Category Archives: Paranoia

Japanese Internment & Policing of Middle Eastern Bodies

For my RBA, I plan to research parallels between Japanese internment in response to Pearl Harbor and the policing of Middle Eastern bodies after 9/11 to show that containment culture and the marginalization of races is been embedded in American history. Due to extreme paranoia, the races held responsible for Pearl Harbor and 9/11 soon became seen as the “enemy,” and the military swept up innocent people and forced them into detention facilities in order to increase national security. However, as I will prove in my RBA, containment has only exposed America to racism, xenophobia, and animosity, leading America to be less safe. Below depicts the possible structure for my RBA:



My research topic

For my RBA, I will be exploring how islamophobia is a new form of McCarthyism, as the discrimination against Muslims and Arabs and the divergence in culture and ideology that emerged after 9/11 is reminiscent of the Red Scare. I will connect this to the overarching idea that a New Cold War has emerged, this time opposing terrorism and Western civilizations. Here is my road map:

Islamophobia as a new type of McCarthyism

          After 9/11, the rising intolerance towards Muslim communities and the clash between different types of faith are examples of scapegoating that illustrate the reminiscence of Cold War ideologies and McCarthyism. This topic is relevant since Islamophobia has become a bigger issue today, after the terrorist attacks around the world.

          Authors I have read so far explain the scapegoating of Muslims, and the discrimination that the government makes in anti-terrorists programs. Most of the sources explore the exclusion of Muslim communities and the denial of their civil and religious rights. Scholars show this denial of rights through discriminatory arrest programs FBI-led. For instance, the PENTTBOM (Pentagon Twin Towers Bombings) or the PATRIOT Act allowed the FBI to conduct arrests based on the origin and appearance of a given “suspect.” Moreover, these sources show the “us” versus “them” mentality of the post 9/11 American public, and more importantly the rise in paranoia and fear of Muslims as potential terrorists. Indeed, after 9/11, public issues regarding religious freedom arose, such as the controversy about the Burqa or the Burkini this summer in France. The population, seeing in these sign of Islam a terrorist threat, fears an aggression by “infiltrated enemy combatants.”

          Throughout my research, I intend to talk about what these trends have become today, after the different terrorists attacks around the world and the War in Syria. More importantly, I intend to compare Islamophobia and McCarthyism, as both movement have similar traits, and it seems like some officials and personalities are trying to gain influence and audience inducing a fear of Muslims.



Thomas, Jeffrey L. Scapegoating Islam: Intolerance, Security, and the American Muslim. , 2015. Print. Chapter 2: “9/11 and the New Homeland Security paradigm”

Cesari, Jocelyne. Muslims in the West After 9/11: Religion, Politics, and Law. London: Routledge, 2010. Print. (Chapter 8 and 9)

Tamney, Joseph B. American Views of Islam, Post 9/11. Islamabad, Pakistan: Islamic Research Institute, International Islamic University, 2004. Print. (pages 1-19)

Cold War and StarTrek

One of the episodes that Sarantakes describes in his essay entitled, “Cold War Pop Culture and the Image of US Foreign Policy” tackles the issues of American intervention. In the episode, which is called “Errand of Mery” tensions between the Klingons on the Federation are rising fast. The Federation learns about a possible Klingon attack on an agrarian planet called Organia and sends the Starship Enterprise to warn the people. After the attack, Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock of the Federation are trapped on the planet and become prisoners of the Klingons. However, they are both freed because the Organians use secret powers to force an end to the fight. This episode it supposed to mirror the idea of proxy wars that were fought between the Soviet Union and the United States in other seemingly passive countries. Additionally, Coon makes a point in this episode to demonstrate that larger world powers should not intervene with the development of less advanced societies. His beliefs were “anti-colonial” and, contrary to US foreign policy, he thought that, “there were limits to power, even American power.”

Science Fiction and Fantasy are often genres that are easily molded into political messages. When you create completely abnormal habitats and species, like in Star Trek, it allows the viewer to see their own world though a completely different lens. Additionally, when challenging cultural or political norms it is easy to turn to a completely new world to avoid backlash from those who don’t share your opinion because the world you’ve created in completely unique. Lastly, this genre allows you to exaggerate much more easily because their are no confines as to what is normal is this new world. In someways Science Fiction and Fantasy are similar to satire because they both allow a writer or directer to step outside the confines of what is “normal,” while still addressing mainstream problems.

I don’t watch a lot of science fiction or fantasy movies, so I can’t think of one that knowingly critiques society. However, there is a particularly relevant film called, “Dr. Strangelove,” which could be classified as a mixed of satire and Science Fictions. The film premiered in the mid-60s and is an apocalyptic movie about the atomic bomb.  The entire film satirizes the Cold War by focussing on the idea of mutual destruction. The underlying message is almost a warning that one crazy person can destroy the entire world because of the incredible power of nuclear weapons.

“Threatened from above and within”

“Central cities, for many commentators, were spaces of blight, repositories of extreme cultures, classes and races, threatened from above and within” (Farish 141).

In Matthew Farish’s essay “Disaster and decentralization: American cities and the Cold War,” he points at many reasons for turmoil, instability, and degradation of American cities during the Cold War era. In the quote above, he highlights this overall concept of these cities being “threatened from above and within”; in his essay, he touches on threats from “above” being things like atomic bombs from foreign powers and threats from “within” being social instability and racial unrest. He uses this quote as a means to juxtapose and streamline many components of American cities that led to them being threatened; for example, he highlights their “central” nature as a means for foreign targeting, while also highlighting the “cultures, classes and races” of American cities that lead to turmoil within them. The fact that he places this sentence in the conclusion effectively allows him to resummarize and emphasize his argument after proving its many components.

Images of Hiroshima created the notion that a similar atrocity or destruction could happen to any American, centralized city; these images later carried over into works of Cold War pop culture that depicted cities like New York as constant targets and oftentimes as ruins caused by nuclear fallout. The image of the Twin Towers falling on 9/11 garners a similar reaction as that of the atomic bomb’s destruction on Hiroshima. This imagery lends the idea that any terrorist attack could hit a major American city, and average Americans became increasingly paranoid as a result. This possibility of terror and destruction also has carried over into pop culture as it did during the Cold War era, as many recent American films have detailed terrorists destroying or targeting American cities and plotting to kidnap or harm important American figures.

The Creation of Suburbia

“It was these suburban ‘citadels’ that infiltrated the discourse of Cold War geopolitics: they were the quintessential sites of American life, the spaces where history was being actively rewritten. Suburbs embodied order, safety and a deeply gendered consumerism that ‘became as solid a pillar of the United States version of cold war culture as did its re-masculinized military’.” (18)

In “Disaster and Decentralization: American Cities and the Cold War,” Matthew Farish describes how American society, especially urban life, was shaped in the Cold War due to the fear of a nuclear threat. During an era when paranoia and fear were pervasive, the home was created as a “bastion of safety.” However, within an urban context, homes were not safe. Americans had seen the destruction caused to Hiroshima and Nagasaki and were worried that New York, or any American city, would be next. Even though the metropolis had long been a symbol of American power and capitalism, the fear and anxiety caused by the nuclear threat were more important to American society. This fear led to mass decentralization, a project advocated for by many of the leading voices on the subject at the time.  In this quote, Farish demonstrates how “suburbs embodied safety” and were “citadels.” The feeling of safety that suburbs created was a necessity in an era where everything felt unsafe.

The image of a post-nuclear bomb Hiroshima created a fear in Americans that their cities would be next. This fear had profound effects and led to mass decentralization and the creation of “suburbia” in Cold War America. This fear was recreated after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The image of the twin towers falling was spread wide and far and is still a common image today. This image drew Americans together as it caused a feeling of horror, but also of patriotism. 9/11 was used to rationalize the War on Terror and the War on Iraq because Americans felt solidarity in the wake of the attacks. The incessant use of this image after 9/11 renewed the anxiety of Cold War America. Americans were afraid of being attacked and of their city looking like New York in those images. New York is such a symbol of American capitalism and world prowess that the image of the twin towers falling was devastating. This feeling of devastation and horror for the lives lost brought Americans together and allowed for the conflation with the War on Terror and the War in Iraq.


Urban Destruction Then and Now: Implications of the Cold War Nuclear Scare and Modern Terrorism

The Cold War was perhaps the most frightening period in American history. Each new day, as millions of Americans set out to reap the benefits of American freedom and prosperity, presented a chance of complete devastation from a nuclear attack. The most significant factor fostering such widespread national fear was the mere inability of knowing when that day would come. Matthew Farnish discusses the implications of this Cold War national mindset in his essay “Disaster and Decentralization: American Cities and the Cold War.” Farnish emphasizes the central realization of American weakness by paraphrasing Bernard Brodie’s beliefs: “The atomic bomb…radically altered the ‘significance of distance between rival powers’, raising ‘to the first order of importance as a factor of power the precise spatial arrangement of industry and population within each country.'” In other words, the centralized and highly populous American cities prevalent during the Cold War were “inviting targets” for a nuclear strike, meaning spatial separation of the population and industry was crucial for survivability after such a strike. If America were to maintain a superior position amidst a nuclear war, it would have to decentralize and disperse its urban centers. Farnish reflects that  various forms of media, through dramatization of nuclear attacks on cities like New York and Washington, fueled the paranoia and facilitated a natural migration from cities to suburbs. Naturally, he claims, suburbs allowed a more natural and secure life, free from the dangers of nuclear devastation. However, Farnish labels cities as both “threatened from above and within,” highlighting that social tension in urban areas likely would hinder efforts of post-attack reconstruction involving different interest groups, such as blacks and whites. The vulnerability of the city as a populated nuclear target and disorganized system elevated decentralization as a key factor of the Cold War civil defense program in maintaining American strength.

Throughout his essay, Farnish also describes the haunting images of Hiroshima and Nagasaki post-nuclear detonation. These images, making their way into the American public, stimulated media responses of images of New York and other profound American cities devastated by nuclear attack that incited fear and anxiety among Americans. Similarly, the image of the Twin Towers burning and falling after the 9/11 attack is etched into the minds of all Americans: an image reminiscent of Cold War fears of atomic attack on a city center. The main difference in this imagery is that an atomic attack never occurred on American soil whereas 9/11 was a reality: American cities truly are vulnerable to fatal attacks. Today, Americans are weary of tall buildings, and we even plan our new skyscrapers with structural supports designed to withstand a plane crash. We are also hesitant, especially in my case, to insert ourselves into large crowds or urban centers in fear of a terrorist attack. This paranoia is supported by the reality of terrorism and illustrated by the burning twin towers, much like the reality of a nuclear attack in the Cold War.

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Cities Under Attack: The Cold War Fear of Urbanization

When people think of the Cold War, the image at the forefront of their minds is often the nuclear bomb. That is because this time period was defined by the possession of nuclear power, along with the fear that America might be attacked. People were deeply worried that America’s large and bustling cities would be the first victims, as Farish notes in “Disaster and decentralization: American cities and the Cold War.”  He states that “a city was, as Bernard Brodie put it, ‘a made-to- order target, and the degree of urbanization of a country furnishes a rough index of its relative vulnerability to the atomic bomb.’” This quote speaks to the rest of Farish’s study, in which he observes cities, with their concentrated populations and hubs of activity, were particularly susceptible to nuclear attack because hitting a city would cause maximum damage. This, then, is part of the reason so many people sought refuge in the suburbs; the quiet inconspicuousness of suburban life made one far less likely to be attacked.

Farish also describes the sensationalization of the bombing of Hiroshima and how that might take place in the United States in the media: the city is booming in one moment, completely demolished in the next. The ruin described in these accounts came to fruition in a sense when the attacks of 9/11 sent New York City, a symbol of capitalism and economic success in America, into a state of devastation and disarray. Though New York was not destroyed by nuclear power, its situation as a highly populated city meant that thousands of lives were either lost or grievously affected, and severe damage occurred due to the assault.

After 9/11 and into today, the media often focuses on the imagery of the Twin Towers falling in discussion of the disaster. Having visited the 9/11 Memorial Museum this summer, I can confirm that these images stir up deep fear and distress, even for those who did not personally witness the event. These disturbing images reignite the Cold War fear of the urban lifestyle; I even found myself thinking that living in my small, suburban hometown of Bakersfield, California, makes me less of a target than someone in an immense, well-known urban city like New York. The recurrence of these images lends itself to the kind of dramatization of further demolition of other large, urban areas that was seen during the Cold War. People are once again imagining the suburbs as an escape from the vulnerability of the city.

“Anxious Urbanism” in Cold War America”

In his “Disaster and Decentralization: American Cities and the Cold War,” Matthew Farish defines the notion of “anxious urbanism.” According to him, urban decline and suburbanization in the Cold War-era were a consequence of the fear and panic caused by the risk of impending nuclear disaster. Thus, spatial containment served as means to neutralize both the threat and the fear of the atomic bomb.

In particular, Farish references the “suburban nuclear family” as the “locus of normality – and thus of the burgeoning civil defence programme.” He relates this to the processes of urban decline by stating that “the comforting base of the family was paralleled, at larger scales, by urban and national imaginaries.” Indeed, both the ideal of the nuclear family and that of the suburban household were associated with the notion of security: they were constructed as a ‘bastion’ to shut out the threats of the ‘Other’ and of the ‘city,’ two uncontainable and thus suspicious entities. Therefore, both ideals were considered as central to the American life, regardless of personal circumstance (Farish names them “universalizing constructions”). Their purpose was to contain and neutralize the fear of the possible nuclear threat through the illusion of safety and control.

This fear of impending threats, typical of the Cold War, has gained relevance in contemporary popular media. In many ways, the paranoia and panic produced by the imagery of Hiroshima and Nagasaki during the Cold War is echoed by images of the falling Twin Towers today. While both evoke possible disaster scenarios, the imagery of the Twin Towers is arguably more powerful, since New York is a city central to the American identity. Thus, the narrative of the threat becomes more familiar and more relevant to other American cities.



Succumbing to the Nuclear Gaze: A Picture of Paranoia in Cities

Analyzing the movement toward decentralization from urban center-points following the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, Matthew Farish attempts to organize how exactly the perception of cities was altered in favor of the suburban ideal. When he speaks of how there was a growing trend of magazines and experts encouraging a particular “imagination of disaster” (133)among the American populace, a crucial point resonates that helps readers gain insight into the American mindset during this time of fear. Going to the core of the matter, “what made such scenarios [of atomic damage] so chilling to American readers was not necessarily the gruesome description of the bomb’s victims…but rather the location of the destruction, in the middle of a crowded city that was the cultural capital of the ‘final undamaged citadel of western civilization’ “(132). The possibility that such a devastating weapon of mass destruction could very well be unleashed on the American city, the epitome of capitalism and consumerism, quickly fueled the Cold War paranoia and uncertainty that had already been settling over Americans.Essentially, there was a general appeal to logos made to American citizens, who were then led to believe through the imposition of scientific principles on urban restructuring by experts that creating spatial distance was the best means of protection against the bomb. This fear of cities that was bred during the atomic ended up dovetailing with the prevalent culture of containment–a climate in which Americans tried distancing themselves from the “excesses” of the city as a result of their newly established “nuclear gaze” (Nadel) that led them to try to separate the dangerous from the non-dangerous.


Paralleling the burgeoning fear and paranoia brought about by the detonation of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki was the climate produced by the integration of imagery of the destruction of the Twin Towers.This constant rhetoric of terror and danger had a lasting psychological impact on Americans during this post 9/11 era. Perhaps most significantly, this rhetoric created an avenue that tapped into the human sentiments of intolerance and suspicion. Instead of pushing towards suburbanization like during post-WWII though, these emotions heightened the need for increased security measures. In the midst of this, surveillance of Americans increased as well in the apparent efforts to emerge victorious in the War on Terror.