Reign of Terror: How the 9/11 Era Destabilized America and Produced Trump

Viking. Aug. 2021. 448p. ISBN 9781984879776. $30. POL SCI
National-security reporter Ackerman delivers a tour de force about the transformation of the United States in the two decades since the September 11 attacks, that thoroughly and comprehensively examines how the post-9/11 security state has engulfed society. Measures that are supposed to give a feeling of security have instead created an unnerving apparatus that destabilizes societal norms, Ackerman contends, pointing to a few key moments in early 21st-century history, including the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, the Iraq War (2003–11), and the killing of Osama Bin Laden in 2011. What Ackerman does best is explaining how political discourse fed into keeping the security state colossally unchecked, with no defined end point. Both liberals and conservatives receive blame here, especially in Ackerman’s discussion of the war on terror. He concludes that the monstrous security state has turned in on itself with the rise of nativist violence, militarized policing, and fractured governance.
VERDICT An essential work that encapsulates the trajectory of American politics in the first two decades of the 21st century, and the lasting impact on everyday life.
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