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When images become weapons
Author: Charlotte Klonk

A battle of images is above all a psychological struggle. Unintended consequences are the rule rather than the exception. The book examines the role of images in media reports on terror from the nineteenth century to the present day. Looking at concrete case studies, Charlotte Klonk analyses image strategies and their patterns, traces their historical development and addresses the dilemma of effective counter strikes. She shows that the propaganda videos from the IS are nothing new. On the contrary, perpetrators of terror acts have always made use of images to spread their cause through the media – as did their enemy, the state. In the final chapter, Klonk turns to questions of ethics and considers the grounds for a responsible use of images. This is an indispensable book for understanding the background and dynamic of terror today.

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Charlotte Klonk

In the first part of this chapter pictorial norms that govern the reporting of terror attacks will be analysed. They constitute a frame that shapes expectations and has been in place since the emergence of the phenomenon of modern terror at the end of the nineteenth century. In the second part the question of ethics is raised. Agreeing with many writers that acts of torture and violence need full documentation, but in a form that avoids intensifying the ‘exposure’ of the victim, the author argues that there are instances where we need to actively resist image operations by not participating in their production, circulation and consumption. The chapter concludes by suggesting that in the context of terror it is important to distinguish between affective images that have the power to remind us of the pain of others and those that numb us and should be resisted.

in Image operations
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Charlotte Klonk

Although bomb attacks and hostage-takings differ in their imagery, they share one common aspect: media reports on acts of terror always include pictures of the perpetrators and normally end when they have been caught and sentenced. The sequence ranges from mug shots of various provenances to surveillance camera footage, from depictions of execution in the nineteenth century to photographs of capture in the twentieth. The chapter discusses the significance of these images for projections of the enemy. Case studies include the most extensive man hunt campaign to this day, the search for members of the German RAF in the 1970s, the ambivalence of imagery of women and of radical-Islamic perpetrators. The chapter also looks at propaganda images issued by militant groups themselves and their attempt for self-promotion in courtrooms. It concludes with a reflection on the general ambivalence of these images. As the case studies from the nineteenth century to today show, nothing and nobody can guarantee that an image which for one side clearly represents an enemy will not become the means for hero worship on the other, and vice versa.

in Terror
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Hostage-takings and aircraft hijackings since the 1960s
Charlotte Klonk

In the second half of the twentieth century another form of terror dominated the media: hostage-takings and aircraft hijackings. The images that appeared in the media differed from bomb attacks and explosions in significant ways. Instead of suggesting proximity to the events, portraits of hostages circulated that showed individuals at unknown and distant places. Hence the visual reportage is usually characterised by an uncanny mixture of distance and urgency. Case studies in this chapter range chronologically from the Tupamaros in Uruguay to the RAF in Germany in the 1970s, from the mass hostage-takings in Lebanon in the 1980s to Al Qaida and IS footage of beheadings at the beginning of the twenty-first century. The chapter also includes a discussion of aircraft hijackings in the 1970s. It concludes with a reflection on the particular narratives that hostage-taking and hijackings generate in subsequent autobiographies, films and literature. While at the time of the appearance of the images the fate of the victims is uncertain and highly contested, subsequent stories often provide a happy ending and often blur fact and fiction.

in Terror
From wanted posters to propaganda videos
Charlotte Klonk

In the second half of the twentieth century another form of terror dominated the media: hostage-takings and aircraft hijackings. The images that appeared in the media differed from bomb attacks and explosions in significant ways. Instead of suggesting proximity to the events, portraits of hostages circulated that showed individuals at unknown and distant places. Hence the visual reportage is usually characterised by an uncanny mixture of distance and urgency. Case studies in this chapter range chronologically from the Tupamaros in Uruguay to the RAF in Germany in the 1970s, from the mass hostage-takings in Lebanon in the 1980s to Al Qaida and IS footage of beheadings at the beginning of the twenty-first century. The chapter also includes a discussion of aircraft hijackings in the 1970s. It concludes with a reflection on the particular narratives that hostage-taking and hijackings generate in subsequent autobiographies, films and literature. While at the time of the appearance of the images the fate of the victims is uncertain and highly contested, subsequent stories often provide a happy ending and often blur fact and fiction.

in Terror
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Charlotte Klonk
in Terror
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Assassinations and bomb attacks in the late nineteenth and early twenty-first centuries
Charlotte Klonk

The introduction argues that images are of central importance in the propagation of acts of terror. Where an inferior militant group challenges the supremacy of the state, it is not the actual number of casualties that counts but the capacity to spread horror and fear among the masses and potential glory among sympathisers. The chapter introduces the concept of patterns of images in the media, discusses the concept of media frames and the term terror as well as the literature on terrorism and concludes with a critical reflection on the evidentiary character of pictures in this context. It establishes that fighting with images is a kind of psychological battle in which unintended consequences are the rule rather than the exception.

in Terror
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Visual media and political conflict
Editors: Jens Eder and Charlotte Klonk

Still and moving images are crucial factors in contemporary political conflicts. They not only have representational, expressive or illustrative functions, but also augment and create significant events. Beyond altering states of mind, they affect bodies, and often life or death is at stake. Various forms of image operations are currently performed in the contexts of war, insurgency and activism. Photographs, videos, interactive simulations and other kinds of images steer drones to their targets, train soldiers, terrorise the public, celebrate protest icons, uncover injustices, or call for help. They are often parts of complex agential networks and move across different media and cultural environments. This book is a pioneering interdisciplinary study of the role and function of images in political life. Balancing theoretical reflections with in-depth case studies, it brings together renowned scholars and activists from different fields to offer a multifaceted critical perspective on a crucial aspect of contemporary visual culture.

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Jens Eder and Charlotte Klonk

In the introduction the editors outline the concept of image operations, illustrate its relevance and consider the empirical, theoretical, and ethical questions that arise from it. They also discuss the basic relations between images, media, agency, and conflict. As the subject lies at the intersection of several disciplines, they survey the literature, point towards the blind spots in existing research, and conclude with a summary of each contribution.

in Image operations