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Selling terror: The symbolization and positioning of Jihad

By Nicholas J. O'Shaughnessy and Paul R. Baines

Abstract

Public speculation has turned to how terrorists are made. One increasingly attributed source is propaganda (see Powell, 1967), the `propaganda of the deed' — physical violence — but also the audio-visual. Terrorism is a language of symbolic action: in the choice of the victims, in the choice of terrorist act, the drama created and the various official responses sought. We are in a new era, when the terrorist act does not simply speak for itself via its symbolism, but is amplified through a vast constellation of modern media. We explore the symbolism inherent in the construction of selected Islamist audio-visual propaganda made available on the internet today and seek to access the `meaning' of terrorist visualities through semiotic analysis, particularly using the Positioning Triad (Baines et al., 2008) and the deconstruction technique (Derrida, 1967) to encourage a new thread of political marketing/propaganda research. We conclude that a common theme projected in our sample is that of the West as permanent aggressor, with Muslims depicted as piously aggrieved for the wrongs done unto them

Topics: Positioning, Propaganda, Semiotics, Terrorism
Publisher: SAGE Publications
Year: 2009
DOI identifier: 10.1177/1470593109103069
OAI identifier: oai:dspace.lib.cranfield.ac.uk:1826/4350
Provided by: Cranfield CERES
Journal:

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