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Balancing Fear: Why Counter-Terror Legislation was Blocked after the Oklahoma City and London Bombings
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Authors: Rubin, Gabriel.
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0%
5%
10%
15%
20%
25%
30%
35%
40%
deport
detain
both
neither
UK Extra Police Powers Post July 7, 2005
An alternate explanation for the blocked legislation may be that fear levels did not
rise after the attacks. After all, many pundits pointed to the famed “stiff upper lip” of
Londoners and their stoic, balanced response to terrorism
. Yet, mass fear levels in
Britain did rise in the United Kingdom did rise after the London bombings by 20
percentage points
. Though fear levels receded precipitously within a year of the attacks,
this drawdown of fear levels is a common occurrence. Mass fear levels after terror
attacks occur generally spike, then recede. Therefore, Britons responded rather typically
to this terror attack
37
Philip Gordon describes Great Britain’s typical response to terror as a “model” for restrained societal
reactions to terrorism in Gordon, Philip H. “Can the War on Terror be Won?; How to Fight the Right War,”
Foreign Affairs, 86:6 (Nov./Dec. 2007).
38
This data was compiled from polls from three different agencies on the likelihood of terror attacks
occurring in Great Britain. These polls included a February 2004 Harris poll which asked Britons: “How
likely do you think it is that there will be a major terrorist attack in this country in the next twelve
months?”; three MORI polls taken between early July and late September 2005 which asked: “How likely
do you think it is that London will experience another terrorist attack in the near future?”; and an
ICM/Guardian poll taken in June 2006 which asked respondents about the likelihood that the UK will
suffer another terrorist attack in the next 12 months at the hands of Muslim extremists.
39
Here the public’s perceptions of the likelihood of a major terror attack occurring in the near future are
used as a proxy for mass fear levels. In this study, data on public perceptions of the likelihood of terror
attacks occurring and of becoming victims of terror attacks are compiled and used as proxies of what I call
“mass fear levels.” The logic behind this methodology is that the salience of terror attacks in people’s
minds is an important component of the fear terrorists seek to inflict upon democratic publics. When
people feel safe, they believe that the likelihood of attacks is low. When people fear something, they
exaggerate its likelihood for more on this argument see chapter 2.
17


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