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This article is taken from PN Review 184, Volume 35 Number 2, November - December 2008.

Terror and its Audience Frederic Raphael


In his straight-faced essay On Murder Considered as One of the Fine Arts, Thomas de Quincey affected to reproduce a lecture to a body of 'amateurs and dilettanti in the various modes of carnage... in short Murder-Fanciers. Every fresh atrocity of that class... they meet and criticize as they would a picture, statue, or other work of art'. We can still smile at the image of Samuel Taylor Coleridge (deemed 'too fat to be a person of active virtue [but] undoubtedly a worthy Christian') rushing out to observe a fire in an Oxford Street pianoforte-maker's, and of his returning disappointed by the quenching arrival of fire engines: 'He had left his tea. Was he to have nothing in return?' Fast forward to 11 September 2001: how many people received a telephone call from someone who said, 'Turn on the television', and so consented to rush in and see, as unscheduled but unmissable viewing, what some men and women underwent as the victims of terror and others relished as vengeful pleasure? Vengeance for what and what kind of pleasure? Is it only terrorists and those whom they affect to champion who rejoice when 'Westerners' are roasted or blown to pieces? As for Americans...

In Terror and Consent (a wilful conjunction of chalk and cheese), Philip Bobbitt alerts us to a Michael Ignatieff article of 2004, 'The Terrorist as Auteur'. It quotes Peter Bardazzi, ...

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