Richard Jackson
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Writing identity
Evil terrorists, good Americans
in Writing the war on terrorism
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This chapter explores the unique and particular ways in which identity has been discursively constructed through the official language of counter-terrorism. It focuses on the strategies used to differentiate, demonise and dehumanise the terrorist 'other'. Establishing the identities of the primary characters, the heroes and villains or the 'good guys' and the 'bad guys', was a key element in constructing the overall narrative of the 'war on terrorism'. In a media-saturated society, establishing the identities of the 'good guys' and the 'bad guys' was essential to making the national story of America's war understandable to the wider public. In direct contrast to the terrorists, Americans are discursively constructed first and foremost as Innocent' victims; even the Pentagon casualties and the soldiers fighting in Afghanistan are remade as 'innocent Americans'. In addition, Americans are discursively reconstructed as 'heroic' and 'united'.

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Writing the war on terrorism

Language, politics and counter-terrorism


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