Defining Terrorist: Images of war and the mediated hero and villain

In “Terrorist transgressions: exploring the gendered representations of the terrorist,” Sue Malvern and Gabriel Koureas, try to analyze the myths inscribed in terrorist representations. First, the authors write about war imagery, but most importantly, the image of America in people’s minds as they continuously engage in Middle East invasions. As a response to the failure of the 2003 Iraq invasion, where the US failed to secure stability of the region—and not only that—but were also exposed for the abuses they carried out at the Abu Ghraib prison. In order to gather public support, the US had to project a more humanitarian image of US interventions.

Malvern and Koureas then try to define terrorist, and they say that, “the terrorist has been constructed as the epitome of transgression against economic resources and moral, physical and political boundaries.” Therefore, the image of the terrorist is vital in the events that are to come after the transgression. The terrorist can either be seen as a martyr, a hero, or an avenger. I had never thought about the different shapes that terrorism could take and this has to do with the images, myths, and stereotypes that we are conditioned to assume. I think that when something good comes out of it, then the person is seen as a martyr, but when something bad comes out of it, than the person is seen as terrorist. For example, I’m thinking of Mohamed Bouazizi, the Tunisian street vendor, who set himself on fire and initiated many of the protests that occurred during the Arab Spring—as an attempt for political and social justice. But then you have people, who also believe in things as much as he did, but transgress by causing harm to innocent people and that is a more plausible reason to consider them terrorists.

Looking at war retrospectively, it often seems easy to define who the “good” guys are and who the “bad” guys are. But with today’s technologies and our abilities to share news so quickly, I think it has become easier to learn and understand both sides of an argument and that makes it difficult to gather support for political fights between governments and transgressors.  I think that images and the way people are represented is key in spreading an ideology and people are relying on media more and more today to achieve this.

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One thought on “Defining Terrorist: Images of war and the mediated hero and villain

  1. The discussion of terrorist representations also interested me, as it surprised me while I was researching that there were actually a lot of positive representations of Muslims and Arabs in the media after 9/11. I was expecting the majority of film and television to portray them stereotypically and as “the other,” but a lot of the time they were shown as being model citizens. I think this was definitely a tactic employed by the U.S. to seem like a benevolent nation and distract from the racist policies and the things going on in Iraq.

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