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Moss, D. (2002). Does It Matter What the Terrorists Meant?. Psychoanal. Dial., 12(3):421-431.

(2002). Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 12(3):421-431

Does It Matter What the Terrorists Meant?

Donald Moss, M.D.

The author argues that terrorism aims to obliterate the conditions that allow us to distinguish between situations of safety and situations of danger. If we are unable to make that elemental distinction, we necessarily doubt the value of our own immediate thoughts, perceptions, and ideas. Psychoanalytic theory offers an alternative to immediacy. To think psychoanalytically about an object, one must identify with it. This entails consciously working against the strong appeals of dis-identification. Disidentification is the precondition for pitilessness. As such, it is the precondition for limitless activities directed against the objects of our hatred. It matters what the terrorists meant, then. It matters that we find our way to identifying with what we think they meant. The moment we conclude that it does not matter, we loosen the checks on our own capacities for terrorizing.

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