Simon Cottee

Academic and Author

Watching Murder: ISIS, Death Videos and Radicalization

“Watching Murder fills a conspicuous gap in the literature by providing an authoritative dissection of one of the more prominent—and chilling—features of contemporary terrorism: so-called jihadi snuff videos. Cottee brings his usual perspicacity, verve, and clarity to explain how ISIS harnessed social media to manipulate global opinion and communicate a carefully constructed image of the group designed simultaneously to repel and appeal to its multiple target audiences.”

Professor Bruce Hoffman, Georgetown University and author of Inside Terrorism

"In this book, Simon Cottee interrogates himself, and his readers, about why some people find terrorist atrocity films both repulsive and irresistible. These films often contain important information for counterterrorism, but not all of us are willing to risk PTSD in order to decode them. As we have come to expect of Cottee, he is perpetually, provocatively sceptical of any and all received wisdom. Lushly written and researched."

Professor Jessica Stern, Boston University and author of Terror in the Name of God Buy Watching Murder at Amazon

The men who watch gore porn

In his review of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, a spectacularly violent horror film that set the stage for the even more spectacularly violent slasher films of the Eighties, David J. Hogan described it, approvingly, in this way...

We need to talk about Salvador Ramos

t's been over a week now since Salvador Ramos burst in to an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas and fatally shot 19 children and two teachers. Still a question remains: why did he do it?
One answer is that he was evil: evil people do evil things. Another is that he was crazy: crazy people do crazy things. And yet another is that he was made to do bad things because of all the bad things that had happened to him: Ramos reportedly had a childhood speech impediment and was subjected to bullying because of this.

Are Mass Shooters Really Radicalized Online? My Research Says No

There is a demand for crazy on the internet that we need to grapple with," former President Barack Obama said in April at an event on disinformation hosted by the University of Chicago's Institute of Politics and The Atlantic. He could not have known that Payton Gendron, who says he became a racist online, would brutally murder 10 people at a supermarket in Buffalo in a racially motivated mass shooting just one month later, making the task of grappling with the dark side of the internet even more urgent.

The Guardian is wrong: jihadis are still the biggest terrorism threat

Earlier this week, the Guardian ran a report on the government’s counter-terrorism programme, the Prevent strategy, titled “Anti-terrorism programme must keep focus on far right, say experts”. It was based on experts’ concern over the anticipated direction of the strategy review, which, according to leaked documents, reportedly recommends “a crackdown on Islamist extremism rather than the threat of the far right”.

Beware the terrorism ‘experts’

Among those who make it their business to study and to write about terrorism, there is a palpable sense of exhilaration when some group or individual carries out an act of terrorism. None of them, of course, would admit to harbouring any such emotion: it would look cruel and callous. But it’s hard to avoid the suspicion that, for many professional terrorism observers, terrorism, at some deep level, is what they really want to happen. Of course they do: if terrorism stopped, they’d be out of business.

Norway doesn’t understand evil

Anders Breivik is a monster who deserves a slow and painful death. But Norwegian criminal justice is far too humane to grant this most inhumane of killers that kind of punitive treatment: Breivik, who murdered 77 people in a far-Right terrorist atrocity in 2011, resides in a three-room suite that includes a treadmill, a refrigerator, a television with a DVD player, a Sony PlayStation, and a desk with a type-writer.

Police campaign paints terrorists as victims

Counter-terrorism policy in the UK has taken a rather strange turn. Earlier this week, the Twitter account of Counter Terrorism Policing UK put out a tweet containing an 18-second animated-video titled “John’s Story”:

The liberal fantasy of the Capitol coup

When, after 9/11, the neocons agitated for regime change in the Middle East, they believed that history was on their side: so they conjured up the existential threat of weapons of mass destruction, just in case history had other ideas. More than a decade later, this tactic has found favour with a wholly different tribe: America’s liberal establishment.

The hypocrisy of America’s terror debate

What is terrorism? And who is a terrorist? Two recent attacks in America — one carried out by a 39-year-old black man and another by a 15-year-old white teen — sharply illustrate just how polarised and confused the country is over these two seemingly straightforward questions.

Our ritual response to Islamist terror

Our responses to terrorist incidents have a ritual quality — they serve what sociologists call a “sense-making” purpose.
One ritualised way of responding to an atrocity is to blame and punish the terrorist’s family and the wider community to which he belongs. We wisely try to avoid this — as well as being counter to our belief in individual responsibility, punitive revenge is usually counterproductive.

Incel (E)motives: Resentment, Shame and Revenge

This article provides a framework for thinking about incels and incel-inspired terrorism. Incels are part of a fringe online subculture that trades in misogyny, victimhood and fatalism. The aim of the article is to describe these aforementioned orientations and the emotions associated with them. Only a tiny minority of incels commit acts of incel-inspired terrorism. Research on shame and revenge provides a useful starting-point for understanding these acts.

The theatre of terror

Perhaps it is shameful to admit it, but when 9/11 happened I felt a keen desire to watch the carnage. I was working as a labourer at the time and had knocked off early after hearing the news on the radio. I sat in front of the television and didn’t move from my father’s tobacco-stained living room until early evening.

Massacre made-to-order

Was Jake Davison’s rampage in Plymouth really, as one article described it, “Britain’s first ‘incel’ mass shooting”? This isn’t an academic question: while Devon and Cornwall Police initially ruled out terrorism as a motive, it has recently signalled that it may revise this, as more details emerge about the killer’s links to the incel subculture


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