the significance of terrorist groups in Colombia goes beyond their
criminal behavior. Today, the major concern is that several government entities and
economic sectors have been involved in corruption, drug trafficking and terrorist violence,
due to the influence of these insurgent groups.
As a result, terrorism in Colombia becomes an interesting lens to approach 21
st

century monstrosity, since I will be able to explore the dehumanizing power of guerrillas
and paramilitaries, as well as the institutional monstrosity that armed groups have created in
Colombia. Particularly, I find argumentative interesting to address: How do terrorists
groups in Colombia challenge our conception of humanity? And how terrorism speaks of
the modern political ways in which we become monsters? In order to understand human
monstrosity through Colombias terrorism, I have researched about the criminality of armed
groups, the psychology of mass-mediated terrorism, and the terrorism of monstrous
societies. I have located one source that investigates the background, criminal acts, political
agenda and goals of the FARC and paramilitary groups in Colombia. Additionally, I have
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looked at two sources that report the government current corruption and terrorism scandals.
Further, I have examined one source about the relationship between terrorism and the
media. And finally, I have researched a source about terrorism and its relationship with
monstrous societies.

Terrorism in Colombia
In Criminality and Armed Groups: A Comparative Study of FARC and
Paramilitary Groups in Colombia, Bilal Y. Saab and Alexandra W. Taylor argue that the
criminal behavior of Colombias armed groups has been shaped by the countrys political
environment, and by the insurgent groups composition and goals. Particularly, Saab and
Taylor suggest that two main factors determine whether armed groups choose to collaborate
with criminal organizations or to develop in-house criminal capabilities. Saab and Taylor
identify that first, the technical capabilities, resources and networks developed by the armed
groups, and second, the political cost of being associated with certain criminal activities,
explain the different strategies taken by the FARC and the AUC to involve in the drug
trade. In Saab and Taylors words, the technical limitations of a groups membership and
the political goals of an armed group strongly influence the model of crime-insurgency
adopted. (Saab and Taylor 470)
Saab and Taylors analysis of the illegal activities undertaken by Colombian armed
groups helps me to understand the political motivations behind the guerrillas and
paramilitaries criminal behavior. Furthermore, their idea that for an armed group to
transition into a criminal organization, it would need to supplant its political motivations
with a drive to pursue illegal profits will help me argue why the FARC and AUC have
turned to be criminal organizations (Saab and Taylor 457). As a result, Saab and Taylors
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distinction between armed groups and criminal organizations based on motivations, offers
me a starting point to determine how the FARC and AUCs motives for criminal activities
match that of modern violent monsters. On the other hand, the quantitative data about the
scope and impact of the guerrillas and paramilitaries illegal activities will help me to
answer how armed groups defy humanity and therefore what about their behavior makes
them monstrous.
Despite the violent and criminal nature of the armed groups actions, Michelle
Mojica questions the validity of labeling the FARC as a terrorist group in her article Are
FARC-EP a Degradation of Fight? Mojica argues that the term terrorism has lost its
validity as it has become a way for Colombian government to legitimize the war against
armed groups. According to Mojica, the term terrorist has been used to define what is
considered as the enemy and instigator of the country's constitutional order, to justify the
governments violent actions against the enemy (Mojica 317). Mojicas point is that there
is no justification for labeling the FARC as terrorists since Colombias government has also
incurred in the same acts that classify as terrorists according to the Universal Declaration of
Human Rights (UDHR). What is important to me here is the evidence about Colombias
government applying the same violent methods used by the insurgent groups. With this
information I will be able to argue how terrorism speaks of the modern political ways in
which we become monsters. Additionally, the speeches and press releases examined by
Mojica will allow me to analyze the vocabulary used to describe Colombias armed groups,
and therefore, link that vocabulary to the monster.
Toxic fallout of Colombian scandal by Jeremy McDermott is another source that
evidences how Colombian government has been involved in the same terrorist practices as
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the ones developed by the insurgent groups. This news article explains that Colombian
army has murdered civilians to present them as guerrillas and paramilitaries killed in
combat, in order to show results. In McDermott words, Mr. Uribes
1
demand for results
has pushed his security forces to the limit. (McDermott) Furthermore, McDermott claims
that the false positives scandal risks the army legitimacy as it puts into doubt the
doctrine of the security forces with respect to human rights. (McDermott) Therefore, this
source becomes important because it evidences how corruption has permeated the
government, shaping its criminal behavior in the war against the armed groups. The
quantitative data about the evolution and scope of the false positives scandal will help me
to explain how armed groups influence the political ways in which we become monsters.
Moreover, the article will allow me to explore the effects of Colombias armed conflict in
the creation of institutional monstrosity.

Mass-media and Terrorism
The Psychology of Mass-Mediated Terrorism by Gabriel Weimann examines the
importance of the mass media for modern terrorism. According to Weimann, media-
oriented terrorism has emerged as a result of the growing use of modern communications.
He argues that advances technologies in communications, such us the Internet, allow
terrorist groups to transmit their messages more easily as it is a decentralized medium, not
subjected to control or restriction, not censured and accessible for everyone who wants it
(Weimann 70). However, Weimann insists that terrorists use modern technologies not only
to plan, coordinate and execute their communications effectively through Internet, but also
to exert mass psychological impact and justify their use of violence and their aberrant

1
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behaviors. In Weimann words, terrorists use their Web sites to change public opinion in
their enemies states, to weaken public support for the governing regime, to stimulate
public debate and to demoralize the enemy (Weimann 77). Weimanns claim about the
purpose of the rhetoric of terrorist sites, allows me to argue how mass media has turned into
an important tool to demonize and legitimize the enemy, and to display the inhumanity and
immorality of the opponent. As a result, I will be able to make a claim around the modern
ways in which monstrosity is built, based on the terrorist sites rhetoric and on the
vocabulary linked to the monster.

Society and Terrorism
Tortures, Terrorists and Zombies: The Products of Monstrous Societies, by
Stephen. T Asma is a source that complicates and challenges the assumption that
monstrosity is a label derived from monstrous actions. Instead, Asma proposes that
situational forces in the environment and society can bring the worst in people (Asma
246) turning entire populations into monsters. Asma argues that race, theoretical and
instinctual xenophobia can explain monstrous civilizations and therefore, monstrous
actions. Particularly, Asma points that individual monsters are extensions of monstrous
institutional systems. (Asma 244) In making this comment, Asma argues that genocide,
terrorism and tortures are the result of dehumanizing social frameworks that create a
violent aggressive criminal culture as a response. (Asma 244) Consequently, Asmas idea
that perceived monsters bring out monstrous reactions will help me to understand and
analyze Colombias government criminal activities and other forms of brutal responses.
(Asma 239) Additionally, his idea will help me to build and argument about the relevancy
of institutional monstrosity in contemporary society. Finally, Asmas thoughts about why
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we transform other groups into monsters, challenges me to determine exactly what makes
armed groups to be monsters, taking into account Colombians fears and anxieties.
After this research, I have a better understanding of Colombias current political
situation, about the drivers of the armed groups criminality and terrorism, about the
background of the armed conflict and about the impact of terrorist groups in Colombia. The
sources: Criminality and Armed Groups: A Comparative Study of FARC and Paramilitary
Groups in Colombia and Are FARC-EP a Degradation of Fight? offer relevant
quantitative data and analysis to support my argument about how armed groups and
terrorism in Colombia are an example of contemporary monstrosity. However, each source
suggests that terrorism could be treated as a different type of monstrosity. Therefore, I have
to determine the criteria I am going to use to explain why Colombian armed groups could
be considered as monsters. Taking into account that I will like to examine how armed
groups have created an institutional monstrosity in Colombia, I will need to get more
information about the governments corruption and criminal scandals.
One of my major concerns is how I am going to shape the rebuttal of my arguments.
The source: Tortures, Terrorists and Zombies: The Products of Monstrous Societies,
challenges my claim that armed groups have created an institutional monstrosity. Instead,
Weimann argues that institutional monstrosity has triggered the monstrous actions of
terrorists. Furthermore, at this point I do not know how I will articulate my research on
mass-media and terrorism into the Hybrid Essay. My next step will be to give structure to
my final paper. First, I will make a list of the monstrous characteristics implicit in
Colombias terrorism, and then I will group the evidence according to my criteria of what
defines monstrosity. Based on this grouping I will build my arguments and I will choose
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the sources and quotations that are going to help me built the warrants of my essay.
Additionally, I will write different versions of my thesis in order to make it evolve and I
will have to decide the order of my arguments to start from the least to the most complex.
At the end, I will be able to decide which sources I will use to build my counterarguments,
since in that moment I will be clear about my position of what the monster represents and
how it is relevant in Colombias contemporary society.


















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Works Cited

Asma, Stephen T. On Monsters: An Unnatural History of Our Worst Fears. New York:
Oxford University Press, 2009. Print.

McDermott, Jeremy. Toxic fallout of Colombian scandal. BBC News. 7 May. 2009. 10
April. 2013 <http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/8038399.stm>

Mojica Norea, Michelle. Are FARC-EP a Degradation of Fight? El gora USB. 11.2
(2011): 297-319. Print.

Saab, Bilal Y, and Taylor, Alexandra W. Criminality and Armed Groups: A Comparative
Study of FARC and Paramilitary Groups in Colombia. Studies in Conflict &
Terrorism. 32 (2009): 455-475. Print.

Weimann, Gabriel. The Psychology of Mass-Mediated Terrorism. American Behavioral
Scientist. 52. 1 (2008): 69-86. Print.

Silvia Lucia Alarcon April 22, 2013
Writing Section 01

Re s e arc h Pape r ( 20 Poi nt s Pos s i bl e )

Content
Student has chosen a clear and appropriate topic as well as appropriate scholarly sources 4

Complexity
Research topic has multi-dimensional, contestable implications; insightful analysis of sources 4

Coherence/Arrangement
Student establishes dialogue among sources, and flow from topic to sources (and from one source to
another) feels subtle and engaging 4

Style & Clarity
Writing is clear and concise; shows variation of word choice and sentence structure; good use of detail to
slip out of abstraction; writers voice comes through clearly 4

Mechanics
Error free 4

Grade: 20/20
Silvia, excellent work here. You have brought together here a good range of sources to help
you advance your claims. In terms of rebuttal, I do not think that you necessarily need to
address that or counter arguments all too much. Instead, think about how we discussed using
Asma, that he shows how individuals are monstrous because of institutions, but you are
reversing the direction from individuals to institutions. This sort of reversal is a good academic
move, but I do not think it necessarily needs a counter arguments. Rather you'll justify your
decision through your analysis and argument. I wonder if the source on mass-mediated
terrorism could be useful to way to think about how the norms of the smaller group (however
monstrous) can be disseminated to the wider populace through the increasing speed of media
in the modern age. In other words can this be a way to help you think about how monstrosity
moves from individuals and small groups to institutions. I also think that the issue of labeling
these groups as terrorists, according to one of your sources, is an important one. Whereas she
was hesitant to apply the label terrorist to governmental institutions, you make a point that it is
the correct label. This is shaping up to be a very provocative and intriguing essay, and I look
forward to seeing it come to fruition.