The discourse on terrorism: Political violence and the Subcommittee on Security and Terrorism, 1981-1986
This work is an inquiry into the constitution of a subject and object of analysis: "terrorism." This concept is considered from the vantage point of those who observe, describe, study and, especially, comment on terrorism and through this process constitute the discourse on terrorism. This analysis endeavors to present an alternative understanding of terrorism which is not based solely on the description of its presence or the panacea-like remedies for confronting it. It is premised on the notion of terrorism as an essentially contested concept. An explicitly critical approach to the study of terrorism is advanced here, with the suggestion that most of the literature on terrorism is produced by a coherent group of expert scholars and practitioners comprising a recognizable cabalist community of interpretation. This community and its members present and advocate simplistic conclusions to the problem of political violence in the guise of social-scientific conceptualizations premised, in part, on the confused notion that the formulation and implementation of policy is the practice of politics. The Congressional testimony of experts on terrorism provided to the Subcommittee on Security and Terrorism (SST), Committee on the Judiciary of the United States Senate, active from 1981 to 1986, and chaired by Jeremiah Denton, Republican Senator from Alabama, along with selected contemporary writings on the subject of terrorism by the cabalists is the text examined in this study. This material was selected for analysis primarily because it constitutes a representative and comprehensive, as well as inclusive, text on the discourse on terrorism. The reification of terrorism has significant implications because action is abstracted from the actors who produce/use political violence. As a result of this rhetorical switch, terrorism becomes an occurrence to be confronted, while the actors producing/using violence are subsidiary elements, even pawns at its mercy. Ultimately, the study is a critique of the orthodoxy, understood to be the demonization of armed oppositional violence in the form of terrorism.