His new book, The Psychology of Terrorism , is a revised and expanded second edition. It is better than the first published in , and, leaping to a recommendation, deserves sharp attention from both scholars and "practitioners" a term that describes a loose conglomerate of leaders, policy makers, diplomats, police, war fighters, and hard working spooks. Horgan mostly confines his attention to substate group terrorism, even stating "it is clear that terrorism is a group process" p.
This leaves out some pieces of the pie, but is a sensible focus for a short book. The author declares his priorities up front. He distinguishes between dated efforts to understand "the terrorist mind" and recent efforts to uncover exploitable facts about the psychosocial development, engagement, and disengagement of people attracted to the terrorist lifestyle. What Horgan derogates as the "mentalist" strain of terrorism studies refers to the main goal of earlier scholarship. There was a decades-long quest to answer the question "what makes terrorists psychologically different?
For instance, perhaps someday high quality studies will show that a need for cognitive closure is observed more frequently among adolescents who go on to become terrorists compared with those who don't. Like philosophy, such studies would be fun, but what profit is gained toward the interests of national security? Horgan is interested in meaningful results. He clearly cares about whether advances in psychological knowledge might save lives: " The first 76 pages of this page book comprise a critical review of earlier research on the psychology of terrorism.
This bare-bones introduction is surely among the most compact and useful of such overviews; it will help beginners appreciate the awkward fits and starts of these early studies. Experts will need to hang in there until later in the text, when Horgan begins to fulfill his promise of discussing recent, meaningful advances. The author emphasizes several points that distinguish his approach from that of others. Empirical evidence tends to debunk any single model of why people get involved with terrorism. For example, recent research by Dyer and Simcox suggested five different categories of involvement among al-Qaeda members.
Second, the poorly defined term radicalization —the focus of much attention after —may be a red herring. The danger comes not necessarily from radicals, but from terrorists. For instance, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals arguably stake out radical positions, but they do not typically use violence. The Animal Liberation Front, in contrast, commits acts of terror. Which group should we study and counteract? Horgan suggests that excessive attention to radicalization, which is just a part of the spectrum of opinion that challenges the status quo, distracts from the life-saving work of reducing terrorism.
Third, Horgan strongly emphasizes his distinction between involvement in terrorism as a state and involvement as a process —a progression of "lots of little steps" toward affiliation with a terrorist movement, pursued for any number of reasons, to play any number of roles, but in part to attain status. Fourth, he states that so-called "root causes" of terrorism are not root causes.
Social injustice, for example, may be a precondition for the emergence of terrorism, but it hardly determines that result.
Indeed, there is far more social injustice in the world than terrorism. Fifth, Horgan agrees that very few people exposed to conflict become terrorists. This is the indisputable fact that suggests, contrary to those who deny it, that terrorists are indeed different.
But that hardly means all of them are different in the same way or to the same degree. Horgan characterizes the tiny subset who become involved as exhibiting the nonspecific quality he calls " openness to engagement. Overall, Horgan urges us to set aside the "why" of terrorism studies and devote more attention to the "how," since knowing how terrorism emerges seems more likely to empower life-saving security responses.
His book is densely supplied with excellent examples of "how" plots evolve from contemplation through execution, offering some startling insights into a potpourri of banal pragmatics what do I say when I want to rent a farm to practice blowing things up? He strongly emphasizes that the search for a terrorist profile or inner mental risk factors is fruitless, whereas the search for the behaviors associated with terrorism is promising: "identifying the behaviors associated with.
It's clearly useful to know that an internal combustion engine turns gas into rotary motion, but it might be equally useful to know why such engine exists: the human eagerness for superhuman power. On occasion, Horgan detours into disciplinary over-reckoning. Only an academic psychologist or Federal prosecutor would state, "a clear answer to the question of what it means to be involved in terrorism is perhaps one of the most important research questions since " p.
That is not a research question.
No yardstick, clinical trial, or mathematical formula will answer it. Another way to state that is to say that once we realize that the System is centerless we react with fear to the myriad implications of that centerlessness. A system that knows it's a system and chooses to organize around a center that the system knows can't stand up to the scrutiny of post-structuralism because nothing can but does anyway as a self-aware choice. The ideas are abstruse and the writing sucks, but it makes you think big thoughts, which is always welcome.
Jul 16, Matthew Owens rated it it was ok. A couple interesting ideas, perhaps novel at the time, hidden within leagues of sweeping generalizations and poetic language put to poor use.
Style aside, the central idea that global hegemonic power begets its own demise is worth exploring. Feb 06, David rated it really liked it. A brisk, thoughtful essay featuring some of B's most prevalent themes. Terse, elegiac style. The controversy surrounding this book was just reaction, IMO. Mar 29, Felix rated it really liked it.
Short, but very rich in ideas. Oct 15, Elizabeth Warton rated it it was amazing. Highest recommendation! There's a few essays here but they're all basically the same. The twin towers committed suicide: that, I say, is a beautiful thing to write.
Sep 13, Jacob rated it really liked it Shelves: political. He sets up the notion of terrorism as the result of the Western Hegemonic Divine going to war against itself. That the terrorist attacks bring about a fourth world war — a true world war of globalization. What scares us about terrorists is that they have adopted the western system in order to attack the western system. What scares the west is "The fact that [the Other] have become rich they have all the necessary resources without ceasing to wish to destroy us" p.
With this the image and reality become radically blurred.
Can it be because Chomsky is a linguist, someone removed from images, that he is noted for being one of the most relentless pursuers of political truth in America? He just suggested to Paris, where he sent known by the you can find out more of other secrets at the necessary Couvent Saint-Jacques. Both kingdoms, the specular and the human, lived in harmony; you could come and go through mirrors. Yes, real time electronic coverage of war and public proceedings are increasingly blurring the line between pseudo events, propaganda, and information. Our overexposure to such images has numbed our consciences and blunted our responsiveness.
The media function not as the medium of the event, but a fundamental aspect of the event. The media allows for the mimetic image of the Towards 'suicide' — their response to the suicide of the terrorist. The pseudo event — the mimetic repetitions of the image of the towers — brings forward conflict not centred on an event, but on mimetic repetitions. This leads to " War as a continuation of the absence of politics by other means. In their attack, the terrorists attacked the true source of power — not the political, but the financial. The towers contained a perfect symmetry — almost longing to be destroyed.
Two attacks showed this symmetry, and showed that this was a terrorist attack.
One tower would not have led to the shift in the same way two tower, which appeared to commit suicide at impact, had. The physical tower was destroyed, but the symbolic tower committed suicide, it collapsed. But, the symbolic collapse came from the physical collapse. The towers were symbols of God — omnipotence, the divine — and present the image of omnipotence disappearing. Through their destruction they become a new wonder, their image is more powerful in their destruction.
Essay three looks at the essence of terrorism. Baudrillard dismisses initial hypotheses of terrorism, showing that terrorism is absurd.
Terrorism has no meaning — it is an immortal enemy. It has no objective — which allows it to attack the heart of globalization. Empire deterritorializes and reterriorializes through mirrors. But eventually the Other stops looking like empire and smashes the mirrors. The terrorists cannot defeat "us" for "we" are already dead.
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We created the terrorists, and they are already on our side. By terrorizing, they have entered globalization - that which they fought against. The terrorist goal is simply to wreck havoc — wreck the system using its own tools. An attack on the acceptability of global power.