The Terrorists Have Won

patriot act by clay bennett


‘…the terrorists have won‘ is a rhetorical phrase which was widely used in the United States in the wake of the September 11 attacks. The phrase takes the form of ‘if we pursue some particular course of action, then, the terrorists have won.’ One of the most famous instances was on November 4, 2001 by Ellen DeGeneres, who was hosting the Emmy Awards, which had been postponed twice that year for worries that a showy celebration would seem inappropriate in the wake of the attacks. To lighten the mood, she quipped: ‘We’re told to go on living our lives as usual, because to do otherwise is to let the terrorists win, and really, what would upset the Taliban more than a gay woman wearing a suit in front of a room full of Jews?’

In December 2001, humorist Steve Symanovich commented on the overuse of the expression, writing in the ‘Washington Business Journal’: ‘In recent months I had heard about any number of things that would allow the terrorists to win. Early on, I learned that if America plays fast and loose with the Bill of Rights, the terrorists will have won. I couldn’t agree more, but that was just the start. Later, I found out that if we stop working/shopping/eating out, the terrorists will have won. I took the message to heart. I’m not opposed to work; I don’t mind shopping; and, although I’m on a diet, I can still eat out and order light. But there was more. Finally, I ran into this headline: ‘If you don’t read this article, the terrorists will have won.”

One Comment to “The Terrorists Have Won”

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