Saturday, October 07, 2006

A SHORT ESSAY ON THE PLACE OF FEAR IN A POST-9/11 SOCIETY
by Frank Furedi, Professor of Sociology, University of Kent

Since 9/11, it has become much more normal for people to represent the future in very dystopic, negative terms. The discussion about global warming has taken on the "structure of the terrorist nightmare scenario."
After the attacks, it became commonplace to hear politicians and commentators say that 'the world changed forever on 9/11'. And, since then, we have become preoccupied and obsessed with the world being a more dangerous place.
As a result, our anxiety has extended into ever-expanding territory. The terrorist nightmare scenario has, for example, been recycled in other areas, such as the environment. If you look at the discussion on global warming, it often has the same structure to it.
What 9/11 has done is normalised the idea that you do things just because you think there might be a problem rather than because you believe that there is a problem.
So, for example, President Bush went after Saddam Hussein because the Americans thought there was the possibility that he had weapons of mass destruction. No actual proof was required, but the fact that it might be the case was enough to go to war.
The "We haven't got time, we must do something now" psychology seems to have become institutionalised in every area of life, and there seems to be very little to distinguish between the claims and dire warnings.
This speculative reaction not only informs foreign policy but a lot of domestic policy. From climate change doom-mongers to population alarmists, every kind of fear entrepreneur is now piggy-backing on the "war on terrorism".
And, I anticipate that for some time to come, the expectation of the worst possible outcome is only going to become more powerful.

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