Simon Cottee

Academic and Author


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...

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.

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.


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