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.

ISIS and the Intimate Kill

It isn’t all shock and gore. Sometimes, it’s mock and bore. Consider the video that ISIS released a few weeks ago of the British hostage John Cantlie “reporting” from the besieged town of Kobani on the Syrian-Turkish border. The video’s theme is the unreliability of Western media coverage of the conflict in Syria and Iraq, expressed in a tone of mocking contempt. The larger theme is the invincibility of ISIS and the duplicity and weakness of the West. The video opens with some striking aerial footage of war-ravaged Kobani, filmed from a drone. But it’s a big yawn thereafter.

Is ISIS Funny?

ISIS is a disgrace. In recent months, it has slaughtered hundreds of defenseless Iraqi soldiers and Shiite civilians, gunning them into trenches. It has raped and enslaved hundreds of women. It has brutalized children by forcing them to watch scenes of horrific cruelty and violence. It has presided over public crucifixions in its stronghold of Raqqa, Syria. And, of course, it has staged the executions of James Foley, Steven Sotloff, David Haines, and Alan Henning.
But is ISIS also funny? Or, rather, can it be made funny? The Lebanese satirist Karl Sharro evidently thinks so.

Beheading People Made the Islamic State

The beheading of western civilians is the cocaine of global jihadi warfare. It doesn't just inflict death and terror on its victims; it radiates a God-like potency and fanaticism, which excites and galvanises not only the jihadis who stage it but also the "wannabes" outside their ranks who are awed by the spectacle of jihadi bloodletting.

Islamic State’s willing executioners

We knew it was coming, because the masked killer in the David Haines beheading video, released three weeks ago by Islamic State, warned us that it would be. But it is still profoundly shocking. We know the purported rationale. “We take this opportunity to warn those governments that enter this evil alliance of America against the Islamic State to back off and leave our people alone,” declares the killer in the Steven Sotloff video. But a rationale doesn’t kill. A human being does, often in concert with other human beings.

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.”

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.

Pages

Subscribe to Front page feed