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 Marxist who recognised evil

Norman Geras, who died 10 years ago today, was an unusual figure on the Western Left: he was a Marxist who steadfastly and unequivocally opposed militant Islamism and jihadi terrorism. As a free-thinking political theorist, he was as strident in his opposition to the abuses of Western imperial power as he was in his support for individual human rights, especially free speech. But he was also a formidable critic of the worst tendencies of his own side, often making him a pariah in that quarter.

Incels are the new jihadis

It is hard to know exactly when it happened, but, at some point over the last three years, the word “jihad” vanished from the news. Did anyone notice? There was a time, not so long ago, when jihadists seemed to be everywhere, seizing territory abroad and sowing terror at home. We were even on first-name terms with them: “Jihadi John”, “Jihadi Jane”, “Jihadi Jack”.

America needs to calm down

Wherever you look someone is sounding the alarm about how America has been taken over by evil extremists and is going to hell in a handbasket. This sort of talk used to be confined to the fringes: you’d actually have to go looking for it in some ramshackle bookstore or on a street corner patrolled by a badly-dressed proselytiser. Now, the merchant of doom comes to you in the guise of an attention-seeking journalist, credentialed expert or pampered politician.

What progressive extremism experts get wrong

In 2017, when Maajid Nawaz appeared on Bill Maher’s Real Time, he openly discussed his past membership of Hizb ut-Tahrir, a group that calls for the restoration of the Islamic caliphate. Back then, he enjoyed some renown as a “counter-terrorism expert”. Today, he enjoys a different kind of renown as a purveyor of dangerous truths or falsehoods, depending on your perspective.

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

It'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?

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.


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