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Terrorism, Interest-Group Politics, and Public Policy Curtailing Criminal Modes of Political Speech

By Roger D. Congleton


Terrorist incidents have occurred in the United States and around the world for centuries. Tax revolters, anarchists, war protesters, and other critics of government policy have often used violence to send messages to the policymakers controlling the issues of interest. The attacks of September 11, 2001, for example, have been widely interpreted as a comment on U.S. policy toward the Islamic world, especially U.S. policy in the Middle East. Indeed, terrorist attacks might be defined as violence for the purpose of sending a political message with the aim of influencing policy or at least of voicing disapproval. In this sense, terrorism is one possible method of “political dialogue.” Even when political analysts do not share the goals of terrorist groups, they may defend the use of violence as a method of sending messages because of the political nature of the message sent. After all, political messages and popular protests receive special protection in all liberal democracies, and civil disobedience has often generated improvements in government policies. The conjunction of the “political message” explanation of terrorist actions and a “free speech ” justification of those actions clearly resonates with some proponents of popular resistance, but it is nonetheless a bit puzzling for most proponents of free speech. Those who advocate the former explanation might argue that the United States brought the recen

Year: 2010
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