Terrorism and the State: A Critique of Domination through Fear

Terrorism and the State: A Critique of Domination through Fear

Terrorism and the State: A Critique of Domination through Fear

Terrorism and the State: A Critique of Domination through Fear

Synopsis

This is an intriguing volume on the political economy of terrorism. Emphasizing the role of ideological systems and the media in the definition of political violence, this book is theoretical, historical, and critical. Perdue suggests that there is presently a double standard of terrorism--one for the state and the other for its opponents--and reframes the terrorism debate. A historical review supports a revisionist position that places the issue in the context of global relations. Perdue proceeds through the investigation of historically grounded cases to systematically analyze state terrorism.

Excerpt

One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter.

This observation, now something of a cliché in international circles, puzzles many for whom the question of terrorism is not a question at all. Certainly, the issue is a popular one in the United States and the Western world today. Moreover, a conclusion has taken form (routinely expressed by political leadership and media personalities, as well as in most academic literature) that the nature of terrorism is unambiguous. The official view presents a study in international deviance on the part of outlaws and fanatics. Argued thus, the only question about terrorism is how to control it.

Perhaps the view that terrorism is a given stems from the consensus of images systematically disseminated through the United States and much of the Western world. Political language is a powerful device for the creation of such a consensus, but imagery does not rest on the spoken word alone. The international media also employ powerful visual technology. Thus the word terrorism is associated with scenes of outrageous violence such as hostage-taking, aircraft piracy, sabotage, assassination, and indiscriminate bombings and shootings. The victims are routinely described as innocents and noncombatants. And always, those officially labeled as terrorists are said to represent the forces of barbarism who threaten civilization and democratic order. Once the label is official, the term counterterrorism may be used to legitimate extraordinary sanctions directed toward offending parties; sanctions that might otherwise be rejected by many.

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