Criminologically speaking, in both respects, Wikileaks as a whistleblowing media foundation is not a terrorist organisation, nor is Julian Assange as the effective lead of the organisation, a terrorist.
The vast majority of us are under the impression that women who detonate vests of explosives in busy market streets, or men who shoot students on a university campus are terrorists. A man in a coffee shop who shouts and scares an infant for no particular given reason, versus the killing of a family pet in retaliation for some neighbourhood dispute, might be argued otherwise.
If terrorism is widely accepted as premeditated, political violence targeting the innocent, one has to question who is defined as innocent, and how innocence is recorded, measured and perceived.
The label has become too easy, too indiscriminate and ultimately too vague. Not to mention, the term 'terrorist' already carries predetermined negative connotations. To call such collectives 'aggrieved groups' would open them up to at least a fair hearing out.
While the world is aware that he is facing extradition from England to Sweden to face allegations of sexual misconduct and assault, we are not for one minute preempting the court in any way by labelling him 'a rapist'. Can we therefore label him 'a terrorist'?
The consequences of labelling Wikileaks as 'terrorists' »
The reason I ask is simple. To label someone a paedophile in itself would discredit someone to such lengths automatically without need for proof or evidence. In such cases, it would be 'act first, ask questions later'.
But to label someone a 'terrorist' rings terror in itself, amongst many other emotions. The term is charged and emotive; the mere notion of terrorism strikes fear and concern.
Law and politics can determine what terrorism or a terrorist organisation is, but predominantly based on acts of terror itself. Then again, politicians barely listen to academics anyway, as only a small proportion of the representative electorate.
Violence is not a means to an end, and terrorism as an abstract notion accepts this. On the most part, terrorism is subjective and varies between societies and cultures. Terrorism in the Western world may seem inconsequential and irrelevant and in some cases impossible in the rural mid-Sahara.
Terrorism and the fear of terrorism are not mutually exclusive. From a criminological point of view, and arguably the most direct and honed so far, terrorism is action based and not actor based.
There is no 'war on terrorism' because there you cannot wage a war against actions that have been and have yet to be committed. It is just as fitting as fighting a war with clouds; we see them, but for anyone who has flown commercially, when we fly through them they become seemingly conceptual.
Misconceived notions of what terrorism is has hindered the definition writing process. There are over 150 different definitions of 'terrorism' already existing in modern and post-modern academic literature. It is not to say they are right, because there are sub-types and different classifications and methods used to perpetrate damage.
If the actions of Wikileaks are deemed to be politically motivated along with traditional terrorist attacks, such as bombings and rocket attacks in Palestine and Israel for example, then the benchmark shifts entirely. If other politically motivated actions are considered, then non-conventional groups of people could be reapplied under the umbrella term.
Student unions and trade unions, often highly politically charged organisations which negotiate and battle on behalf of their members, could be reclassified or deemed as 'terrorists' for their actions, such as leading their electorate into disruptive general strike action and street protests.
With so many strands of terrorism now developed along with the development and intersection of technology and society - cyber-terrorism and eco-terrorism just to name two, the term is open to abuse and misrepresentation. One could apply any term to any situation and it could be coined and defined. Neighbour-terrorism, child-terrorism, cooking-terrorism.
This demonstrates the case that terrorism in its simplest form is action based and not actor based, and that violence is not always the case nor the cause. The term 'terrorist' is entirely subjective and varies from person to person, government to government, and academic to academic. It is why there are so many definitions, legally and academically.
The fact of the matter is that Assange and Wikileaks, while disruptive as their methods and consequences of their actions may well be, cannot be considered terrorists. As David Gewirtz asserts, labelling may not make the slightest bit of difference to the treatment of someone.
Regardless of what we think, criminological theory dictates to a greater or lesser extent that if Assange and Wikileaks are in fact terrorists, under law or social and moral guidelines, then so are many more people, groups and organisations. To allow Wikileaks to be deemed a terrorist organisation would open up the floodgates to abuse, and would dilute the very concept that we have of terrorism today.
Perhaps it would be a good thing. The last defiant breath of a man who could be tried for treason in the United States: redefining what is and isn't terrorism by blowing the entire abstract notion out of the water.