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Flexible “smart power” may now be preferred to the “War on Terror” in official rhetoric, as a new generation of politicians has succeeded Bush and Blair. Yet, as we write, troop withdrawals in Iraq are being balanced by a surge in Afghanistan and unmanned drones continue to wreak havoc in northwestern Pakistan, killing civilians as well as Taliban insurgents. Therefore, while the language may have softened and become more accommodating, the global project it serves continues unabated. The persistence—indeed reinvigoration—of colonial ways of looking thus sends us back to examine the means by which such structures of representation are created and circulated to take account of this double bind within which Muslims find themselves framed and already read.

They can be used to invoke at a stroke a range of attributes that, while foggy in themselves, are nevertheless felt to carry the warm glow of cultural familiarity. So, at the same time that “Islam” and “Muslim” are narrowed to mean all that is threatening and foreign, “American,” “British,” and “Western” swell to operate as what semiotics would term “floating signifiers”: words that have no single agreed-on definition and therefore can mean whatever their interpreters wish them to mean. The point is, of course, that such distinctions are always highly ideological and never a natural outgrowth or inherent in the dictionary definitions of such words.

Nonetheless, as a straightforward manifestation of the highly ideological notion that there is indeed a “War on Terror” in a meaningful sense, that we are all part of it, and that we must all choose our side, Islamic Rage Boy, in his various disposable, manipulated guises, will serve just as well as the more craftsmanlike productions of Ben Shahn, Philip Zec, or Reginald Mount. In the field of postcolonial studies, the most immediately familiar paradigm for understanding the stereotype is probably that constructed by Homi K.

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[Magazine] PC World. Special Bonus Collection. Vol. 5: Power Guide to Reliable Hardware


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