Geoffrey Nunberg observes that “terror is still more amorphous and elastic” than terrorism, evoking “both the actions of terrorists and the fear they are trying to engender.” The sheer fact that this word means “fear” means that the “war on terror” slogan can claim rich and multiple genealogies and echoes. Freud calls panic (Panik) the “collective fear” (Massenangst) that accompanies the disintegration of a group when its leader, its common ego ideal, is shattered. Panic not only demonstrates the contagiousness of emotion in a group setting but also what one might call emotion's impersonality. The “war on terror” names a frantic desire to curtail the exposure to futurity that makes us the mortal beings we are.
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