Taboo and Terror in the Global War
This chapter explores how punitive excess went global during the war on terror. American culture metabolized the outrages of September 11, 2001, in a pattern evocative of the sex and crime panics. Depictions of despoiled innocence, sensational journalism, and calls to citizen vigilantism were followed by preemptive measures, the devising of lists and registries, and the erosion of fundamental rights and procedures. Both official and unofficial narratives of 9/11 contained subtle echoes of the familiar sexual anxieties. Public portrayals of an immaculate nation's “lost innocence” resonated with long-standing cultural motifs associated with child abuse. The logic of the one panic dovetailed with that of the other in less subtle ways, too. The sexuality of the 9/11 terrorists was the object of media attention. Predator, a term generally used to describe pedophiles who stalk children, was the favored euphemism for terrorist. The domestic war on terror upended sacred rights and ancient privileges of citizenship. Every reaction to the terror attacks drew inspiration from a cultural imperative that has become so entrenched that its manifestations scarcely attract scrutiny anymore. Innocence so fashioned serves as a perpetual resource for the elaboration of the punitive state.
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