The focus of this week’s readings is the fragmented political responses to terror in the United States, and specifically the attacks of 9/11. It is clear that the September 11 crisis and War on Terrorism in general, highlight and heighten the divisions within the U.S. political spectrum, and that the balance of fear, reality, and intent are seen from diametrically opposing positions for different factions-of both the right and left.
Matthew Lyons’ article on fragmented nationalism focuses in on the various right-wing movements that have emerged throughout the U.S.’s history and the specifics of their varying responses to the attacks on 9/11. Lyons walks us through the developments of these movements, which are rooted in historic nationalist philosophies, and examines the interplay between war, racism, and the violence produced by modern manifestations of nationalism. Foreign Policy offers an interesting article that supplements this conversation of nationalism and some of the paradoxes we’ve been discussing in class. I found Lyons’ detailed account of the three nationalistic ideological currents (racial nationalism, business nationalism, and American globalist nationalism) and their movement throughout the century to be extremely informative and provide an interesting basis for the main pillars of right-wing ideology that emerged when the conservative coalition fell apart after the Cold War. He elaborates on the different foreign policy initiatives of these factions and specifically how those policies were apparent in the responses to 9/11.
Lyons asserts that the U.S.’s political right’s response to 9/11 embodied the disagreements on key questions about our nationhood. He examines the development of four major right-wing factions after the Cold War, offering a complete description of each of the factions: neoconservatives, paleoconservatives, the Christian Right, and the Far Right. He then outlines how each of the factions conceptualized and responded to 9/11, as well as the internal divisions between the four of them in relation to nationalism’s multilayered history. I found it particularly interesting that Lyons highlights how each rightist group took advantage of 9/11 to place blame where they faced opposition and gain momentum where they felt the attack supported their beliefs. Although in very fragmented ways, this national tragedy was strategically used by these groups to fuel their ideologies and further polarize them from not only the left, but from each other. As Lyons puts it, “Right-wing nationalism did not speak with one voice either before or after September 11, 2001.” How does this idea apply to the right-wing ideologies today? Are we still arguing that rightists have not found one voice? The fragmentation surrounding today’s politics and Trump’s ideologies certainly suggest so.
Baker’s article, Balancing Terror and Reality in State of the Union Address takes another look at political response to terror, specifically focusing on Obama’s handling of the sense of threat and his portrayal of that sense to the American public. The fear of terrorism has perverted the American public’s perspective, requiring presidential figures to be extremely careful when communicating the issue on a national level. Critics of Obama argue that he did not take the threat of terrorism seriously, while the reverse argued it was crucial to not overplay the sense of threat in comparison to other, more likely senses of danger. This article we looked at in class last week identifies these other dangers and challenges the ways the U.S. reacted to 9/11. Where is the balance between accepting the irrationality of Americans about terrorism and not overplaying the sense of threat as a U.S. official?
Through both articles we’ve read for this week, it is clear that there is a divide between the pre and post-9/11 American mindsets. There is a sense of irrationality that pervades the threat of terrorism in the United States and realistically I don’t see it as something the federal government can ignore. How is the fragmented nationalism in this country contributing to that irrationality, if at all? Are the factions of right-wing ideology that Lyons describes playing a role in the way America’s mindset has shifted post-9/11?