In the Eye of the Beholder: How mass-mediated perceptions drive terror

Document Type



Graduate School of Media and Communications


First, a word of warning: This presentation is not based on years of data collection or quantitative analysis. Nor is it an elaboration of the kind of seminal studies others on this dais are offering. Rather, it is more a collection of impressions and some thoughts on research I am intending to pursue, with the hope it might elicit some feedback and ideas. As a journalist, I tend to take an experiential, rather than a scientific, approach to terrorism and its causes. My view of terrorism is deeply informed by having known so many terrorists, from members of Black September and the PFLP to the Baader-Meinhof gang, Armenians, Kurds, and a host of others; by having witnessed the birth of modern Islamic terrorism in Beirut; and by having covered more suicide attacks, hijackings and kidnappings by non-state players on the one hand, and, on the other, more so-called “surgical strikes,” naval bombardments and targeted assassinations by the agents of government, than I care to count.


This work was published before the author joined Aga Khan University.

Publication (Name of Journal)

Roots of Terrorism Colloquium