Plenary lecture delivered by Josie Appleton at the Academy 2016
This week's bombing at a pop concert in Manchester, which killed 22 people, has brought the question of Islamist terrorism back to the fore in public debate. Why are so many young people attracted to a nihilistic political ideology that promotes killing and the destruction of society? How does that trend fit with the broader Culture Wars?
In this lecture, delivered after major attacks in Paris and Brussels, Josie Appleton argues that ISIS is even more of an empty shell than Al-Qaeda, reduced to being little more than a label to attach to symbolic expressions of disgust with modern society. But she also notes how this symbolism is also apparent among the political establishment. For example, the wearing of burqas, once treated as an irrelevance by French politicians, has in recent years been treated as a threat to the Republic itself. Indeed, what is most striking about the current Culture Wars, argues Appleton, is that <i>both</i> sides are devoid of any great principle or purpose.