Visual Terror: A Study of the Visual Compositions of the 9/11 Attacks and Major Attacks in the 'War on Terror' by British and French Television Networks

PhD Thesis

Shibli, Adania 2009. Visual Terror: A Study of the Visual Compositions of the 9/11 Attacks and Major Attacks in the 'War on Terror' by British and French Television Networks. PhD Thesis University of East London School of Social Sciences, Media and Cultural Studies
AuthorsShibli, Adania
TypePhD Thesis

Over the past four decades, terrorism has gradually come to be seen as a central threat facing contemporary societies. However, the definition of the term remains highly contested; in particular, to which acts of violence it should apply and which not.

Aware of the complexity of formulating a universally accepted definition of terrorism, and proposing that this complexity is inherent in language itself, this study
analyses the visual representations of a number of acts of violence in television.
Drawing on the claim that, despite definitional disagreements, there is a common image of terrorism, the analysis, in particular, examines the visual compositions that four television networks in two different countries (BBC One and ITV1 in Britain, and TF1 and France2 in France) formed about the 9/11 attacks, considered by many to
be the most spectacular acts of terrorism to date. Parallel to this, it examines the visual compositions which these same four networks produced about several major attacks
and military operations in the 'War on Terror', launched immediately following the 9/11 attacks.

While benefiting from an intensive interdisciplinarity integrating media studies, semiotics, post-structuralism, film theory, and art history this comparative visual analysis finds a striking similarity between the visual compositions which the four networks formed about the 9/11 attacks, both in what was shown and what was withheld from view. At the same time, it finds that these compositions are entirely dissimilar to the ones that the same four networks formed about the several attacks in the 'War on Terror'.

Nevertheless, the analysis finds that dissimilarities between the visual compositions, of both terrorism and the war on it, are not solely contingent on how each group of attacks unfolded in reality. Rather, various social and historical conditions and practices have intervened in creating them.

KeywordsTerrorism; War on Terror; Television networks
Publication dates
PrintApr 2009
Publication process dates
Deposited07 Oct 2013
Additional information

This thesis supplied via ROAR to UEL-registered users is protected by copyright and other intellectual property rights, and duplication of any part of the material is not permitted, except for your personal use for the purposes of non-commercial research and private study in electronic or print form. You must obtain permission from the copyright-holder for any other use. Electronic or print copies may not be offered, for sale or otherwise, to anyone. No quotation from the thesis may be published without proper acknowledgement.

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