Evaluating The Risks Of Threats And Security Criminology Essay


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We may come to think that "terrorism" and its dangers only exist since 11th of September 2001, since all we hear, see, and feel to a certain extent is a reflection of the events of 9/11. But certainly it is not. America and the world underwent a transformation after 9/11, not due to the actual attack but because of the use of a particular language (Hodge et. al 2007). 9/11 stands for much more than violence and "terrorism". 9/11 is an example for the power of language and how this has moulded independent concepts of fear, risk, threat and security into one big conceptualisation (Beck 2003). Risks, threats and security measures have never before been as politicised as they have been in the past decade.

Researching the field of "terrorism" leads into a complex, contradicting and opinion fuelled discourse. The naivety, with which some academics draw on the concepts of "terrorism" and "discourse", creates a rather narrow perspective of what these formulations actually are (Crenshaw 1995). Understanding the terrorism discourse is more likely to be achieved with a wider knowledge of the meaning "terrorism". It involves a moral obligation. It involves taking the concepts of risk, threat and security separately into account. Understanding the relationship of those three concepts give you a foundation for understanding terrorism discourse. In relation to the three concepts, European countries such as the Netherlands and Switzerland give a descriptive example of those concepts.

First of all it is important to have a profound understanding of: discourse. Edelman (1988) repeated the view outlaid by Aristotle who believed that discourse concentrates on what will be done in future. A future reality shaped by persuasive political action. Discourse is a regulation of emotions; it creates knowledge and interprets events, in this case terrorism. In view of the fact that discourse is set up as a practice, it will start labelling the outsiders and will create the phenomena of "othering" (Altheide, 2006). This phenomenon is observable in Western society: Muslims in particular have been labelled since 9/11.

On the other hand there is no one correct theory for the true definition of discourse, however, one thing can be found as certain and that is that language interacts with reality and that discourse consequently produces a meaning (Howarth et al. 2005). Foucault's (1980) postmodern approach towards the concept of discourse presents an interesting concept of genealogy which in his view is the "anti-science" to the powerful effects of discourse theory. He claims that discourse of truth does not exist until it is constructed. The three concepts seem to be our reality but they are part of a fiction formed into a reality and truth.

Moreover, the power of political language has controlling role in shaping socio-political reality. The memory of events is structured through narratives and myths (Bruner, 1991). This also brings in Halbwachs' (1992) concept of collective memory. He argues that the individual needs a social process to bring back those memories that matter in helping to shape a certain view that every individual can relate to. In this case it is the politicians who address us individuals with collective memories to strengthen the narrative that leads through our collective history. No future reality works without its narratives and a collective history. Our present and future make sense when we hear the explanations that politicians provide us with.

Before coming to an understanding of the concept of risk, threat and security, one should have an awareness of the fundamental role that "fear" plays. The discourse of fear relies on narratives to create a particular atmosphere of collective fear. Narratives play an emblematic underlying role within the terrorism discourse (Stocchetti, 2004). Discussing terrorism doesn't go without having knowledge of the different approaches towards the phenomena of terrorism. The perspective plays an important role in the definition of "terrorism". "Terrorism" thus lies in the eye of the beholder, between Freedom fighters and terrorists. The latter provides a collection of negative associations that fit the terrorism myth. It is the power of the definition that gives the terrorism phenomena a certain label, this label is eagerly applied by society on anything that in their point of view is "threatening and bad".

Risk is being analysed as a concept. But its seriousness and its scope is constantly changing due to political and media narratives. Terrorism is presented as a universal risk. Zulaika (1996) states that it is a kind of principle constantly lurking around waiting to create public disorder, and authorities have taken the position to organize all their resources in a fight against this universal risk.

Early on in the 20th century risk was described as a measurable concept, calculating the outcome of the threat that the public was facing. Boyne (2003) rightly disagreed with this idea of a measurable risk. He rather matches risk with uncertainty and irrationality. Risk is not a straight forward concept; it has diverse meanings attached to this concept. Yet again it is created by language and interpretation, in association of beliefs and knowledge. Indeed there is a strong correlation between risk and security measures visible.

Furthermore, not only 9.11 but any so-called "global crisis" presents a schism between the language describing the threat and the actual reality, this is what Beck (2003) called the concept of global risk society. Analysing the concept of risk doesn't go without looking at Beck's (1992) "risk society", he argues that no one can be claimed responsible for a world crisis because it is a product of industrial and scientific development. But the fear and risk of victimization must be looked at in political context. Douglas (1986) argues that blaming is part of the risk discourse, he identifies two principles, that of internal blaming- victim blaming; and that of external blaming of outsiders. Fear of terrorism fits into the latter principle. Blaming of "outsiders" would create an endless supply of scapegoats and as mentioned before, creates the effect of "othering".

Also risk profiles are an attempted solution for creating more certainty and clarity. It is applied at a transnational cooperation and doesn't concentrate on individuals but rather on the population as a whole. Higher authorities seek to manage and control the global risks, which is a movement towards a post-liberal state, occupied with fear (Jayasuriya, 2002). It is the continuing shift of risk that makes it hard to be measured or controlled. From border protection, airport security, to any kind of surveillance, they are all measurements to decrease the risk, prevent the threat, and increase security measures- but does this achieve any of those aims at all? Does it combat "terrorism", or is it a relocation of the problem onto the so-called outsider (Amoore et al. 2008)? The concept of risk has the effect of categorizing and labelling the population. Therefore too make them somewhat more predictable? As mentioned above, the society tends to stigmatise minorities as a folk devil for the sake of making the enemy visible and thus giving the public the prospect of being able to blame "someone".

Furthermore, Levi et al (2004) defines the contemporary risk assessment as a "dataveillance", using the newest technologies to analyse personal data and eventually create a group who appear to behave suspiciously, and become the "risky-group". Risk not only creates an atmosphere of fear and danger but also an economic opportunity with a profitable market. The U.S. has created a similar list: TIDE, which contains approximately 500.000 names of suspected "terrorist". The National Counter terrorism Centre has spent millions in the last decade on counter terrorism measures. Whether these extensive measurements are cost effective is questionable, especially since the incident of Umar Farouk Abdulmutalla on the Amsterdam-Detroit flight.

The everyday risk and threat of crime has become embedded in society's consciousness (Garland, 2001). People are constantly aware of a possible terrorism attack once they sit in a bus, train, tube or plane. Is this why there is so little resistance to the grand security state? The control is in other words a manipulation and a way of surveillance. No population can escape surveillance (Ericson, 1997). Everyone has to be identifiable and everyone is guilty until they fall out of the risk profile.

Foucault's (1978) concept of biopower represents a construction of the population for risk assessment and for customizing security measures. It is a fabrication of a standard against which individuals are tested.

Furthermore threat plays a role within the terrorism discourse combined with fear and risk. Threat is not only a physical threat; it is a threat towards society's existence. Threat has become a useful tool for authorities, it has a similar effect of a shock-doctrine (Klein, 2008), that creates a situation where authorities exercise unlimited freedom (Jackson, 2005). An additional worry is how threat is presented by authorities; it appears to be an endless threat, a daily, ongoing and worsening threat.

While one should be aware of the "fluidness" of threats, they are not static. The perception of threats can differ from country to country but also through out time. Take examples such as the ETA who are judged differently by Spain and France. A clear example of the "fluidness" of threat is that of Menachem Begin who was the most wanted terrorist of the British Empire , but then became a peace Nobel-price-winner (Hess, 1981). This illustrates that it is an interactive process that has been shaped by media and politicians as a dynamical discourse and hence that terrorism is one of the most active languages.

The approach to combat terrorism, and thus increasing security measures, has created a negative perception of the Muslim population. They are presented as a threat; it is hard not to be stigmatized, if you fit the description of the "other" (Bigo 2008). The major challenge that the threat we face is that it is an unknown threat. This means that measures of surveillance are legitimized, because anyone could be a possible "suspect". Since it is "invisible" it is hard to set the boundaries for security measures. Instead of fighting the invisible, one should concentrate on fighting the fear that this uncertainty has brought about.

Authority has always shown a trait of using the public for its own purposes. There are several examples throughout history. Derschowitz (2002) for example points out that the attack on the Reichstag in 1933, wasn't committed by Lubbe but by the Nazis themselves to impose security measures on the society and cut civil liberties, comparable throughout the century with RAF, Gladio Networks, etc.

The common threat is composed by manipulation of language and the power of this language is not to be taken frivolously (Zulaika et al. 1996). The fear of a threat creates an opportunity for security measures; a window of opportunity.

So has the "war on terrorism" been accompanied by a set of new security measures. Immigrants, religion, and ethnicity became incorporated into the spectrum of concern around the risk of terrorism.

This supposedly threat of terrorism has become an "excuse" for narrowing the populations liberty's, freedom of movement, freedom of speech and freedom of privacy. A number of fundamental human rights are being neglected with the message that it is for our own security. Where is this constant threat? Just to point out that society suffers more from other dangers such as car accidents, crime etc. It is nearly the same chance of being struck by lighting (Barker, 2003) as being attacked by a terrorist. Thus there is a constant climate of emergency. Why do we have this immense security state, for something that is invisible and rare in its occurrence? It is important to ask, who benefits from this security state? Does fear maximize profit, for whom? Who benefits from creating a risk society, and a constant threat and fear amongst society. The relationship between risk, threat and security is most understandably by trying to understand the Western world's obsession with the fear of terrorism.

Since some seem to forget the time before 9/11, it is important to note that there was already a question of what should be the sacrifice for an individual's liberty, if in return we receive more security (Bigo, 2008). Even if there is no actual threat, there will always be the expectation of one. This tension between civic freedoms and security measures places us in the centre of Garland's (1996) theory of control. But surprisingly he doesn't highlight the issue of ethnic minorities being treated differently or being stigmatised.

Additionally "terrorism" induces a chronic fear amongst the population, which leads to the enhancement of security measures (Nikbay et al.2007). Fear creates a common misconception of the actual risk amongst the population. The individual's conception of the threat is thus often disproportionate with the actual threat; this is due to the distorted picture that is being painted and its disorganized evidence to support this image. Since publics perception of risk relies on the individual's recollection of events that happened in the past, it can be easily distorted. We only receive the filtered "reality". Media seems for the general population as a "reliable" source of information to remember certain events. But public is generally unaware of the fear they are being fed that creates a misconception of their collective memory.

Surrounded by supposedly threat and being at risk all the time, results in a society dominated by a culture of fear. Fear is polarized with the concept of security (Furedi, 2002). The feeling of fear increases the likelihood that people give up their freedoms and demand security and a feeling of being safe and away from "terrorism". It is advertisement at its best, creating fear and thus a demand for a security market. The Gallup poll in 2002 showed that 80% of the American population would give up major freedoms to feel more secure (Gallup 2003). The feeling of fear generates the effect of the need of a protection in the form of security measures that can only be imposed by higher authorities. It is a perversion of language used by powerful monopolies. Before abiding the authorities implementations individuals should question who, where and what is the threat (Stenvall, 2007). Individuals cannot overcome their fears without understanding the concept which has constructed their emotion.

Furthermore to support this essays argument, Swineflu, Netherlands and Switzerland can be used as analogy to highlight the relationship between the three concepts. First of all, in the context of Swinflu, it has similar traits to the idea that exercise of political power contains the propaganda of fear and also an element of security (Jayasuriya, 2002). It seems to promote an economical solution at the same time as the threat is being announced. The attempted terrorist attack of Umar Farouk Abdulmutalla, accelerated the decisions to introduce body-scanners in airports worldwide. Nevertheless the very concept of politicians and other officials creating a threat, presents an analogy with the contemporary "threat" and "risk" of "Swineflu". There is major media focus on this risk of an epidemic. It is portrayed both by politicians and media as a threat to society. The only security measure that has been created at the same time the actual threat is a high-priced vaccination. These clear facts, present the market and its profit. It is an industry. Herman (1989) presents an analogy between the risk of terrorism and the risk of disease. Whether it is a political creation or a product of pharmaceutical hierarchy, they both are means towards an end. Threat creates fear, and that fear stops the population to think further than that what is being prescribed by the authority (Nikbay 2007). Not thinking outside the "box" leads us all to become "sheeple".

German SPD politician Wodarg (De PersNL, 2009), who happens to be a doctor, claims that the pharmaceutical industry is feeding the society with the fear for Swineflu, although it is even less dangerous than normal flu. He argues that the public is under the influence of the multinational pharmaceutical industry, media and political manipulation. Fear for Swineflu is the manipulation by a higher authority.

Parallel to the make belief that we are suddenly struck by a novel terrorist-form (Bigo, 2008), we are also made to belief in April 2009 that there is a novel virus. It is being promoted as a new dangerous disease. Ones the threat is named, it creates a global panic and new "security measures", vaccines are introduced costing millions. The government and media have a large financial motivation to encourage the public to vaccination and to belief surveillance is the way towards a secure world. Both "terrorism" and the "flu" were re-politicised and re-marketed, through the use of a language of fear (O'Shea, 2009).

Similarly Netherlands presents a perfect example of a country being ruled by an authority that produces an exaggerated or even non-existent threat, which in return causes the Netherlands to be the most scared nation of Europe in 2006 (EU-barometer, 2006). This seems rather ironic, since Netherlands hasn't experienced any threat of terrorism since 1990. It is either the eroded boarders of Europe that make them feel so close to the attacks of London and Madrid, or it is merely due to the political language and media creating a threat. Since the death of Pim Fortijn and Van Gogh, Netherlands created an association with terrorism, whether this was only because there was a Muslim involved is still ambiguous. But since the event of 9/11 is inserted in everyone's consciousness, Mohammed B. (the murder of Van Gogh) and his Moroccan friends were named the "Hofstadgroep" and were declared as terrorists.

Once again as noted above genealogy and narratives have to be acknowledged. Netherlands hasn't seen long-term terrorist organisations in their country such as others had the RAF, Red Brigade, IRA and ETA. However the attacks by the South Moluccans did have some substantial impact. The government faced a challenge of political violence (Rosenthal, 2008). But this challenge had a more ethnical origin towards the conflict.

Surely it is evident though that the Netherlands fear an "Islamic" attack. And exactly this is where the problem lies. The "outsider" is the threat, the immigrants are to blame. The collective memory of the threat of Muslim Moloccans has been re-embedded into the atmosphere. Muslims once again became blameable very easily; media continues reporting incidents of the confrontation between Dutch nationals and Muslim Dutch nationals. Finance minister Zalm spoke of a war against a radical Islam (Refdag, 2004). The media and politicians increased using simple words with a lot of influence and manipulation in their language: threat, war, terrorism, risk, radical, that are brought into context of immigrants and Muslims (Bakker, 2006). The product of this is obviously fear. Muslims were portrayed as a threat, this not only stigmatises the Muslim community's, but it harmed the quality of a multicultural society.

Again we see a shift from the focus on domestic violence, rape and murder -- towards the focus on terrorism. This is within a country that has hardly any or even no evidence of a threat at all.

As a consequence the measures for their "war on terrorism/ Islam" were as expected, surveillance and strict security measures. The Dutch security institution BMNV saw as a solution the decrease of freedom of movement and freedom of expression (Rosenthal, 2008). The relationship between privacy and security has become out of balance.

However every EU country has an aspect of "Islamophobia" -such as the cartoons in Denmark, the headscarves debate in France, Minaret's in Switzerland - they are all legitimate actions, but have an underlying sphere of "Islamophobia". The response is: more disputes with the Muslim communities, and thus leads them to become a "threat" for Europe.

As illustrated within this essay, it is hard to keep the concept of risk, threat, security and fear apart. Thus are the concepts of war and peace; domestic and international; attack and defence; old terrorism and new terrorism. Historical concepts, collective memories, and the emergence of new concepts are not being separated in the terrorism discourse. Combating the so called threat: "terrorism", requests an understanding of a complicated international game between powerful states, international organisations, private bodies and risk-assessment companies (Amoore, 2008). The relationship between the concepts of risk, threat and security as demonstrated in this essay show the close link between them, the immediate response to a risk is stricter security measures. Terrorism discourse works as an industry, it has it manufactured input and a packaged output. Government agencies and the media run this "industry" cooperating with private security bodies, risk assessment and insurance bodies; they distribute a product of fear and threat and both the risk and security sector share a field of political and financial interests (Herman, 1989).

We are left in a situation of a devils circle, media and politicians talk about a constant threat of terrorism, which stimulates fear within society. But fear is exactly that which is necessary for "terrorist" to be successful, fear is their fuel to progress towards their aim (Nikbay et al.2007).

In conclusion, attention should be drawn to the fact that a concept of terrorism that doesn't have a explicit universal definition, can't introduce tools to combat it. Terrorism is a pejorative word, it has a negative effect before one can have is own perspective on the scope of the issue. But what has led to this obsession with terrorism? Is it the power of nightmares? It has become a topic which academics cannot escape analysing when they describe a change within the society. There has always in history been a relationship between risk, threat and security. Terrorism as seen in the first decade of the 21st century isn't a "new" phenomenon; it isn't a birth of a new era of terrorism. It is the make belief that scares the world. We are only being presented with one solution: if we don't choose for a "security state" we will face an "apocalyptic nightmare" (Bigo, 2008). Terrorism discourse has gone the path towards the security state. Could it have been different? After highlighting the clear relationship between risk, threat and security? The only way would be at the very start of the problem: the risk. If authorities don't declare a risk, we might not have the other steps of threat and security. Instead of making terrorism the biggest risk for society after 9/11, authorities could have instead announced it as an exceptional attack, an atypical event (Jackson, 2005). Taking that approach would have seemed naïve, but the political and media focus could have been shifted on staying focused on daily problems.


Furthermore Switzerland presents some ambiguity about the vote against minarets. It has been clearly misunderstood by most individuals that didn't involve banning Muslims to practice their religion, but allow them to have a minaret on a their mosque.

But it cannot be denied that most no-voters, voted no because they thought the minaret would harm the traditional picture of the landscape. But it is also noteworthy that Switzerland has ongoing problems with Libya. These facts have certainly not helped in making a vote for Minaret's. They don't connect, but for the population it could be their anti- Muslim response. Secondly, the Swiss people party was so eager to win this election, that their electioneering was surely not absent of several words that created a fear once again amongst the public.

But because the Minaret isn't used for exercising their belief, there is no discrimination of their religion, it is merely architectural change, but that is feared as a symbol of their dominance in the traditional Swiss landscape.

Swiss Muslims should stand up for their position, before we have another country that created an "outsider".

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