The language of ‘terror’ serves political ends – we owe it to our children to find real answers

by Brad Evans (2017)

Image Copyright: Martin Rickett/PA

The senseless attack on Manchester Arena left many of us reeling. My first reaction was to rush to my young daughter and hold her close. Such events make the violence we see in many parts of the world, all too real – we can so easily relate it to our own lives.

Faced with such a devastating loss of life, the natural public response is to demand justice. Justice itself comes in different forms, and once violence is framed through political narratives of warfare, what overwhelmingly passes for justice is the use of force – whether that’s the force of law or the force of overt militarism. And political use of the terms “evil” and “defeat” in this context merely serve to underwrite this logic.

The term “terror” has been immediately assigned to this indefensible act. There is no problem with using this term if we are relating it to the raw realities of violence. All violence is terrifying. But let us be mindful of what political function this term serves when considering its lasting significance and consequences.

We know that this type of violence – like all forms of terror – works at a visceral level. That’s what makes it truly terrifying. It sends all our emotions into a state of flux – we are sent reeling into a vortex of emotional disorientation.


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