I have mixed feelings about this book. Because of my love of language, writing, and the study of terrorism, I bought and read this study of these topics. Richard Jackson is clearly correct when he states that there is almost no work being done in this area and he has tackled the issue quite well. The analysis in the book is professional and relatively interesting. However, he inextricably intertwines his study with his rampantly anti-American politics. As I made my way through his work, I found myself writing tons of notes about all the misrepresentations and inaccuracies that I came across, preparing to write a coherent response to his mistaken views about America, American policies, the international situation, and modern terrorism. Eventually, I gave up. Realizing that there would be no point to doing all this work, I simply gritted my teeth and tried to learn what I could from Jackson's book while attempting to ignore his nauseating political ideology.
I will admit, not even grudgingly, that the author is an intelligent academic and fine writer with substantial analytic ability. He has a number of good points and a few reasonable arguments as well. How language has played a role in the political discourse during the early and formative years of the War on Terrorism is, without doubt, a remarkable and essential subject area.
On the flipside, I wish the author had not tailored his arguments to repeatedly defame my nation, its policies, and the overall War on Terrorism. Instances of his anti-American ideology, common in Europe, are RAMPANT. It would be impossible and not worth my time to comprehensively refute each of these irritating assumptions and slanted arguments. A study which simply contained these sentiments would have been acceptable, but I really feel that Jackson allowed these ideas and perceptions to co-opt his analysis, at numerous points, and drive his overall arguments throughout the book. I found this disappointing.
If you hate America, you will obviously have no problem with this work, unless you also hate inaccuracy and incomplete portrayals of past and present events. As stated, there is also some astute analysis, but to realize it you must be able to put up with the author's political biases. I will briefly outline a few examples to illustrate my point:
1) His main thesis: the War on Terrorism is a political discourse constructed through carefully chosen language.
Jackson does not realize that, in fact, a major effort to combat terrorism and protect America was and is DEMANDED by the majority of the public. The War on Terrorism is not simply a deft construction of language used by the neo-con elites to manipulate the masses and pursue violent policies.
2) The characterization of the attacks on September 11, 2001 as an "act of war" was established through carefully selected language and used to justify a military response and normalize the violence resulting from it.
I find it hard to imagine that a professor of international security would not know that Osama bin Laden and his organization openly DECLARED WAR ON AMERICA in a 1996 document entitled, fittingly, "Declaration of War against the Americans Occupying the Land of the Two Holy Places" and again in 1998, for good measure.
3) He also refuses to refer to the War on Terrorism without quotes, ever...
"Quotation marks around the designation 'war on terrorism' have been employed throughout the book to indicate its special and artificial quality; I did not want to contribute to its normalisation by leaving it undistinguished in the text." (Jackson 7)
This is just stupid and petty.
And so is this...
4) He always refers to the events of that day as "the attacks of September 11, 2001," always...
"Such practices [referring to it as September 11 or 9-11] are neither natural or without consequences; rather, the effect is to erase the history and context of the events and turn their representation into a cultural-political icon where the meaning of the date becomes both assumed and open to manipulation." (Jackson 7)
I could go on for a long while with this stuff... but I don't feel like it. You get the idea.
Buy the book, read the book, whatever. I don't care.