Discourses and practices of terrorism : interrogating terror

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As of mid, several national jurisdictions had declared a state of emergency after terrorist attacks. By definition, a state of emergency suggests that another xiv attack is imminent and it, justifiably, can enhance a feeling of fear, while allowing a government what it needs to respond to the perceived emergency.

The mechanism can occur in different forms. While states of emergency are designed to be temporary, the timing of these declarations has varied. France has been renewing a state of emergency since , after a series of high-profile attacks there. Turkey has repeatedly extended a state of emergency, after several events that included a coup attempt, a gunman killing 39 people in an Istanbul nightclub and a series of other high-profile attacks attributed to Daesh. Extraordinary procedures are required for Parliament to overturn these decrees, and the constitutional court has not accepted any challenges.

The controversial Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law in May on the Island of Mindanao, after conflict between the military and a group allegedly connected to Daesh, and he publicly said that he might extend it across the Philippines. He has invoked Hitler as a role model for these mass killings and has allegedly used this campaign as a pretext for killing his political opponents.

States of emergency, whether formal or simply a creation of political commentary, give rise to a notion that standard constitutional protections must and can be xv set aside. How such states of emergency play out varies and, because such emergency declarations give extraordinary powers to the government, abuse can sometimes be the result. The report quoted police officers in Turkey as asserting impunity for killing and for torture during the state of emergency. When a state of emergency is extended repeatedly, the obvious concern is that the urgent will become the new normal.

In late May , Amnesty International accused France of using its increased powers, under the state of emergency, to clamp down on peaceful protest. As terrorist attacks, and governmental responses to such attacks, continue unabated around the world, it is important to look to the nature of these responses, especially as certain responses have become increasingly normalised.

While terrorist attacks present an obvious threat, poor responses to attacks can create risks of their own. This book does not address all responses to terrorism, but, instead, focuses primarily on practices relating to the detention and interrogation of terrorism suspects.

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In theory, most people would agree that fear-based decision-making does not lead to good outcomes, but fear continues to drive many national responses to terrorism. This fear ebbs and flows, generally driven to heights when a new attack occurs, and then sometimes calming a bit before the next attack. Whose fear is at issue can be a factor in disassembling some of the governmental responses.

Is it the government itself that is acting out of fear, or is the government undertaking actions in a climate of fear, knowing that a frightened population will be more likely to agree to its agenda? Political discourse is rarely simply descriptive or objective. Those in the political world generally seek to achieve a particular objective by using the mechanisms of public conversation that they employ.

This may or may not be appropriate, of course, depending on the circumstances. Either way, the power of rhetoric styles in public conversations cannot be overlooked. As Cap points out:.

From Exception to Normalcy

Public discourse is essentially strategic: there exist observable and systematic ways in which interests of the top actors—politicians, institutional leaders, lawmakers, media management—are performed linguistically. Public leaders use a plethora of rhetorical means to manage their power, status and credibility in the service of a social consensus. Beyond these overarching approaches to political persuasion, certain rhetoric techniques can have the effect of increasing the likelihood that a particular viewpoint will be accepted by a given audience. These techniques are discussed in greater detail in chapter two.

This book provides a way of looking at fast-moving legal developments, not just in the area of terrorism detentions, but with an approach that could be used to critique many other areas of the law that have developed, or will develop, in times of crisis. This approach draws from various disciplines, particularly that of legal philosophy and discourse analysis, but is one that is not as commonly applied in the field of law.

The idea is to demonstrate that if that thread can reveal new understandings of that narrative, a more comprehensive use of understandings from this field might reveal even more.

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Many of these flaws continue to dominate public discourse today. Examples of such political commentary are given throughout this book. Some examples, particularly in the Introduction and the Conclusion, relate to different scenarios, outside of the terrorism context, to illustrate the larger point about the power of reconsidering how discourse is built. Addressing terrorism, of course, is not a simple matter, and terrorism is designed to provoke fear. So fear is a reasonable reaction. But for those in positions of power, whether in terms of influencing public opinion or in enacting laws, fear cannot be the driving force behind determining proper responses, either in terms of their own fears or in terms of exploiting the fears of others.

While the forms of terrorism are constantly evolving, terrorism itself has been a dominant global issue long enough so that some baseline capacity for calm reflection, and for learning from past mistakes in promoting future responses, should exist by now. However, this does not always seem to be the case. Fear has a direct correlation with the xviii effectiveness of political commentary, when those in power seek agreement from a population to measures that may otherwise be seen to infringe human rights.

Frightened people can be persuaded of the truth of illogical premises when they might not be so easily convinced when in a less fearful state of mind.

Thus, the underpinning of fear is a critical thread running through any review of political conversations around terrorism responses and how they arise, and it provides a background theme to the specific issues raised in this book. Terrorism discourse and terrorism responses have developed differently in different places, for obvious reasons. In law, political narrative controls responses more than is often recognised. This can happen on different levels.

Through a carefully constructed public discourse, officials have created a new social reality where terrorism threatens to destroy everything that ordinary people hold dear—their lives, their democracy, their freedom, their way of life, their civilisation.

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In this new reality, diabolical and insane terrorists plot to rain down weapons of mass destruction across western cities, while heroic warriors of freedom risk their lives in foreign lands to save innocent and decent folk back home; good battles evil and civilisation itself stands against the dark forces of barbarism. Language and practice, in other words, reinforce each other—they constitute the reality of counter-terrorism. A narrative, of course, has no impact on legal standards without effective buy-in from the public, legislative bodies and courts.

Therefore, broad narratives, such as the good-versus-evil paradigm, are not enough, on their own, to elicit support and legal changes.

Aaron Winter - School of Social Sciences | Birmingham City University

The presentation of the narrative is everything. An effective narrative must have layers of elements in order to persuade people. Immigrants were treated as presumptive terrorists. Dissent was equated with support for terrorism. Among those who accept the narrative as indisputable truth, these beliefs can then become difficult to refute. Deconstructing this successfully created narrative is not easy, especially when many layers and differing techniques were created to build the narrative in the first place.

Beyond content, though, is the method of argument chosen. This can perhaps be thought of as the procedural aspect of the argument. The right methodology, used with the right audience, can be more influential than the actual substance of the points made. It is not just the words used, or a recourse to fear, that can be significant, but the actual techniques the speaker uses to create and promote an argument. In determining, after the fact, the appropriateness of the result, it can therefore be useful to break down the procedural pieces that went into building the argument to see if any flaws in the technique can be identified.

Relevant issues, drawn from the work of legal philosophers, include how well the original argument was tailored to a particular audience, especially considering the particular values that audience might hold, and how the argument is tailored to those values.

Another obvious consideration is the motivation of those who originally advanced the arguments and whether that motivation corresponded with the motivation that was presented as the rationale. Consistent with that inquiry, an issue arises as to whether the original proponent of the argument was concerned xx with a particular end and whether that concern overrode the means used.

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A vivid picture, painted through language, can significantly change the way in which a factual scenario is viewed and can make an audience perceive its preconceived truths in different lights. A compelling example of this phenomenon arose in a speech given by Mitch Landrieu, the Mayor of New Orleans, in May , accompanying his decision to remove four Confederate monuments.

When explaining his decision, Landrieu invoked the language of terrorism, and of the reliance on a false narrative, to critique the continued existence of the monuments whose removal he was ordering.

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Under his direction, four major monuments to the Confederacy were taken down in the spring of as part of a wider movement to remove such monuments in the US South, the former home of the Confederacy. The decision to do so was part of an initiative to recognise the horrors of slavery and to avoid painting an unrealistic, glorified view of what happened before and during the US Civil War. Tension had surrounded the removal of the monuments. A group of White Supremacists had previously held a candlelight march protesting against the decision, chanting phrases from the Nazi era and evoking memories of nighttime rallies by the Ku Klux Klan.

Mayor Landrieu made a moving and important speech, which was clearly designed to reconfigure the narrative around the monuments. This language xxi quickly became widely reproduced. He reminded listeners of the rich and diverse culture of New Orleans, but added:. But there are also other truths about our city that we must confront. So when people say to me that the monuments in question are history, well what I just described is real history as well, and it is the searing truth.

And it immediately begs the questions: why there are no slave ship monuments, no prominent markers on public land to remember the lynchings or the slave blocks; nothing to remember this long chapter of our lives; the pain, the sacrifice, the shame … all of it happening on the soil of New Orleans.

So for those self-appointed defenders of history and the monuments, they are eerily silent on what amounts to this historical malfeasance, a lie by omission. There is a difference between remembrance of history and reverence of it. For America and New Orleans, it has been a long, winding road, marked by great tragedy and great triumph. But we cannot be afraid of our truth. Mayor Landrieu specifically sought to deconstruct the false narrative that had given rise to the monuments in the first place.

These representations of terrorism contribute to a twin process of othering that has gathered apace in the first decades of the twenty-first century. At the same time, they contribute to the othering of terrorism itself, delegitimizing its protagonists through ridicule and contempt.

Discourses and practices of terrorism : interrogating terror Discourses and practices of terrorism : interrogating terror
Discourses and practices of terrorism : interrogating terror Discourses and practices of terrorism : interrogating terror
Discourses and practices of terrorism : interrogating terror Discourses and practices of terrorism : interrogating terror
Discourses and practices of terrorism : interrogating terror Discourses and practices of terrorism : interrogating terror
Discourses and practices of terrorism : interrogating terror Discourses and practices of terrorism : interrogating terror

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