Foucault News

News and resources on French thinker Michel Foucault (1926-1984)

Ahmad, J. Serving the same interests: The Wood Green ricin plot, media–state–terror relations and the ‘terrorism’ dispositif, Media, War and Conflict
Volume 12, Issue 4, 1 December 2019, Pages 411-434

DOI: 10.1177/1750635218810922

This article analyses the representations of terrorism that arise out of the BBC’s coverage of the Wood Green ricin plot (2003), the first instance of al-Qaeda-related activity in the UK during the ‘war on terror’. Inspired by the work of Michel Foucault, the article suggests that the BBC’s representations form part of an emergent ‘terrorism’ dispositif, or apparatus, which draws together seemingly disparate and antagonistic groups into a strategic, mutually-sustaining alliance. The analysis focuses on two weeks of BBC ‘News at Ten’ bulletins, alongside speeches and press releases issued by the Prime Minister and statements released by al-Qaeda’s leadership. In particular, the article suggests that the BBC’s representations inadvertently work to the advantage of elements within al-Qaeda and the British executive due to the fact that they portray the Wood Green events in ways that are tactically useful to both groups. As such, the article not only provides substantive new empirical insights into the way representations of terrorism were mobilized in the build-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, but also shows how Foucauldian concepts can provide creative and innovative analytical tools for understanding the dynamics of the contemporary media–state–terrorism relationship. © The Author(s) 2018.

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