Security or Safety in Cities? The Threat of Terrorism after 9/11

Marcuse, P.

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MARCUSE, P. (1). Security or Safety in Cities? The Threat of Terrorism after 9/11. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 30(4), 919–929.

A great deal is at issue in the handling of the threat of terrorism in the United States today. Restrictions on the use of public space are a direct consequence, at the urban level, of what is happening. But beyond that, and beyond the various abuses of civil liberties and common sense that have been involved in the governmental misuse of the threat after 9/11, the most serious misuse may be the sale of the threat as a threat to existential security instead of as one danger among others to public safety. It has been manipulated for purposes having nothing to do with terrorism. The intended result has been to reinforce the positions of those in power, to displace the insecurity inherent in a capitalist free market system, and to limit further the freedom that is at the heart of the right to the city. The current treatment of public space illustrates the process.

Main finding
The author makes several findings related to the manipulation of terrorism threats and the blurred distinction between security (perceived protection from a threat) and safety (actual protection). He argues that false and manipulated threats to the country’s security produced patterns in the United States’ public spaces such that any potential increase in safety is met by an increase in the users’ insecurity and uses for democracy and political actions are greatly limited. As was the case with protesting during the Republican National Convention, the city of New York limited and controlled marches, and prevented rallies (where they had been previously) in the name of security. Furthermore, the author claims that false responses to terrorism create an existential insecurity that displaces actual insecurities systemic to our modern, capitalism economy (i.e. fears of unemployment, lack of healthcare, etc.) - thus the Right to the City and access to public space fall victim.

Description of method used in the article
The author doesn’t imply any specific research methods in this article but does express points of view and presents arguments based on observations of the post-9/11 political climate, documented actions undertaken by authorities in the name of safety and security and in response to self-expression and protest, and insights from relevant literature.

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