With investigations continuing into the shootings overnight in Vienna, a professor of international politics says the media should be “careful in labelling the attacks and attackers until sufficient evidence for their motives has been identified and analysed.”
Prof Lee Jarvis is professor of international politics in the School of Politics, Philosophy, Language and Communication Studies. He researches how security threats such as terrorism are communicated, as well as teaching on terrorism, counter-terrorism, security and foreign policy.
Prof Jarvis said: “The tragic events in Austria last night offer another reminder that the danger of political violence remains even though other harms such as COVID-19 have (rightly) captured international attention.
“The attacks remind us, too, about our interconnectedness – indicated in the statements of support from other political leaders, and in the investigations now occurring in the Czech Republic and Germany. They demonstrate, of course, the precariousness of the security we enjoy in Western states; while efforts to manage the sharing of photographs highlight the importance of communication to political violences often described as terrorism.
“Now is the time to respect those killed, injured, and otherwise affected by the attacks, and to begin attempting to understand their causes. We might choose to be careful in labelling the attacks and attackers until sufficient evidence for their motives has been identified and analysed, although news reports are increasingly describing these as acts of ‘Islamist terrorism’.
“We might also think about how the attacks are connected not only to recent events in France but the attack on Kabul University that has generated far less media attention here in the UK. And, we might, finally, resist the temptation to make sense of the attacks through a wider narrative of national or international identity that risks (further) excluding or demonising marginalised communities.”