The Politics of Threat and Danger: Writing the War on Terrorism

Richard Dean Wells Jackson

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Central to the discursive project that accompanies the prosecution of the global war against terrorism is a powerful and ubiquitous narrative of threat and danger. A critical discourse analysis of this narrative reveals how the language and politics of fear work to construct counter-terrorism and reproduce hegemony. The principal discursive formations of the narrative include: the notion of a new form of 'super-terrorism‘ or 'catastrophic terrorism‘; the supreme emergency engendered by the terrorist threat; and the ubiquity of a highly dangerous enemy within. The primary ideological purpose behind constructing such a powerful narrative of threat and danger is to legitimise and normalise the doctrine of pre-emptive war against foreign enemies, and the simultaneous disciplining of domestic sources of opposition. The politics of fear also function to enforce national unity, (re)construct national identity, disguise the neo-conservative geo-strategic project, and strengthen the institutions of state coercion. However, upon closer examination it becomes clear that the discursive construction of the catastrophic terrorist threat is inherently unstable and susceptible to counter-hegemonic resistance across a range of levels. Ethically, we have a responsibility to resist the politics of fear because not only is it damaging to democratic politics, but it is directly implicated in the widespread human rights abuses of the war on terror seen in Guantànamo Bay, Abu Ghraib, and elsewhere.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages3
Publication statusPublished - 2004


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