Maureen Duffy, Detention of Terrorism Suspects: Political Discourse and Fragmented Practices

Published date01 September 2020
Date01 September 2020

Anyone who has kept an eye on the significant shifts in political, legal and social discourses on national security since 9/11 has no doubt observed the way in which government leaders and, often, the media have used powerful rhetorical devices to tell the story of terrorism in particular ways. In Detention of Terrorism Suspects: Political Discourse and Fragmented Practices, Maureen Duffy carefully unpacks these rhetorical tools to deliver a clear and concerning account of the campaign to create a story of counter-terrorism that is politically convenient. She demonstrates how this convenient rhetoric often capitalises on the laziness of “cognitive misers” who give little consideration to the meaning behind political word-craft. Using a variety of highly publicised and lesser-known counter-terrorism cases, the volume is brought to life through the humanity of the case-studies. The book's six substantive chapters are divided into two parts; the first part focuses on political discourse while the second offers a meticulous look at how politicised discourse led to the highly fragmented detention practices that exist today.

Duffy's methodology combines the study of law and language with argumentation theory to deconstruct post-9/11 narratives and then “reassemble [the pieces] to suggest new perspectives”, much like a kaleidoscope where “reconfiguration of a picture can come about through such a reconfiguration of the component parts” (46). Chapter one explores how language can be used to “manufacture” certain truths through the use of labels and redefinition. Reflecting on the Omar Mateen case, Duffy's prescient analysis reveals how rhetoric, labelling and redefined terms were used to construct a politically useful argument supporting deviation from traditional concepts of justice and well-established national and international law. This sets the stage for the enduring problems that resulted from this ill-conceived pursuit.

In chapter two, Duffy deploys the commonly used Kafka parable to exemplify the disappearance of the rule of law facilitated by politically manufactured truths. Drawing upon the work of Derrida, Perelman and Obrechts-Tyteca and Alexy, she demonstrates how the layering of different argumentation strategies can be shaped to achieve any imaginable narrative desired, which is largely what states have done in the post-9/11 environment. Once the strategies are shaped, their form is explored. In particular, chapter three charts how terms such as...

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