Book Review – Covering Bin Laden: Global Media and the World’s Most Wanted Man

Covering Bin Laden: Global Media and the World’s Most Wanted Man edited by Susan Jeffords and Fahed Al-Sumait. Champaign, IL: University of Illinois Press, 2015. 259 pp, $95 hardcover 978-0-252-03886-0, $30 paperback 978-0-252-08040-1, E-book 978-0-252-09682-2

This review must start with a note of caution: this is not a book about Osama bin Laden. The aim of the editors and authors is not to add another interpretation on what bin Laden and Al Qaeda have been or, in the latter case, currently is. What they do here is take the real and symbolic figure of Osama bin Laden as a critical axis to explore the interplay between politics and media during the Global War on Terror. The result is a kaleidoscope that illuminates how news media represent and re-create reality and how those representations translate into concrete policy action.

As the title reminds us, Osama bin Laden became the world’s most wanted man in the decade from the 9/11 attacks to his capture and killing in Abbottabad (Pakistan) in 2011. Al Qaeda was presented as the paradigm of an entirely new type of terrorism: without parallel in history, and ready to kill as many civilians as they could in the name of some indiscernible millenarian views. Hunting bin Laden became the supreme goal. In pursuit of it, governments reshaped geopolitical relations and domestic politics, and launched wars.

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El Salvador’s gang truce: a lost opportunity?

Violence is escalating again in El Salvador. March 2015 was the most violent month in over a decade, and the government is preparing army and police battalions to fight the gangs. These trends mark the definitive end of a process which started in 2012 with a truce between the two main gangs—MS-13 and Barrio 18—and evolved into a more complex and multidimensional approach to reducing violence, with a degree of international support.

The process was complicated, imperfect and subject to public controversy, but it stands as one of the most significant examples worldwide of an effort to reduce violence through negotiation with criminal groups. With an annual homicide rate of 60 murders per 100,000 inhabitants, El Salvador is one of the most violent countries in the world. It is also a notable example of the trend towards non-conventional, hybrid and criminal violence.

You can read the full article in Sustainable Security and Open Democracy. Thank you!