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Jane Duncan: Governments are not Held Responsible for State Terrorism

The Rise of the SecurocratsProfessor Jane Duncan recently unpacked the value-laden meaning of the word “terrorism” in an essay for The South African Civil Society Information Service.

“For decades, governments have conflated revolutionary acts with terrorist acts for self-interested reasons. Yet when they themselves engage in acts of violence against civilians, they are usually not held to account for state terrorism. This means that the term is inherently one-sided,” Duncan writes.

The journalism professor at the University of Johannesburg and author of The Rise of the Securocrats: The case of South Africa argues that using the word “terrorism” allows state powers to respond to attacks of any kind – criminal or revolutionary – in the most extreme way. This in turn enables governments to “stifle political dissent” and to expand their military control over more parts of the world.

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These realities have led Arundhati Roy to argue, ‘Anti-terrorism laws are not meant for terrorists; they’re for people that governments don’t like. That’s why they have a conviction rate of less than two percent. They’re just a means of putting inconvenient people away without bail for a long time and eventually letting them go’.

Furthermore, the US government especially has used the term to expand its control over more parts of the globe militarily, while turning its expanded spy machine inwards to control restive populations domestically. Other governments have followed suit. The militarised foreign policies of the five eyes states, that target Muslim populations in the main, have laid the basis for a backlash that they are increasingly unable to control.

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