Revisiting the Contagion Hypothesis: Terrorism, News Coverage, and Copycat Attacks

Brigitte Nacos
Contagion refers here to a form of copycat crime, whereby violence-prone individuals and groups imitate forms of (political) violence attractive to them, based on examples usually popularized by mass media. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, for instance, Palestinian terrorists staged a number of spectacular hijackings of commercial airliners, exploited the often prolonged hostage situations to win massive news coverage for their political grievances, and appeared to inspire other groups to
more » ... ow their example. Although terrorism scholars, government officials, and journalists have pondered the question of mass-mediated contagion for decades, they have arrived at different conclusions. Because of significant advances in communication and information technology, and changes in the global media landscape during the last decade or so, this article reconsiders arguments surrounding contagion theories and contends that various types of media are indeed important carriers of the virus of hate and political violence.