Seeing all evil: The global cruelty of digital visibility

My new article Seeing all evil: The Global Cruelty of Digital Visibility has now been published open access with Global Studies Quarterly. The article explores the relationships between digital mediation, violence, and ontological security.


Cruelty is a historical constant across world politics. Nonetheless, something has changed. Today, it is possible to observe death,massacre, torture, police brutality, terrorist attacks, drone strikes, and more, in high-definition video. Sometimes, we can watchlive. In this article, I ask what it means when the historical sanitization of cruelty, injustice, and violence is stripped away. I doso in three ways. First, I explore how digital media has transformed how knowledge of violence is produced, circulates, andaffects those who witness it. I focus in particular on how this visibility of cruelty affectively fractures our ontological security,undermines societal solidarity, and amplifies polarization. Second, I describe how this process is marked by substantive globalinequalities vis-à-vis who is “protected” (or not) from exposure to graphic imagery. Third, I ground my discussion empiricallythrough participant observation conducted with members of the militia group Hezbollah that focused on their emotional,affective, discursive, and political reactions to watching videos circulating on social media depicting members of their owngroup committing war crimes in Syria. The article concludes by dwelling on the worrying possible political futures thesedynamics appear to be opening up.

You can download the article below or open access via Global Studies Quarterly.