Terrorism can be broadly defined as a combination of “violence and propaganda, whereby “violence aims at behavior modification by coercion and propaganda aims at the same through persuasion” (Schmid & De Graaf, 1982, p. 14).
Therefore, its protagonists and the counter-terrorism laws must produce not only “violence” but also “armed propaganda” (Stohl, 1990. P. 93). This twin-track approach, which is also reflected in the legal definition contained in the Terrorism Act 2000, section 1, was famously illustrated by the pronouncement of the then director of publicity for Sinn Fein, Danny Morrison, in 1981, when he questioned: “Who here really believes we can win the war through the ballot box? But will anyone here object if, with a ballot paper in this hand and an Armalite in the other, we take power in Ireland?” (McAllister, 2004, p. 124). Even 30 years ago, Morrison felt that he was engaged in a perilous exercise – akin to “walking on eggshells” (R v Martin and others, 1992, p. 14) – and, while Director of Publicity for Sinn Fein, he paid the price with a conviction (later overturned) and several years of imprisonment for his proximity to the IRA’s “punishment” machinery (R v Morrison, 2009).
Terrorist and extremist political movements have long exploited the “performativity” (de Graaf, 2011) of every available mass communication technology. Morrison’s forefathers in the Irish Republican press in the nineteenth century were repeatedly charged with offences against the state (Martin v R, 1848; R v Charles Gavan Duffy, 1848; R v Grey, 1865; R v John Mitchel, 1848; R v Sullivan and Pigott, 1868).
Contemporary attention has turned to electronic news media, including terrestrial and satellite television, such as Hezbollah’s establishment of its Al Manar television station in the early 1990s (Saul & Joyce, 2010), through to internet media, as latterly represented by the “sickly” produced contemporary digital content of the Islamic State (IS) (Ingram, 2014; Klausen, 2015).
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