An emotional attack: on how a counter-terrorism measure wields emotions for political purposes

Miss Anna Nguyen1
1The University Of Melbourne, Carlton, Australia

Australian counter-terrorism laws and policies have been criticised to abuse civil liberties and covertly expand control.  However, seventeen years since establishment of the first counter-terrorism bill, Australia’s counter-terrorism laws and policies continue to proliferate. In July 2017, the Turnbull Government proposed a most significant reform of Australia’s domestic security arrangements in forty years. Official proclamation of an evolving and complex terrorist threat has trickled to security reforms in state and local governments. In March 2018, the Victoria Government in collaboration with Victoria Police announced the counter-terrorism measure termed the Victoria Fixated Threat Assessment Centre (VFTAC). Official media releases describe the $31.6 million centre to collaborate specialist police with mental health experts to target 300 high-risk persons in the first year and ‘determine appropriate interventions’. The vague and elusive representations of the VFTAC receives no scrutiny and critique from the Australian public. The absence of scrutiny in the represented obscure and potentially pernicious measure suggests an overlooked social phenomenon. The research proposes that public concession to the VFTAC’s representations is symptomatic of a distorted public approach to the government’s use of powers. In reference to social theories, psychoanalysis, social affect theories, the research proposes the VFTAC to demonstrate a phenomenon of counter-terrorism representations wielding collective emotions to bypass public scrutiny. The textual and discourse analyses of the VFTAC’s media releases uncover that the texts provoke fear as the medium to abet love for the state. The finding suggests a wider social phenomenon of the social contract metamorphoses into an emotional contract.


Anna Nguyen: student in Honours of Criminology at the University of Melbourne.


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