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Nightmarish Visions? Shifting Visual Representations of the ‘Islamic’Terrorist Throughout the ‘War on Terror’

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Chapter Summary

This chapter analyzes the changing nature of the British news media’s visual representations of the figure of the ‘Islamic’ terrorist across the opening stages of the ‘war on terror’ period. Focusing on images emerging between 2001–2005, its central argument rests on the belief that news media visual representations of the ‘Islamic’ terrorist both draw upon and challenge the simplified, Orientalist-inspired modes of representation and depiction that are considered typical of Western news coverage; something that makes the terrorist seen in diverse, yet highly specific ways. Using visual discourse analysis, the chapter identifies three dominant modes of representation – the figure of the bearded, finger-wagging fanatic, the masked, shadowy militant, and the lone, home-grown extremist – which each provide different ways of seeing and speaking about the phenomenon of ‘Islamic’ terrorism. In doing so, the analysis provides insight into the diverse nature of such depictions, and shows how news media visual representations function to both police and proliferate depictions of terrorism, thus making the terrorist simultaneously visible and invisible within British society.



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