Notes on a Theory…

Thoughts on politics, law, & social science

How are the political effects of “terrorism” produced?

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1. Everyone will know about it as media will continually harp on it, while other significant things are barely mentioned. Indeed, if something that otherwise would garner attention happens in the wake of such an event, it will largely be ignored. Note that this does not mean all things that could be labeled terrorism will get this attention or even be labeled as such.

2. That said, it is important to see that  the media is less a conduit for information than of interpretations.

3. For the most part, only hawks get air time to discuss an attack. Anyone less hawkish will find even “objective” journalists hostile. Those journalists often will demand the less hawkish figure to engage in ritualistic denunciations of the sort hawks use to justify hawkish responses.

4. But substantive values are not the whole of it. The media generally requires what Noam Chomksy called the “condition of concision.” Calls for more surveillance, punishment, detention and war against “bad guys” fits this condition, while real analysis does not.

5. It is also true that the financial rewards for the War on Terror are enormous. Hawkish languages and material benefits are, as Murray Edelman explained, part of the same transaction.

6. The two parties differ not in whether certain groups are dangerous, or if we should maintain an empire, or whether to conduct drone killings, or on mass surveillance or mass deportations or border walls.

7. They disagree about the scope of these things only.

8. Islamophobia, xenophobia, etc., serve to justify and explain these bipartisan policies. They help elites justify preferred courses of action, and non-elites to make sense of their world.

9. There is a range of how open and aggressively these things are deployed by elites, from the least hawkish Democrat to the most blood lustful conservative. But almost all engage in it in some form or another, as Deepa Kumar details.

10 . These discourses also distract from fact that these policies are a cause not a solution of more attacks. In the same ways that prisons, which are allegedly to reduce crime, actually produce it, so-called anti-terrorism actions and policies tend to produce more attacks.


Written by David Kaib

March 22, 2016 at 5:08 pm

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  1. […] * How are the political effects of “terrorism” produced? […]

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