Simon Cottee

Academic and Author

“Easily the most original book on the ISIS phenomenon to date. A riveting detective story with deep insights on human behavior, this is social science at its best.”
Thomas Hegghammer, author of The Caravan: Abdallah Azzam and the Rise of Global Jihad
"Cottee's book offers us new and original insights into the surprisingly understudied world of Trinidadian ISIS members. With such a relatively high proportion of its population joining ISIS, Trinidad offers a useful case study in better understanding the global reach of the movement. Cottee takes on the challenge of analysing this with passion and an eye for detail."
Alexander Meleagrou-Hitchens, KCL, UK
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Black Flags of the Caribbean

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.

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.

Can ex-militants, and their redemption stories, stop anyone from joining Islamic State?

It seems like common sense — enlist disillusioned extremists as credible voices against terrorism and put them to work persuading others to rethink their flirtation with political violence.
Richard Barrett, a former counter-terrorism chief in Britain, told the Guardian: “Many of the people who have been most successful in undermining the terrorist narrative are themselves ex-extremists.” And in a recent report summarizing the stories of 58 Islamic State defectors, scholar Peter Neumann concluded that their narratives “can be important in helping to prevent young people from being radicalized and recruited.”

The Islamic State’s Shock-and-Bore Terrorism

“It was the advent of the second plane, sharking in low over the Statue of Liberty”, wrote the novelist Martin Amis. “That was the defining moment.” He was referring to United Airlines Flight 175: the second plane that smashed into the South Tower of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. “That second plane looked eagerly alive, and galvanised with malice, and wholly alien,” Amis ruminated, adding:. “For those thousands in the south tower, the second plane meant the end of everything. For us, its glint was the worldflash of a coming future.”

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