Real, and threatened, terrorism boosts self-esteem

These polls numbers provide data to back up what historians and social engineers already knew; a 9/11-type attack would rouse patriotic fervor and suppress dissent. It's not evidence 9/11 was allowed or made to happen, but it's evidence that many among the "elite" would have understood the likely effect of a 9/11 would be a license for war and draconian domestic security measures- and that with a few layers of plausible deniability, they could insulate themselves blame and consequences- if there were public and Congressional support for inquiries. FDR and LBJ were given similar license after Pearl Harbor and the Gulf of Tonkin, and "mainstream" criticism doesn't address FDR's plan to provoke the Japanese, or US foreknowledge of the attack plans (Stinnett), or that the Gulf of Tonkin 2nd incident never happened (NSA docs).
Real, and threatened, terrorism boosts self-esteem
by: Chris Bowers
Mon Apr 13, 2009 at 14:36

Back in June of 2001, the NBC / Wall Street Journal poll found that 43% of the country thought the nation was moving in the right direction, while 39% believed we were on the wrong track. In mid-September of 2001, the same NBC / Wall Street Journal poll found that 72% of the populace thought the country was moving in the right direction, and only 11% thought we were on the wrong track.
Similar shifts can be found in the Pew poll, which moved from 12% righttrack / wrong track one week before 9/11 to +23% in the week after 9/11. In the LA Times / Bloomberg poll, there was a shift from +1 to +32%. According to Gallup, the shift was from -12% to +25%. Across the board, polls demonstrate that immediately after the devastating, murderous terrorist attacks of 9/11, which not only killed thousands of Americans but also plunged the country into a recession, the country shifted strongly to the "right direction" camp.
The important lesson here is that, rather than having a demoralizing impact or fear-inducing effect, real and threatened terrorism actually boosts self-esteem. There is even psychological research demonstrating this now (more in the extended entry):

Chris Bowers :: Real, and threatened, terrorism boosts self-esteem

Terrorists seek to subdue and coerce their targets, but ironically they may end up doing just the opposite. That's the implication of new research by Inbal Gurari and colleagues, who've shown that thinking about terrorism enhances people's self-esteem, as measured by an implicit test.(...)
The findings are consistent with "terror-management theory", which is the idea that reminders of our mortality leads us to seek comfort by boosting our self-esteem and seeking meaning in the world. The findings also match the way populations have been seen to respond after real-life terrorist attacks. For example, after 9/11 the American flag was flown, religious attendance rocketed and government approval ratings soared.

Progressives have often accused conservatives of playing on the politics of fear by over-emphasizing threats of terrorism. Given this research, this seems to be a misunderstanding of what conservatives actually accomplish with such hyperbole. Rather than scaring people, the over-emphasis actually aims to increase the general population's sense of value in belonging to the "American" identity group. It is actually a form of flag-waving, and what I like to call "glorifying the identity group," not fear-mongering.
It is highly likely that this weekend's Navy SEAL operation against the Somali pirates will have a similar, if much smaller, effect. Some Americans probably felt an increased sense of threat because of the hostage situation involving an American. Among those Americans, this threat, along with the successful military treatment of the threat, will jointly boost a sense of value in belonging to the larger identity group. Incidents like these will always up poll numbers.
Further, this information indicates that the impact of civilian deaths in countries like Iraq and Afghanistan will almost certainly be increased resistance to American military presence in those areas. The killing of civilians, whether through "shock and awe" or drone attacks, will almost certainly have a similar effect on the local populations as 9/11 and the Somali pirate incident had on America. Iraqis and Afghanis will feel a greater sense of pride in being connected to a local identity group that is threatened in such a way, and more vehement insurgent resistance will probably follow. As such, if we are looking to reduce insurgent violence in those countries, our best bet is to probably reduce the perceived threat of violence our military presence creates. The simplest way to do this is probably to withdraw, or to at least put an end to collective punishment tactics such as the drone bombers. That the United States intends to increase the number of drone attacks in Pakistan doesn't bode well for our anti-insurgency efforts in the region.

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Used to be called

"circling the wagons," I think.

the same result

interesting point; by trumpeting "terrorists!" and uniting masses of "left" and "right" against a common enemy, they are in effect "circling the wagons". I haven't looked into it; perhaps the threat of "Indian raids" was used to "denounce the pacifists for exposing the country to danger" and suppress dissent and public attention on crimes of the state.

Appropo quotes from a recent English essay, that are evidence "elites" understand how this works, and exploit it (i had to cut some of them due to length- this is a good place to use them):

Nazi leader Hermann Goering commented on this phenomenon; “Naturally the common people don't want war; neither in Russia, nor in England, nor in America, nor in Germany. That is understood. But after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.” (Goering)

On CBS News, September 11, 2001, while playing video of the collapse of World Trade Center 7 (a 47 story steel-framed skyscraper that completely collapsed at 5:20 pm ON 9/11), Dan Rather commented that it was “reminiscent of… when a building was deliberately destroyed by well-placed dynamite to knock it down.” (Rather 2001) Rather, who has produced numerous reports critical of U.S. corporate and political figures, didn’t bring up the strange collapse of WTC 7 again- but in an interview with BBC Newsnight in 2002, he said “…in some ways the fear is that you will be necklaced here [in the U.S.], you will have a flaming tire of lack of patriotism put around your neck. Now it is that fear that keeps journalists from asking the toughest of the tough questions, and to continue to bore in on the tough questions so often. And again, I am humbled to say, I do not except myself from this criticism." (Rather 2002)

Jimmy Carter’s National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, boasted in a 1998 interview with French media about how he, Carter and the CIA had helped to bring down the Soviet Empire by aiding the Mujahedeen and drawing the Soviets into Afghanistan to fight them; “Regret what? That secret operation was an excellent idea. It had the effect of drawing the Russians into the Afghan trap and you want me to regret it?...What is most important to the history of the world? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire? Some stirred-up Moslems or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the cold war?” (Le Nouvel) Brzezinski, commenting in his book “The Grand Chessboard” on the American People’s reluctance to engage in foreign conflicts and adventures, regardless of their strategic or material importance, that, "The attitude of the American public toward the external projection of American power has been much more ambivalent. The public supported America's engagement in World War II largely because of the shock effect of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.” (Brzezinski 24-5)

The Commission Report makes no mention of the Project for a New American Century (PNAC), whose members included Bush Administration members who had long advocated and worked to establish U.S. global dominance and unchecked Executive power; Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Scooter Libby and Paul Wolfowitz. (Ahmed 343-345, Scott 183-187) PNAC’s 2000 Report, “Rebuilding America’s Defenses” called for U.S. global military dominance and massive increases in military spending. The report stated “While the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification, the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein.” (Donnelly 14) The report also noted that public support for their vision would be difficult to galvanize, “absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event – like a new Pearl Harbor.” (51)

Brzezinski, Zbigniew. The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and Its Geostrategic Imperatives. New York, NY: Basic Books, 1998.

Donnelly, Thomas, et al. “Rebuilding America’s Defenses”. The Project for the New American Century. September, 2000.

Le Nouvel Observateur (France). Interview. “Zbigniew Brzezinski: How Jimmy Carter and I Started the Mujahideen”. 15-21 January, 1998, p. 76. Trans. William Blum. Rpt. in Counterpunch. 26 Feb. 2009. <>

Rather, Dan. News report. CBS News. 11 September. 2001.

Rather, Dan. Interview. BBC Newsnight. 16 May. 2002.