Simon Cottee

Academic and Author

The Western Jihadi Subculture and Subterranean Values

This article draws on the criminological work of Gresham Sykes and David Matza as a starting point for theorizing the nature and appeal of the western jihadi subculture, defined here as a hybrid and heavily digitized global imaginary that extols and justifies violent jihad as a way of life and being. It suggests that at the centre of this subculture are three focal concerns: (1) Violence and Machismo; (2) Death and Martyrdom; and (3) Disdain of the Dunya. More critically, it argues that these three focal concerns have immediate counterparts in the shadow values of the wider society with which western jihadists are in contention. This argument has important implications for debates over radicalization and the attractions of jihadist activism.

ISIS and the Fish and Chip-Loving Jihadists

The litany of excuses given by captured western ISIS members is, by now, all-too familiar. I was tricked into going. I was just a cook. I was brainwashed. I didn't know what ISIS was. I went there by accident. I was drugged. I went to help.

28th Jan 2019

A Flawed European Ruling on Free Speech

According to dominant Islamic traditions, the Prophet Muhammad’s third wife Aisha was six years old at their marriage and nine at its consummation. Muslims, as Graeme Wood has pointed out, have debated the issue of Aisha’s age for a very long time, and critics of Islam seemingly can’t keep off the subject.

Can Facebook Really Drive Violence?

Facebook representatives have been hauled before Congress three times in the past year—including testimony this week from Sheryl Sandberg—to answer uncomfortable questions about technology’s role in the spread of misinformation and its threat to U.S. democracy. But those questions aren’t the extent of the company’s public-relations problems.

Inside Europol's Online War Against ISIS

In January I travelled to Europol's heavily fortified HQ in The Hague to interview members of the EU's Internet Referral Unit (IRU), an innocuous-sounding name for a group that spends most of its time trawling the internet for beheadings, bomb-making manuals, hysterical incitements and all the rest of it.

10th Apr 2018

Watching ISIS: How Young Adults Engage with Official English-Language ISIS Videos

Research on jihadist online propaganda (JOP) tends to focus on the production, content, and dissemination of jihadist online messages. Correspondingly, the target of JOP—that is, the audience—has thus far attracted little scholarly attention. This article seeks to redress this neglect by focusing on how audiences respond to jihadist online messaging. It presents the findings of an online pilot survey testing audience responses to clips from English-language Islamic State of Iraq and Syria videos. The survey was beset at every stage by ethical, legal, and practical restrictions, and we discuss how these compromised our results and what this means for those attempting to do research in this highly sensitive area.

The 'Softer' Side of Jihadists

“Yes,” wrote Elie Wiesel, “it is possible to defile life and creation and feel no remorse. To tend one’s garden and water one’s flowers but two steps away from barbed wire. … To go on vacation, be enthralled by the beauty of a landscape, make children laugh—and still fulfill regularly, day in and day out, the duties of [a] killer.”

The myth of the ISIS Patsy

When ISIS announced the formation of the so-called caliphate in June 2014, the group’s contingent of foreign recruits could barely contain their excitement, rushing to social media to celebrate the passing of this historic moment. And in the frenzied and bloody months which followed many of them defended and glorified ISIS’s most heinous actions and practices, including sexual enslavement and staged mass beheadings, in brazen tweet after tweet.

Why Do We Want to Watch Gory Jihadist Propaganda Videos?

What does prolonged exposure to jihadist online propaganda do to us?
One popular answer, especially among politicians, is that it radicalizes our thoughts and transforms us into terrorists.
A more nuanced answer, put forward by terrorism scholars, is that while sustained exposure to extremist online material is not in itself a sufficient cause of radicalization, it can reinforce existing assumptions and beliefs that are already tending toward the extreme.

The Myth of the ISIS Female Suicide Bomber

In the historical pantheon of societal folk devils, few figures are as rivetingly transgressive as the ISIS female suicide bomber. Burqaed and belted-up to the nines, she is the ultimate Other, transgressing not only civilizational prohibitions against murder and suicide, but also deeply ingrained assumptions about what it means to be a woman in patriarchal societies where women are accorded lesser status.

Pages

Subscribe to Front page feed