Bad Guy(s): An interdisciplinary analysis of governance of terrorism
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This thesis is about the way government deals with uncertainty. Using counterterrorism legislature and terrorism organisations as a case study, I argue that governments’ actions in counterterrorism policy reflect certain human flaws – notably a tendency to overreact and simplify. Individuals and organisations alike continue to commit terrorist attacks because these acts are an effective tactic. Both individuals and organisations can gain from horrific acts of terrorism. Individual attackers may gain renown, a chance for revenge, a social circle, or a feeling of belonging from their membership of a terrorist organisation. Terrorist organisations, meanwhile, draw attention to themselves and their cause, and can sustain themselves more easily. Consequently, terrorist organisations can function quite rationally with respect to their goals, while governments – in contrast – do not. When faced with uncertainty or risk, like one is when responding to a terrorist attack, human beings do not reason carefully first, and then choose the options that are best for them on paper. Rather, we use heuristics and biases that may be inaccurate, but that are easily and readily available to us and that we can use automatically. In this thesis, I analyse how these biases are in turn reflected in government agencies. Resultingly, counterterrorism legislature has fatal, predictable flaws that can be (and are) exploited. I conclude this thesis by presenting three potential avenues to combat this: imposing a mandatory break between events and related policy, technocracy, and forms of citizen government.