Personal views from University of Bath researchers on the news of the day

The battle of values and narrative - Tunisian attacks and IS

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📥  Public Policy

The UK Prime Minister today described Islamic State (IS) as ‘an existential threat’ to the Western World and the fight against them the ‘struggle of our generation.’ Here, Professor Bill Durodié, Chair of International Relations within the Department of Politics, Languages & International Studies, responds.

Professor Bill Durodie responds to today's speech by Prime Minister, David Cameron (Image by Number 10, CC-BY-SA-ND)

Professor Durodié's research and expertise focuses on risk, resilience, radicalisation and the politics of fear. Here he responds to David Cameron speech following Friday's attacks in Tunisia (Image by Number 10, CC-BY-SA-ND).

'In the aftermath of the attacks in Tunisia last week, UK Prime Minister David Cameron has presented the challenge posed by IS as a generational struggle, likening it to the fight against communism.

'He may be right to propose 'a battle of our values and our narrative against their values and their narrative', but, in the 15 years since 9/11 the emphasis has always been on the latter rather than the former.

'Successive British governments have found it particularly hard to identify and define their values and narrative, preferring to take these as assumed rather than engaging and inspiring others through a clear articulation of them.

'A former head of the British Secret Intelligence Service (MI6), Sir Richard Dearlove, was also on the record recently suggesting that part of the problem was in fact a loss of proportionality with respect to the Cold War which, at its peak, never engaged so-many resources as we see now in relation to the war on terror. That too may indicate how it is easier to state what we are against rather than arguing and acting in support of what we are for as a nation.'

- Professor Bill Durodié

Professor Durodié has highlighted the absence of a domestic narrative in the war on terror for over a decade. For more see http://www.debatingmatters.com/globaluncertainties/opinion/a_narrative_of_our_own/.

5 Responses to “The battle of values and narrative - Tunisian attacks and IS”

  1. Kan Zhao on

    Dear editor,
    I'm a international student who has just started my English course here in the University for 3 months. My question is what is the meaning of "narrative"? From my knowledge, "narrative" may refer to the way you tell stories. However, here it means something else(something about British Value?)
    I am looking forward to seeing your reply.
    Best wishes
    Kan Zhao

    • Walter Guy on

      A representation of a particular situation or process in such a way as to reflect or conform to an overarching set of aims or values

    • Bill Durodie on

      In this context, narrative means to have a story that we tell ourselves about who we are.

      Individuals, groups and even nations benefit from having a narrative as it provides a guide as to who they are, where they have come from and where they are going.

      Of course, these narratives are contested by other social actors too.

  2. Nick on

    Professor Bill Durodié uses the example of an interview after the attack in Mumbai. The terrorists were asked what were their demands, to which they had no response. The professor draws the conclusion that this means it is terrorism for terrors sake. Unfortunately this is not correct. The reason there are no demands is because they don't want anything from us, they simply want western Civilization, and all us gone. It's surprising he can't see this. He says talking about us and 'them' is unhelpful. He may think so, but it is entirely accurate.

    • Bill Durodie on

      Wanting 'western Civilisation, and all us gone' is hardly a plausible or mature project of course. It could only manifest itself as terrorism for terrors sake. Where your analysis breaks down even more though is in the use of an 'us' and 'them' framework. There are plenty in the West ('us') who also seem to reject 'western' Civilisation. In that regards the 'them' reflect 'us' to a considerable degree in having no purpose for the future of society or humanity.


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