Simon Cottee

Academic and Author

Sex and Shame: What Incels and Jihadists Have in Common

As an instrument for delivering publicity, terrorism clearly works. Or at least it did last week, when the hitherto obscure term “incel” went viral after Alek Minassian drove a truck into a crowd of pedestrians in downtown Toronto. Mr. Minassian, just before carrying out his attack, wrote a post on Facebook in which he proclaimed the arrival of an “incel rebellion.” Standing for “involuntarily celibate,” the term is used as a badge of honor among a fringe online subculture of misogynists who say they hate women for depriving them of sex. So now we know.

The Pornography of Jihadism

In his 2008 book Blood and Rage: A Cultural History of Terrorism, the historian Michael Burleigh observes in passing that jihadist martyrdom videos have a similar structure to porn movies.

Islamic State's badass path to paradise

In his 1988 book “Seductions of Crime,” UCLA sociologist Jack Katz devotes an entire chapter to what he calls the “ways of the badass.” “In many youthful circles,” he writes, “to be ‘bad,' to be a ‘badass' or otherwise overtly to embrace symbols of deviance is regarded as a good thing.”

The Apostate

A young Muslim leaves Pakistan for Britain, discovers the wonders of science and rejects his faith. On September 11, he posts a final picture on Facebook and takes his own life

Terrorist (E)motives: The existential attractions of terrorism

This article describes a number of possible existential motivations for engaging in terrorism. Three in particular are identified: (1) the desire for excitement, (2) the desire for ultimate meaning, and (3) the desire for glory. Terrorism, according to the argument set out here, is as much a site of individual self-drama and self-reinvention as a tactical instrument for pursuing the political goals of small groups. The conclusion explores the concept of “existential frustration,” and suggests that terrorist activity may provide an outlet for basic existential desires that cannot find expression through legitimate channels.

Fear, boredom, and joy: Sebastian Junger’s piercing phenomenology of war

This article explores the emotional attractions of war and military combat. Using Sebastian Junger's recently published book War as a central point of reference, it elucidates and supports the idea that, for combatants, war is often experienced as a profoundly exciting and existentially rewarding human activity. By bringing into focus and helping to conceptualize the raw appeal of combat, Junger's account of war can be enlisted as a resource for understanding the positive emotional drives behind acts of terrorism.

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