Fun against fear in the Caliphate: Islamic State’s spectacle and counter-spectacle

Marwan M. Kraidy*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


This article focuses on non-violent spectacular images produced and circulated by Islamic State (I.S.). These include I.S.’s declaration of the Caliphate, the group’s peculiar depiction of the good life, and its presumptive currency, the dinar. I.S.’s spectacle is explored through Situationist theory. Using the case study of the declaration of the Caliphate in June 2014, I explain how I.S. uses spectacle as a technology of rule. Then I move on to what I call the “counter-spectacle,” focusing on one case study, a program on Iraqi television al-Iraqiyya, Dawlat al-Khurafa (The Apocryphal State), that parodies I.S. as an entity. Probing ontological connections between “fear” and “fun” in the I.S. spectacle, the article concludes with a discussion of the im/possibility of countering spectacle, and the argument that the “success” of I.S.’s global spectacle rests on grafting I.S.’s own concentrated spectacle of rule onto the diffuse spectacle of a global commercial media discourse preoccupied with “Islam” as the main Other to a putative “Western” identity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)40-56
Number of pages17
JournalCritical Studies in Media Communication
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Islamic State
  • fear
  • fun
  • satire
  • spectacle

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication


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