The Rhetoric of Terrorism and Counterterrorism

The Rhetoric of Terrorism and Counterterrorism

The Rhetoric of Terrorism and Counterterrorism

The Rhetoric of Terrorism and Counterterrorism


Leeman analyzes the possible discursive responses to terrorism, prescribing "democratic rhetoric" as the most strategic counterterrorist response available. He examines counterterrorism as a response to terrorism, considering each side as one-half of a dialogue. Given the inherently anti-democratic nature of terroristic discourse, he hypothesizes that the best discursive strategy is to shift the dialogue to different grounds, i.e., to use democratic rhetoric.


I begin this study with four assumptions. While I believe them to be reasonable, they warrant explicit mention for the reader's sake. Those who cannot accept these assumptions may find the book interesting but will not find it persuasive. Those who accept them may also find the arguments unpersuasive, but at least we begin the debate on common ground.

Assumption 1: That the organizations I call "terrorist" are indeed terroristic. A major point I make in this study is that counterterrorists should justify any use of the label "terrorism." Yet I have chosen here not to recount the misdeeds of the "terrorist" groups whose rhetoric I cite. Thus, I have not justified the label I have affixed. The reason I have not done so is due to the nature of the study.

Because the prescriptions offered here are broad--generally applicable to counterterrorists across situations--I chose to survey as many terrorist organizations and as much of their discourse as possible. The breadth of the study precluded enumerating detailed reasons for classifying each organization or individual as terroristic. I have, however, endeavored to limit my survey to those groups considered terroristic by most observers. Most readers will discover no problems with those I have chosen.

That explanation, of course, will not suffice for all. Some readers may quarrel with one or two of the chosen groups. However, if a single group or two do not seem "terroristic," the study's conclusions should not be seriously impaired. No rhetorical quality discussed in Chapter Three was found in the discourse of just one group. The illustrative examples used in that chapter could be supplemented by others drawn from any of the other groups surveyed.

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