chapter  17
20 Pages

The Terror City Hypothesis

ByMitchell Gray, Elvin Wyly

September 11, 2001 was simultaneously global and local: the day’s victims le behind grieving families not only in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, but also in dozens of countries around the globe. Almost immediately, however, a “glocal” catastrophe was nationalized and the American response began to recongure key elements of the urban scale. Shanksville, Pennsylvania was soon forgotten as the event became a world-city catastrophe. New York City’s tragedy was aggressively nationalized and draed to provide symbolic ag-draped support for ongoing and new military campaigns and murder in Afghanistan, Iraq, and other settings where cities were invariably portrayed as mysterious terrorist havens appearing as brightly-lit targets on the Pentagon’s real-time digital maps.3 Capital as well as political, legal, and cultural resources were invested in the ideological construction of a suddenly vulnerable American Homeland for which all things have changed. American urbanism entered a new and paradoxical era, at once familiar and uncertain: cold war anxieties of the middle twentieth century were revived and revised in accordance with the elusive spatiality of today’s terror. In this new and yet familiar American urbanism, the

imaginative construction of risk assumes a central role in the material and discursive dualities of local and global, here and there, us and them. ese politics of constructed risk were seized immediately by the Vulcans, the self-named team of neoconservative foreign policy advisers who gave credibility to a presidential candidate who once quipped that he thought the Taliban was a rock band. e Vulcans’ prior experience and inspiration came not from the traditional urban laboratories of Presidential power (Wall Street, Capitol Hill, state capitals, and Cambridge, Massachusetts), but from the Pentagon and other fortied nodes in America’s gunbelt.4 At the heart of a powerful neoconservative alliance, the Vulcans mobilized the specter of terrorism to justify an ambitious geopolitical agenda, while their allies in the domestic policy infrastructure quickly learned to exploit the terrorist threat to suppress dissent and to accelerate attacks on the tattered remains of the American welfare state.