The Viral Mediation of Terror: ISIS, Image, Implosion

Operations involving the capture, processing, and transmission of terrorist events, campaigns, or images produce effects well beyond the representational/informational functions of media. This article examines several unspoken effects involved in the mediation of terrorism. We analyze the extent to which several mechanisms and operations of western media may be complicit in, if not fundamental to, the global production and administration of terror, particularly at the level of its image and what we call virality. We theorize the ways in which media not only “mediate” terror, but also function to regulate and/or administer it and, in particular, to exacerbate, amplify, and proliferate images and activities of Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) across global networks of digital exchange. We argue that key to understanding the strategies and circulating effects of ISIS’s media involvement is the tendency of viral media operations to overproduce, overextend, and oversaturate. The condition of oversaturation denotes a hyperactive global media circuitry that is collapsing under its own weight. This condition reflects a strategic tendency of terror, which underlies all mediatic processing of images deployed by ISIS. It also reveals a vulnerability for terrorist strategy to exacerbate and exhaust the hyperactivity of media, and thus to accelerate the implosive collapse of the globally networked system. We theorize how implicit and unintended effects or outputs of the mediatic processing of terrorist meanings, images, and discourses may work to overstimulate the global system to the point of its reversal, exhaustion, or implosion.

Tags: ISIS, Social Media, Violent Jihadism