Picture Policy

Propaganda and imagery have always been integral to terrorism. Their production by al-Qaida and Da’esh in the last four years has achieved a competitive quality and displays bewildering resilience to counter terrorist measures. The digital media made available to audiences globally exhibits a new dimension of immediacy of crime and ostentation. Following the searing images of the collapsing Twin Towers, videos of trials, beheadings, fighting and destruction have borrowed formats from video games and documentary films. The execution of people and the destruction of cultural places have been used to produce a self-righteous culture of annihilation. While conventional video games make use of historic events as a source of entertainment, terrorists’ videos can successfully claim the indivisibility of their acts of annihilation and their ownership of the imagery and ideology of this history - not unlike ancient Assyrian historiography. The failure of anti-terror propaganda such as the U.S. State Department’s video “Welcome to ISIS Land” begs the question of how foreign cultural policy can meaningfully respond to negative heritage of ideology and imagery of terrorism.

Christian Christensen, Nadia Oweidat and Rüdiger Lohlker

Thursday, March 17, 6:30 pm

Destruction as Image-Act - Remapping History
New York University, 1307 L St. NW, Washington, DC 20005 (Metro: McPherson Square)

Pornographic Iconoclasm in Terrorist Propaganda: Islamic State Cinema and Audience Reactions
Although it may appear tacky and repulsive to viewers outside its Islamist audience, the Islamic State’s propaganda is extremely sophisticated, and is unparalleled by counter-extremist propaganda.
Article by Dr. Samuel Andrew Hardy, Honorary Research Associate, University College of London Institute of Archaeology

From 9/11 to the most treasured temple in Palmyra, Islamist destruction reminds us that we have objects and values we hold as untouchable and inviolable. It also makes us question whether we have a strategy to save them.

Article by Ben O'Loughlin, Professor of International Relations at Royal Holloway, University of London

Terrorist Imagery Meets the Marketplace of Ideas

There is a bitter irony to be found in the spread of terrorist imagery. In order for politically motivated acts of violence to have the desired effect, maximum exposure is needed. In other words, mainstream media exposure.
Article by Christian Christensen, Professor of Journalism in the Department of Media Studies at Stockholm University.

Charlotte Klonk, courtesy author

The terror attack on New York’s World Trade Center on the morning of 9/11 is doubtless one of the most memorable historical disasters in contemporary history. Yet in terms of the images it generated, the assault was hardly unprecedented. The spectacular pictures that were released on the day and in the aftermath of the event are misleading in this...