The journal Critical Studies in Media and Communication has published a new article by Ben O'Loughlin, Deflating the iconoclash: shifting the focus from Islamic State’s iconoclasm to its realpolitik. This is part of a special issue, ISIS beyond the spectacle: communication media, networked publics, terrorism, edited by Mehdi Semati and Piotr M. Szpunar featuring an impressive range of contributors including Barbie Zelizer, Lilie Chouliaraki and Charlie Winters. Please find an abstract of Ben's paper below.
This article explores the tension between religious and political motivations in the strategy of Islamic State. It develops the Arendtian model of politics as a space of appearance through the work of Silverstone, Devji and Cavarero to consider how Islamic State exhibits itself in this space using religious modalities. This space is conceptualized as a global media ecology. Whilst no political actor can control how it is recognized within that ecology, religious and even ethical modalities grant Islamic State a compelling attention-grabbing and persuasive capacity. However, greater exposure of its pragmatic, realpolitik behavior might deflate that identity. The second half of the article sets out several examples of such behavior. The article concludes by suggesting that icons are something all societies live with but the news media that constitute the global space of appearance remain transfixed by iconic acts or icon-smashing. This leaves publics-cum-audiences adrift, uncertain and anxious about the nature, actions and threat of Islamic State.