Security or Safety in Cities? The Threat of Terrorism after 9/11


A great deal is at issue in the handling of the threat of terrorism in the United States today. Restrictions on the use of public space are a direct consequence, at the urban level, of what is happening. But beyond that, and beyond the various abuses of civil liberties and common sense that have been involved in the governmental misuse of the threat after 9/11, the most serious misuse may be the sale of the threat as a threat to existential security instead of as one danger among others to public safety. It has been manipulated for purposes having nothing to do with terrorism. The intended result has been to reinforce the positions of those in power, to displace the insecurity inherent in a capitalist free market system, and to limit further the freedom that is at the heart of the right to the city. The current treatment of public space illustrates the process.