The term terrorism is as value-laden a descriptor as one will encounter in the contemporary period. Though it evokes a strong image of an Orientalist, colonized, brown body enacting brutal, theatrical violence from behind a balaclava, the term itself describes very little. The decision to label a particular act, individual, or movement as terroristic is more a discursive question of politics than means. In the post-9/11 era, state-level rhetoricians describe their ideological enemies that can be “othered” as terrorists, while some are considered extremists. In doing so, Muslim, Arab, Asian, African, and foreign-born advocates and practitioners of political violence are termed terrorists with near universality, while white, Christian, Westerners acting in the name of white supremacy, anti-abortion, and so-called patriot, or sovereign citizen movements are left largely outside of that taxonomy. Through an analysis of the film Black Hawk Down, jihadist-produced media designed for US audiences, media accounts of Boko Haram in Nigeria, and the framing of rightist violence, it is clear how violence is viewed positionally. Furthermore, these examples demonstrate how terrorism has been utilized as a defamatory label applied asymmetrically to some proponents of political violence—those brown and black lives existing in precarity who challenge discursive claims on violence, statehood, capital, and what are broadly understood to be Western values.
"Othering Terrorism: A Rhetorical Strategy of Strategic Labeling,"
Genocide Studies and Prevention: An International Journal:
Available at: https://scholarcommons.usf.edu/gsp/vol13/iss2/9
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