Discourses of democracy in the aftermath of 9/11 and other events: Protectivism versus humanitarianism

Document Type

Journal Article


Taylor and Francis


Faculty of Community Services, Education and Social Sciences


School of Communications and Arts / Centre for Research in Entertainment, Arts,Technology, Education and Communications




This article was originally published as: Mummery, J., & Rodan, D. (2003). Discourses of democracy in the aftermath of 9/11 and other events: Protectivism versus humanitarianism. Continuum, 17(4), 433-443. Original available here


In responding to the events of 11 September 2001—the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington—George W. Bush announced to the world that democracy itself was under attack, and that such an attack1 represented a threat to democracy. Such an interpretation of these events, along with portraying Western democracy as a victim in need of protection and as ‘good’—and establishing thereby the moral high ground—also represented one of the main discourses in which the Tampa refugees were discussed in Australia, and has continued to be a prominent discourse in public discussion within Australia about the War on Terror, the Bali Bombings and both refugees and detention centres. Drawing on a detailed analysis of letters to the editor published in The Australian in the aftermath of 9/11, this paper seeks to show not only that discussion of the events of 2001 and 2002 has tended to coalesce around two apparently irreconcilable discourses—that of the aforementioned desire to protect democracy or ‘our way of life’ versus that expressive of a kind of ‘globalized humanitarianism’—but that these discourses are indeed not so much irreconcilable but share a common ground along with common stakes and ends.




Link to publisher version (DOI)