Fear Itself: Spy Thrillers, Terrorism, and Civil Liberties

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8 Responses

  1. Avatar Don Zeko says:

    The problem with many spy thrillers is that even if they acknowledge or criticize the actions of our Intelligence agencies, they acknowledge the realness of terrorist organizations and extremists

    I would suggest that “hysterically exaggerate” would be more accurate than “acknowledge.” Yes, Islamic terrorist groups exist. Yes, they engage in all sorts of horrific behavior in service of a twisted and despicable ideology. But even if we completely ignore the human rights and interests of the people in foreign countries that so often are written off as collateral damage of our anti-terrorism policies in myriad ways, we as a polity seem to be totally incapable of a rational balance of costs of benefits.

    I don’t encase my car in 10-inch thick armor plate to better protect myself from a potentially deadly auto accident, even though it would undoubtably decrease my risk of death or crippling injury. Why? Because it would be extremely expensive and create various harms to others that would the gains I would make in my personal safety. Why can’t we think about security theater, drone strikes and the like in the same way?Report

    • Avatar Saul DeGraw in reply to Don Zeko says:

      Which is another interesting point about drama, no one would watch a TV show which doesn’t exaggerate the threat of terrorism because it would probably be very boring.

      I think it is the rarity of a plane crash or being the victim of a terrorist attack which makes them more deadly. Car accidents can lead to horrific pain but we think of them as just being part of life for some reason. Terrorism might be rare but when we hear stories about terrorism, there is always something uniquely horrific about them like the recent story about Boko Haram using a ten year old girl as a suicide bomber.

      As for security theatre, my theory is that security theatre is really for the people who fly once or less a year. It puts those people at ease and they fly so infrequently that they can forget about the pains of it, just like they can forget about the pain of flying economy for a cheap seat.Report

  2. Avatar LeeEsq says:

    Liberalish spy thrillers like The Honorable Woman or the Crying Game are intellectual masturbation for the chattering classes. They are clearly aimed at liberalish, upper-class type people that is deeply concerned about a particular issue and how nothing is being done about it. It creates the fantasy that a particular issue, be it Israel/Palestine or the Troubles, is solvable if the right actions take place and in a fun, exciting way. Spy thrillers for other groups like the Jack Ryan books follow different sorts of principles about are still ultimately intellectual masturbation.Report

    • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to LeeEsq says:

      In particular, the Honorable Woman obviously was made to appeal to left-leaning upper middle class people that do not like Israel and everything is Israel’s fault. The politics of it as you point out, make no sense. The Israeli far right is much more loosely organized than Hamas and company. A few loan nuts do commit acts of violence but most of the Israeli far right know better from a strategic point of view. Its hard to believe but they are image conscious. There isn’t an Israeli far right organization that would take credit for an act designed to make Israel look bad.

      Nor does it make sense that the United States would revise its’ position and the Chinese and Russians change their own without any reason to gain besides the fact that viewers are supposed to think that China and Russians are “bad countries” so would naturally protect another “bad country.” The entire thing reeks of an over-active fantasy.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to LeeEsq says:


        Have you seen the show? I did not find it anti-Zionist and it is remarkably fair to the Israelis or equally hard on everyone.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to LeeEsq says:

        I did not but the solution as you describes reads like a fantasy that certain type of people have about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to LeeEsq says:

        This comment openly defies other reporting on the Jews in the Settlements done on this website. All due respect, but I think you’re farther away from the issue than someone who has been on the ground there.

        While I’ll certainly agree that few POLITICAL parties take credit, it’s not hard to tell who throws rocks at your car.

        (Certainly agree about Russia and China “aligning for no other reason than to be bad countries”)Report