chapter  6
19 Pages

Feeling persecuted? The definitive role of paranoid anxiety in the constitution of ‘war on terror’ television


The material and discursive consequences of counter-terror discourse on the organization of life in democratic societies are already apparent, but what about the functions of this discourse in and of itself, as a mode of communication and engagement? Through the expression and transmission of fear and paranoid anxiety this discourse justifies the extension of security agency powers and legitimizes a ‘politics’ of securitization, by redefining political and social subjectivity in terms of security and safety through ‘worst case scenario’ thinking. But does this description of effects not read history backwards and neglect other functions of this discourse? The increased significance of emotion in public discourses as a substitute for traditional politics in the last fifteen years is not addressed by the conventional criticism that politicians have solely an instrumental orientation towards emotion. The more immediate concerns of the political élite and media producers, to connect meaningfully with the public, are not considered in such claims.