"If (we change our behavior or sacrifice our freedoms), the terrorists have won” became a popular phrase after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. However, a similar sentiment was used after the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.
“The terrorists have won” has been cited in print since at least 1986. “Every time you make a typo, the errorists win”—a joke on the saying—has been cited in print since 2010.
Wikipedia: The terrorists have won
“...the terrorists have won”, or “...then the terrorists win” are rhetorical phrases which were widely used in the United States in the wake of the September 11 attacks. The phrase takes the form of “that if we pursue some particular course of action, why then, the terrorists have won” (as explained by Jeff Greenfield of CNN). In November 2001, the Los Angeles Times reported:
A database search for the phrase, “If we [blank], then the terrorists have won,” turned up hundreds of hits in U.S. newspapers and magazines.
The expression had been used before 2001. In 1995, an editorial about the response to the Oklahoma City bombing in the Ocala Star-Banner, of Ocala, Florida concluded: “Our response to terrorism should be carefully measured. If our First Amendment rights suffer as a result of the awful domestic terrorist attack in Oklahoma City the terrorists have indeed, won.” At the same time, an editorial in the Victoria Advocate of Victoria, Texas said: “If Americans begin to yield their own freedoms at home, the terrorists have won.”
In the months after the September 11 attacks, the expression was often used.
1 January 1986,
ABA President William Falsgraf has wisely pointed out that we must not alter fundamental precepts of U.S. law in responding to terrorism. “If we do,” Falsgraf said, “the terrorists have won.”
Winning the war against terrorism
By Neil C. Livingstone and Terrell E. Arnold
Lexington, MA: Lexington Books
The challenge is to ensure that such use of the state’s police power is not excessive and does not degenerate into the abuse of power; if it does, the terrorists have won.
Impact of Mass Media
By Ray Eldon Hiebert and Carol Reuss
White Plains, NY: Longman
“At the same time,” Mears adds, “you don’t stop doing what you do for a living, or the terrorists have won.”
Google News Archive
27 April 1995, Ocala (FL) Star-Banner, “Hasty laws are not the answer,” pg. 4B, col. 1:
Our response to terrorism should be carefully measured. If our First amendment rights suffer as a result of the awful domestic terrorist attack in Oklahoma City the terrorists have indeed, won.
The CQ Guide to Current American Government
By Congressional Quarterly, inc.
Washington, DC: Congressional Quarterly Service
CQ Weekly Sept. 22, 2001
“The worst thing that could happen is we damage our Constitution,” said Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt. “If the Constitution is shredded, the terrorists win.”
OCLC WorldCat record
When you lie about your age, the terrorists win : reflections on looking in the mirror
Author: Carol Leifer
Publisher: New York : Villard, ©2009.
Edition/Format: Book : Biography : English : 1st edView all editions and formats
Summary: Comedy veteran Leifer tells hilarious stories about herself, in her laught-out-loud literary debut that looks at life, love, family, and the aging process.