​Tweeting terrorism: Vernacular conceptions of Muslims and terror in the wake of the Manchester Bombing on Twitter

Joseph Downing, Sarah Gerwens, Richard Dron

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Both vernacular security studies and critical terrorism studies (CTS) offer constructivist analyses of security couched in understandings of security speak. However, neither adequately take account of the ways in which social media presents important opportunities for greater insight into how terrorism is constructed. This study analyses tweets posted after the 2017 Manchester bombing, exploring how jihadist terror attacks are constructed on social media. To do this, we combine social network analysis, as a sampling method, with discourse analysis. The study finds that Twitter provides a platform for diverse terrorism discourses to be expressed and contested. This indicates a literate lay audience within post-attack narratives, self-aware of dominant social constructions of “Muslim terrorism”. Indeed, it suggests an audience that, on Twitter, is hardly only audience but seeks to speak security itself. Insights are gleaned with respect to depicting, defending, and critiquing Muslims, constructing what it means to be a terrorist, portrayals of victimhood, and how terror events feed into broader critiques of “political correctness” and “liberal” politics. Therefore, the analysis also provides further insights into the portrayal and (self-)positioning of Muslims in the wake of a jihadist attack and nuances accounts of Muslims’ securitisation qua terror.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)239-266
Number of pages28
JournalCritical Studies on Terrorism
Issue number2
Early online date4 Jan 2022
Publication statusPublished - 2022

Bibliographical note

© 2022 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


  • Manchester bombing
  • Muslims
  • Terrorism
  • Twitter
  • UK
  • security


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