Terror does not need permission. Terror is an agent-less entity that creeps into symbols and language, birthing a vocabulary and discourse that we fearfully consume. It encodes onto unsuspecting faces, facialising them, and holds them and the people they terrorise in siege. Terror is not you or me, but it is between us. Terror sometimes turns us against each other, but for the most part it leaves us in isolation. We are fearful and alone. We are fearfully alone. Terror is its own self-generating machine, you and I encouraged it, but now it has become so much larger than us. Terror isn’t tomorrow or yesterday, terror is now. And it is terrorising the masses.
We have attempted to provoke you to think more seriously about what the term ‘terrorist’ means. What does it mean to be terrorised and to terrorise? And who are the masses? These are binary terms (terrorist and terrorised) – you have to be on one side or the other. Yet paradoxically, those who are considered terrorists are also the terrorised.
Historically, the words terrorist and freedom fighter have been synonymous, referring to the IRA, Angela Davis, Gandhi, Malcolm X, Assata Shakur, Nelson Mandela. The state targets these individuals and groups. They become the subjects of terror. And the state propagates and manipulates the threat of terror, depending on time and context, to delegitimise those who they perceive as posing a threat to their control of power.
What have we achieved by unpacking this phrase ‘terrorising the masses’? How can we subvert our expectations of what it means to be a terrorist and what it means to be terrorised? How can we reconstruct these words?