Sense and Sensibility About Terrorism:

David E. Alexander, University of Florence


This paper discusses four themes: the importance of the terrorism threat relative to other forms of crisis and disaster; paradoxes and possible distortions in how it is perceived and managed; the use of fear and aggrandisement to exaggerate the threat; and the probable impact of the ceaseless application of surveillance technology. It is argued that the magnitude of the terrorism threat is difficult to assess in realistic terms, but the importance attributed to it may have a significant impact on the resources devoted to combating other forms of disaster. The remilitarisation of emergency management is discussed in relation to the needs of civilian populations and the long rise of non-military forms of command and control. Weaknesses are identified in the prevailing strategy to encourage the strong development of surveillance technology and other counter-terrorism measures. Finally, the article offers a generalised prescription for sustainability in emergency management.


Civil protection, Civil defence, Emergency management, Emergency planning, Surveillance, Sustainability, Terrorism

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