Visual-Iconic Background of the Military Counter-Terrorism

785
DOI: 10.20542/0131-2227-2017-61-5-45-56
E. Gromoglasova (e_gromoglasova@imemo.ru),
Primakov National Research Institute of World Economy and International Relations, Russian Academy of Sciences (IMEMO), 23, Profsoyuznaya Str., Moscow, 117997, Russian Federation

 

Abstract. The paper traces the visual history of the war on terror and compares it with visual icons that have become widely recognizable during the current antiterrorist operations against the ISIL in Iraq and Syria. It shows that visibility of violence in contemporary warfare has a strong impact on extremist propaganda methods chosen by terrorist actors. As the Abu Ghraib photoarchive demonstrates, the visibility of violence in counter-terrorist measures is no more under control of governmental actors. They have lost a monopoly on production and dissemination of visual facts of war and military counterterrorist measures. As a result, in today’s complex global public sphere, the visualization of victory in the war against terror follows its own logic of affective visual representation. Therefore, it is highly needed to look at the role of visual icons in contemporary conflicts through new lenses. The paper introduces and discusses in-depth the so-called “iconological” method that not only helps understand the “meaning” of a picture, but also allows to comprehend the logic of pictures’ reproduction, its “mutation”/“cloning” and affective impact. The paper interprets the Abu Ghraib photoarchive, ISIL extremist videos and official media footage of counter-ISIL measures from “iconological” point of view. From that perspective, the visualization of victory in contemporary war on terror is as difficult as achieving a victory itself. The ongoing anti-terror campaigns (both the US-led and Russian) produce a lot of visual facts. Some of them can be interpreted as an evidence of a victory over ISIL, like, for example, liberation of Palmyra footage. But none of them has documented an irreversible nature of victory over this terrorist organization yet. Palmyra’s falling back into the ISIL hands in December 2016 devalues visual history of its liberation. So, producing and reproducing of visual information on ongoing military conflicts became as important as a military strategy itself. The paper considers the wider perspective of the “iconic turn” in humanities and its possible impact on methodological toolkit applicable in contemporary international relations and conflictology studies. 

Keywords: visual icon, “iconic turn”, war against terror, counter-terrorism, information warfare, asymmetric conflict, visual information 


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For citation:
Gromoglasova E. Visual-Iconic Background of the Military Counter-Terrorism. World Eonomy and International Relations, 2017, vol. 61, No 5, pp. 45-56. https://doi.org/10.20542/0131-2227-2017-61-5-45-56



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