That tragic dimension is expressed in the concept of a continuing pattern that would never have been stopped without the intervention of outside forces. Part of the tragedy engendered by the Klan's willingness to murder, burn, and intimidate is expressed in the movie: the passage of ignorance and fear from generation to generation.
That the violent activities engaged in by the Ku Klux Klan qualify as terrorism is without question. The Klan burns down a farm purely for the purpose of intimidation. The fact that the fire kills valuable horses as well as other property and that no money or items are stolen indicates the motivation. Terrorism is defined by nothing else more than motivation. If terrorism can be defined as acts of violence intended to maintain or change a system of social order, then clearly the murders, fires and collusion of protection offered by the sheriff's department and the local judge indicates that terrorism is exactly what is taking place in among the white residents of the Mississippi town that is the setting of the film. If it can be determined that the specific actions of lynching, beating, and destruction of property were committed to ensure that black residents could not exercise their right to vote because the implicit assumption would be that they would cast their vote in an effort to change the social order of a segregated society, then by extension any resident who engaged in any activity that protected or assisted those who actually committed illegal acts are entirely culpable under the definition of terrorism.
Determining the morality of the FBI's eventual tactics to bring the Klan terrorists to justice is particularly difficult precisely because of one aspect of the film: the audience knows the suspects are guilty. The question of whether it is right or wrong to engage in unethical or illegal activities to catch a suspected criminal becomes far more blurry when the guilt of the suspect is beyond question. That question still remains of primary importance, but for most people it becomes less important the more is know about the guilt of an individual. It would certainly be nice to know that every person who ever confessed as a result of coercion, such as the Mayor, was guilty even if only by association, but typically this is not the case.
Perhaps more troubling even with the possession of the knowledge of guilt of a certain individual is the even more legally indistinct method by which FBI Agent Anderson pursues information using Deputy Pell's wife. While audience may understandably cheer the FBI's using such questionable tactics as posing as KKK members in a faux lynching to gain information, possibly warrantless wiretapping, or even beating Deputy Pell to a pulp, there is unquestionably an unpleasantness to Anderson's putting the very life of Mrs. Pell in danger while he essentially