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The evolution of threat narratives in the age of terror: understanding terrorist threats in Britain

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This article examines the evolution of threat narratives in the age of terror, focusing on the United Kingdom. The analysis is broken down into two sections. The first part of the article presents four distinct and yet overlapping notions of the threats which have influenced both the West, and more specifically the UK, in debates about counterterrorism since 9/11. The four threat narratives—Al-Qaeda as a central organization; decentralized terror networks; home grown; and finally apocalyptic threats—have all been used to inform counter terror measures in the West. The second section of the article argues that terrorism has evolved strategically, and is hybridized owing to the security environment—interpenetrated by globalization, digital media and information communication technologies—in which it occurs. The article concludes with a preliminary discussion of some strategic and operational themes which have influenced the form and character of terrorism and insurgency, exploring how they impact on the ways in which threats are constituted and countered, illustrating that what is new maybe the nature of our own fears.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: July 1, 2010

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