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Pre-mediating guilt: radicalisation and mediality in British news


Critical Studies on TerrorismJournal abstract

This article offers an account to terrorism and security studies of radicalisation as a discursive phenomenon delivered and constructed by news media. In our mediatised lives the ubiquitous recording of our activities and opinions means we may be inadvertently pre-mediating a later category of criminality which can be imposed retrospectively on what we thought was an innocent life. A study of two instances of ‘radicalisation’ reported on British television news appears to demonstrate this. Family photographs, mobile cameraphone footage and other recordings may be used retrospectively to construct a single definition of a person as radicalised. Equally, such media materials can be used to achieve a coherent meaning of radicalisation. We identify three dimensions of British news media's relationship to radicalisation: (1) an unreflexive and possibly incoherent clustering of terms, phrases and discourses by journalists, policy-makers and security services to form a rhetorical structure of radicalisation; (2) the uncertainty around radicalisation may itself contribute to the term's connotations of risk and danger; and (3) media reporting of radicalisation constructs and presents a continuum of normality/safety and deviant/dangerous because of the medial continuity of ‘our’ media practices with those of ‘radicals’.

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