The Portrayal and Punishment of Terrorists in Western Media

Playing the Villain

  • Christiana Spens

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-vii
  2. Christiana Spens
    Pages 1-35
  3. Christiana Spens
    Pages 65-117
  4. Christiana Spens
    Pages 119-164
  5. Christiana Spens
    Pages 165-218
  6. Christiana Spens
    Pages 219-230
  7. Back Matter
    Pages 231-253

About this book


This book explores how terrorists have been portrayed in the Western media, and the wider ideological and social functions of those representations. Developing a theory of scapegoating related to narrative closure, as well as an integrated, genealogical method of intervisuality, the book proposes a new way of thinking about how political images achieve power and influence the public. By connecting modern portrayals of terrorists (post-9/11) with historical and fictional images of villains from Western cultural history, the book argues that the portrayal and punishment of terrorists in the Western media implicitly perpetuates neo-Orientalist attitudes. It also explains that by repeating these narrative patterns through a ritual of scapegoating, Western media coverage of terrorists partakes in a social process that uses punishment, dehumanization and colonialist ideas to purge the iconic ‘villain’, so as to build national unity and sustain hegemonic power following crisis.

Christiana Spens is the author of Shooting Hipsters: Rethinking Dissent for the Age of PR, and writes for Prospect, Art Quarterly, Studio International and The New Strategist on politics, art and visual culture. She is also a founder and director of Truth Tellers, a research centre focused on art, trauma and international relations.


critical terrorism studies cultural sociology aesthetics terrorism visuality scapegoating ritual catharsis narrative closure Girard intervisuality genealogy representation terrorists post-colonialism witches lynching Osama bin Laden Boston bombers Saddam Hussein

Authors and affiliations

  • Christiana Spens
    • 1
  1. 1.School of International RelationsUniversity of St AndrewsSt AndrewsUK

Bibliographic information

  • DOI
  • Copyright Information The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG, part of Springer Nature 2019
  • Publisher Name Palgrave Macmillan, Cham
  • eBook Packages Political Science and International Studies
  • Print ISBN 978-3-030-04881-5
  • Online ISBN 978-3-030-04882-2
  • Buy this book on publisher's site