chapter  11
18 Pages

Celebrating Arabs and Grateful Terrorists

Rumor and the Politics of Plausibility
WithGary Alan Fine, Irfan Khawaja

Within hours after the attacks on the World Trade Center, rumors began to circulate across America of "Arabs dancing in the streets" in celebration of the attacks. The rumors were first shared on talk-radio with callers reporting celebrations that they claimed to have witnessed themselves. A second rumor paints a more benign vision. In this rumor, as much about gender politics as about terrorism, a young woman is warned by her boyfriend, a man of Arab ethnicity that she should avoid a location on a particular date. Americans have the strength and weakness, respectively, of pragmatism and a political culture in which a broad consensual politics crowds out alternative views. In the days and months after the rumor spread, it was used to make political points beyond the boundary of the rumor itself. The second rumor complex has a different relationship to action.