Thursday, February 16, 2006

Adams: Terrorism and Language

Lorraine Adams discusses the effectiveness of nonfiction books on terrorism in a 2002 Washington Monthly article by, "Terrorism and Language". Here's a taste,

The professor teaching Western Terrorism Literature 1970-2002 might open with the observation that the works of the period have their roots in The Hardy Boys adventure stories--The Sinister Signpost, The Secret Warning, While the Clock Ticked, Mystery of the Desert Giant. A common leitmotif: Only real men are capable of saving an affluent, soft society from foreign predation and apocalypse. The period's overarching theme: Terrorists are bad.

Hiding truth under abstraction was the bad writing of Orwell's day. In our day, Bergen, Emerson, Dershowitz, and Pipes hide truth under entertainment. Their books use hackneyed plotlines, stock characters, and omission of inconvenient facts. They replace the blunt actuality of terrorism with the reassuring thematics of the adventure tale, the spy thriller, the cloak-and-dagger story, even Perry Mason. Their books exhibit the symptoms that Orwell deplored--"staleness of imagery" and "lack of precision.

On the other hand, here's a recent review of a book she likes.

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