TERROR ON THE SCREEN: Witnesses and the Re-animation of 9/11 as Image-event, Popular Culture and Pornography

Luke Howie
New Academia Publishing, 2010
292 Pages, 6 Illustrations
ISBN 978-0-9828061-3-5 Paperback

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About the Author

Luke Howie is a lecturer in the Department of Behavioural Studies in the School of Political and Social Inquiry at Monash University in Australia. He is a Member of the Global Terrorism Research Centre (GTReC) based at Monash University, and a Research Associate in the Australian Homeland Security Research Centre (AHSRC) in Canberra. Howie is also the author of Terrorism, the Worker and the City: Simulations and Security in a Time of Terror (2009). Luke’s research explores witnessing, the consequences of terrorism for business, and terrorism in popular, tele-visual, screen and technoscientific cultures.

About the book

The 9/11 attacks have had many extraordinary consequences. The horrific violence of that day ushered in a different world, a different time. We have all become, in one way or another, witnesses in the global theatre of terrorism. Terrorists want their violence to take on a theatrical quality, and be watched. The 9/11 attacks were successful to this end. It was not long before our imaginations were running wild.

Many fields of post-9/11 popular, tele-visual and screen cultures changed substantially, other subtly. Television shows like 24Battlestar GalacticaFamily Guy and American Dad, and movies like Team America: World Police tackled 9/11 head on and represented the post-9/11 world in complex and symbolic ways. Television shows like FriendsHow I Met Your Mother and Dollhouse, and a Vogue: Italia fashion shoot grappled with the post-9/11 world more indirectly through absences, presences and symbolic representations of cities and security.

Terrorism has been said to resemble pornography–we know it when we see it. And it can be difficult for witnesses to look away. Where the pornography of terrorism has been met by the sexualization of the post-9/11 world we encounter an unbearable and shockingly spectacular event, the ultimate event, perhaps even the “mother” of all events. 9/11 was spectacular; its violence was obscene. Through global media it was captured live and disseminated to all parts of the world. And we watched.


“Through dazzling close readings of a wide variety of cultural texts, from the Battlestar Galactica reboot to post-9/11 pornography, Howie is able to demonstrate how the politics and poetics of “witnessing” have come to structure the experience of American popular culture in the past decade.”
—Jeff Melnick, University of Massachusett, Boston

“After reading Howie’s ingenious updating of visual theory I would paraphrase Morpheus from The Matrix and say “welcome to the oasis of interpretation”. This book is a much-needed analysis of the dangers to be found when a whole society risks living in an uncritical, ideological version of the witness protection program!”
—Paul A. Taylor, University of Leeds, UK