Sunday, May 02, 2010


A car bomb in Times Square?

Note that Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano referred to the incident -- a carbomb near a crowded civilian area -- as an act officials are "treating as a potential terrorist attack."

Since the words "terror" and "terrorism" now possess a variety of meanings (many referring to violence against military and representatives of the US State) it seems timely that Napolitano is here to remind us that terrorism is, in fact, the use of violent acts to provoke terror and fear in civilian populations, usually as a means of coercion.

I know, I know: a spokesperson is supposed to say such things. But it seems odd that it warrants such obvious underlining, almost as if the act -- the act of announcing what another act is -- is one of denial that terrorist bombings could or would ever take place in the USA.

Whether we've dealt with terrorist threats successfully is not the question: no government is equipped to deal with terrorist threats successfully. Why would we think we wouldn't botch this as well? To be clear: the act is dealt with, but the threat, which is another act and then another, does not merely recede into baldness.

So, in relation to the "rest of the world" terrorism generally dissipates; but it isn't, cannot be, defeated. These same tenets that now threaten us will never disappear, returning to haunt in newer iterations. The fading naturally occurs, usually withering due to a weakened message which no longer resonates with the upcoming demographic. Perhaps the message fades from external factors, which we might dub sea changes, like most civilians realize that the groups tactics are outmoded or a new nation is formed. By this rationale, the method to combat terrorism isn't tactical, but rather systemic. How are systems stimulated in ways that offer new rational options for all, not just a few, actors? Or rather, how are systems stimulated and redacted in a way that suggests change to and for all without actually changing anything?

If the use of grand narratives only appeals to some, how about changing the function of the narrative? We are no longer the good guys. And our brand has performed poorly. That's a start.

Once we admit we're good guys no longer, narrative will not function as the propaganda or delusional cheerleading of a corrupt regime which supports its own actions and which needs others to believe. In fact, it will no longer be necessary to recite our virtues over and over, and we will become much less of a standout. Just another country vying to protect its identity against those who seek to erase it. We will seem oppressed.

On the other hand, since this is largely about warring symbols, the symbolic representatives of both sides cannot be seen as civilians: Civilian contractors and "enemy combatants" alike are seen, by those opposing them, as operatives. Terrorism has expanded to include those who speak the language (literally and figuratively) of the enemy, and all "sides" in this conflict actively engage in the confusion.

[Caveat: My knowledge of Zizek's work on this topic is rather weak at best, so bear with me.]

There is less symbolic efficiency in the persona of a civilian contractor,
said contractor would most likely deny affiliation with the US Military,
not uniform, without the dress of military targets.
But the Other does. To the terrorist, these "civilian" contractors are extremely representative
of US dominance.
Contractor X has a family and a dog and loves the children of the world
and probably even donates to Sally Struthers' ChildFund International,
but Terrorist Y sees Contractor X as the enemy,
and no amount of child-loving or dog-petting will convince T-Y otherwise.


奕玲 said...
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子凌50529nealsickles said...
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