Comparative analysis across nations of post-terrorist political discourses

If terrorism equals to a certain extent to publicity –as we are going to shortly explore-, then the State’s response and its political discourse become paramount. Especially in the aftermath of a terrorist attack, Political leaders and policymakers are faced with major dilemmas. First, they must reassure the nation by asserting the conviction that the government has tamed the situation (“everything is under control”), arrests will be made, and the perpetrators will not go unpunished. Yet, in addition to facing inevitable criticism, leaders must opt for which kind of rhetoric and course of action their administration intends to carry out. Exceedingly confrontational or conciliatory tones will alienate different segments of society, while radicalizing others. Similarly, abrupt changes in security policies will lure critics of the police state, while inaction could leave the population traumatized. Finally, politicians’ and community leaders’ reactions to terrorist attacks, at times, allow to gain or lose votes, win or lose elections.

Given such ruminations, we invite students to carry out a comparative analysis of how politicians in different countries (any country is welcome, the more nations the better) publicly responded to acts of terrorism on their nation's soil. Students should analyze their rhetoric (hardline vs. conciliatory), promises and goals, following-up actions (arrests, military action, increased security, legislation, international cooperation), and, if possible, their approval rating/general opinion of the population about them given their interests at stake. This is to offer a comparative analysis of how leaders might respond to terrorism.

In addition to the information on how to write policy papers, here are a few suggestions on what to focus in this scenario:

  1. Definition: Rhetoric / Terrorism
  2. Background: Brief history of terrorism in the country in question and an anatomy of the political party and leader in office at the time of the attack
  3. Organization’s main interest/objective: depending on the selected role, identify your organization’s main objective
  4. Pre-existing policies: what has been done to address how politicians respond to terrorist attacks? Does the country or the political party already have a pre-determined policy? How did the politicians respond to the attack?

 ©Michele Groppi, all rights reserved.