In this captivating talk, the New Yorker staff writer Ben Taub draws from his award–winning reportage on Syria to argue that malicious states are more capable of systematic atrocities than any terrorist group can ever hope to be. He draws on his experiences speaking with smugglers, jihadis and spies, shares audio and footage from interviewees, and demonstrates that what allowed ISIS to become so uniquely terrible was its ability to organise itself as a state through control of territory.

Ben Taub (International)

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Ben Taub joined The New Yorker as a staff writer in 2017. He has written for the magazine about jihadi recruitment in Europe, war crimes in Syria, battlefield medicine, converging crises in the Sahel, and human trafficking along the trans-Saharan migration routes from Nigeria to Italy. In 2014, he received a BA in Philosophy from Princeton University; the next year, he completed an MA in Politics at Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism. In 2017, Taub’s work on Syria, which was supported by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, was short-listed for a National Magazine Award and won the Livingston Award for International Reporting, the Robert F. Kennedy Award for International Print Reporting, and the Overseas Press Club Award for Investigative Reporting. Taub also received the ASME Next Award for Journalists Under 30, and was named one of the Forbes 30 Under 30 in Media.