Beyond Fear

By: Alex Hobson  

The emotions involved in terrorism and counterterrorism are often deeper, more contradictory, and more multivalent than the instrumental spread of fear and terror. Yet there remains little in depth study of the range of emotions at work in the history of terrorism and counterterrorism and their performance through symbolic violence, discourse, and media representation. This paper takes as its starting point the premise that acts of terrorism represent efforts to perform particular emotions and simultaneously to produce emotional responses in various audiences. At the same time, however, often those perpetrating terrorism and the audiences they address have little control over the emotional content, let alone the political consequences that flow from these acts. This paper reviews the emotional aspects of Osama bin Laden’s jihad between 1996 and 2001 through an examination of the performances that constituted that jihad, including violence, speeches, interviews, and other media events. The paper argues the underlying emotions and subliminal messages at work on all sides in this history were more important to the course of events than any straightforward instrumentalism.

Media Cultures
Paper Presentation in a Themed Session

Alex Hobson

Post-Doctoral Fellow , History , Northwestern University , United States
United States