Watching Murder shines a light onto the dark world of jihadi murder videos and the people who watch and share them on the internet.
Images and videos of murder, torture and other cruelties are everywhere on the internet. Why do some people seek out and watch this material, how are they affected by it and do they have a right to watch any of it in the first place? In this ground-breaking book, terrorism scholar Simon Cottee visits the murky fringes of the internet in search of answers. Focusing on ISIS, he shows how the group transformed the urban myth of the snuff movie into a grim reality watched by tens of thousands of people across the globe. On shock-sites, he finds a contingent of ISIS fans who, while hating the group, love to watch its most monstrous depredations in high definition. He interviews his fellow extremism researchers and asks them about all the dark things they have seen online and how this has affected their mental health. He speaks with the "cleaners" whose job is to report and remove violent jihadi propaganda from the internet. And he surveys thousands of young adults to find out what they think of ISIS and its notorious beheading videos. Cottee exposes the hysteria around online radicalization, and shows how our engagement with violent online spectacles is much more complex and multifaceted than many would have us believe.
Watching Murder will appeal to anyone with an interest in violence, media, terrorism and ISIS. It will be of particular interest to students and scholars of terrorism studies, political science, culture and communication.
Table of Contents
1. Why We Watch
2. Horror and Hysteria
3. Curators and Enthusiasts
4. Documenters and Cleaners
6. The Poltergeist Theory of Terrorism
Simon Cottee is a senior lecturer in criminology at the University of Kent (UK), a contributing writer at The Atlantic and a contributing editor at Studies in Conflict & Terrorism. He is the author of Black Flags of the Caribbean: How Trinidad Became an ISIS Hotspot (2021); ISIS and the Pornography of Violence, (2019) and The Apostates: When Muslims Leave Islam (2015).
"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, Author of 'Terror in the Name of God'