From Risk to Terror: Islamist Conspiracies and the Paradoxes of Post-9/11 Government
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AbstractDiscourses of Islamist terrorism deployed as part of the War on Terror have fed into a host of conspiracy theories imagining Islam as a system of total government. But even before 9/11, mainstream political discourses reflected similar suspicions. Beginning in the 1980s, concerns about the political establishment were expressed from within government itself in the idea of a government that governs “too much.” In this article, I suggest that the proliferation of Islamist conspiracies after 9/11 reflects this mode of government. To develop this argument, I begin by linking discourses about terrorism produced as part of the War on Terror to conspiracy theories linking terror and Islam to notions of total power in the state. I then suggest that Islamist conspiracies draw on the epistemologies of uncertainty produced by the state in order to transform what is unknown or “risky” into un/certain objects of knowledge and truth. This transformation takes place through their location in the space of the sacred-in the soul of Islam. I illustrate these parallels through a comparative analysis of official policies and discourses of terrorism and conspiracy culture, with a focus on the Center for Security Policy website and Glenn Beck’s It Is About Islam: Exposing the Truth About ISIS, Al Qaeda, Iran and the Caliphate, where discourse about terror is used to signify the (hidden) truth of Islam.