2005 year graphic
Violence and trauma

A deadly contagion?

Paul Marsden and Sharon Attia on the psychology of suicide bombing and the role of the media.

18 March 2005

Explosives strapped to his waist, Hussam Abdo faced the Israeli soldiers, and the camera. The Palestinian teenager had just become a global media celebrity: the ‘Boy Bomber’ of Nablus (see tinyurl.com/4k8pt). Although security forces ultimately thwarted Hussam’s attack, this sensational ‘reality television’ still made for compulsive viewing. ‘Terrorism is theatre’ wrote the political scientist Brian Jenkins, and as the story made headlines around the world, the shock value of the story was undeniable and reminiscent of the 2002 media circus surrounding photos of a baby dressed in suicide bomber gear. Hordes of journalists descended upon Hussam’s family home, all jostling for soundbites on what had motivated him. But should they have been taking a look at themselves?

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