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Journal article

The Islamic State’s symbolic war: Da’esh’s socially mediated terrorism as a threat to cultural heritage

27 Dec 2015
Description

Using the Islamic State/Da’esh as a case study, we identify the genesis of a new form of terrorism arising from the convergence of networked social media and changes in the forms of conflict. Socially mediated terrorism is defined as ‘the use of social and networked media to increase the impact of violent acts undertaken to further a social, political and/or religious cause with the aim of creating physical, emotional or psychological suffering that extends beyond the immediate audience’. Our analysis distinguishes three strategies involving cultural heritage. The first is smoke, mirrors and mock destruction, which exaggerates perceptions of power and tests the impact of potential destruction. The second is shock, awe and censure, which uses international outrage to cloak the Islamic State with an aura of invincibility and highlight the impotence of its opponents. The third is financing the Kaliphate, which has transformed the ad hoc looting of archaeological sites into a business model. Iconoclasm has a lengthy history in which cultural icons were destroyed with the primary aim of subjugating local populations/audiences. In contrast, the Islamic State’s promotion of cultural heritage destruction through networked social media is directed simultaneously towards local, regional and international audiences with reactions from one audience used to subdue, embolden or intrigue another. As such, networked social media can be viewed as a fresh—and currently under-rated—threat to cultural heritage in conflict zones. Finally, we draw attention to Robert Bevan’s (2012) notion that crimes against cultural property can provide an early warning of potential genocide.

Publication Details
Identifiers: 
DOI: 
10.1177/1469605315617048
Volume: 
16
Issue: 
2
Publication Place: 
London
Access Rights Type: 
Language: 
Peer Reviewed: 
Yes
Published year only: 
2015
98
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