Terrorism and the Media

Updated on November 14, 2017
Patrick Patrick profile image

Patrick has been working as a freelance writer for the past 3 years

The media vs terrorism

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An introduction

More recently, acts of terrorism are increasingly being experienced not only in the United States, but also in various other parts of the world. This has continued to raise concerns with governments striving to find the most amicable appropriate way of protecting their citizens. According to emerging studies, it has been reported that the sensationalist media coverage of terrorist acts has the tendency to trigger further attacks by motivating terrorists to advance their terror. For this paper, I will present a variety of studies that support this argument to show how media coverage of terrorism has the potential to cause more terrorism.

With increased terrorism activities, the media has become actively involved in covering all facts in a bid to keep the general audience informed. In the process, their coverage has encouraged various acts of terrorism around the world. In the book "Media and Terrorism: Global Perspectives" Freedman and Thussu examine the manner in which the media has gradually become key player in terror activities with the ability to shape the realities of such activities. According to the authors, such media as social media has been used for the purposes of showing the struggles and efforts of various players that may not have been formally known. Through such a platform, the media gets to highlight a variety of topics including the main reasons behind such efforts by these actors, which not only encourages them, but also influences others to take sides; either in support of opposition to them, which has the potential to encourage or increase conflicts. On the other hand, the authors have focused on how one sided media communications can be. The note that there have high cases of disinformation, distortion of information as well as deception by the military sources and new outlets with failure within the media in the united states to act independently. Although this may be used to counter terrorism by making some party evil than others, this is also likely to increase instances of terrorist activities with some actors (particularly rebels groups) using this as a means to get their voices heard since information by the media is compromised.

News

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According to Matusitz (2013), communication is an integral part of terrorism. He goes in depth to determine the role information plays in terrorism and comes up important findings that show the extent to which the media in general can influence terrorist activities. According to Matusitz, the media also plays a role in communicating the objectives of terrorists even though this may not be their goal. Given that terrorism in itself is communication, Matusitz notes that through the media, terrorists also get to put their message across; that terrorism is not necessarily meant to cause deaths, but rather to bring about change. In particular, this has been one of the methods that terrorists have managed to recruit more fighters to support their objectives. Time and again, we have seen journalists interview terrorists and members of various terror groups as they try to explain their plans and actions. With some trying to justify their actions as a means of achieving some justice, this has encouraged some to sympathize with these groups to the extent of joining them, which only results in escalated terror activities. On the other hand, Matusitz explains how the media has not only continually conveyed information from terror groups, but also used the term terrorism in a manner that communicates fear. This has worked particularly well for terror groups and against the victims as is it has been observed time and again in the united states where some American citizens have been seen discriminating against those considered to be foreigners or immigrants. For terrorists, this gives them the opportunity to use terror activities as a means of causing more fear. On the other hand, through information technology, where terrorists also get to use the internet for communication, they have successfully used these technologies for the purposes of launching attacks, where they communicate their plans and actions and thus get the attention of the masses.

How to report

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One of the best depictions of the role of media is the book "The War on Terror: Post-9/11 television drama, docudrama and documentary". Here, the author goes to show the various media events (particularly television) following the 9/11 attacks and how this form of media engaged directly and indirectly with these events. The book, which resulted in a film, highlights various events such as the invasion of Iraq, occupation, comedic representations as well as what if docudramas concerning the war. This helps give a broader perspective of events that were related to the 9/11 attacks, therefore giving a broader perspective of a majority of issues involved. Although it is not the primary goal of the book, the these depictions represent how these issues are related, which also helps communicate objectives and aims of the terrorists with regards to the who issue of these attacks. Media coverage not only increased fear among the masses on how terrorism is related to world politics, but also about terror activities and fears may motivate terrorists to carry out more attacks. In this case, what if questions are raised about the intentions of various political groups, and how various reactions, such as the invasion of Iraq and posting of generation kill can result in escalated terror. Although the book is meant to show how war on terror may have come about, this also shows how terrorists got more coverage, resulting in their continued communication about the real goal of their actions. This is particularly well represented in the book "Mass-mediated Terrorism: The Central Role of the Media in Terrorism and Counterterrorism".
According to Nacos (2002) simply treating terrorism through the lens of crime is too simplistic, which is why the media plays a crucial role in this issue. According to Nacos, terrorists have for a long time used or exploited different global media networks as well as information highway for the purposes of conveying news regarding their violence along with the propaganda of the deed. With these media conveying this news and creating fear, terrorists have been encouraged to continually send out tapes containing information where they not only express their demands, but also talk about their plans to cause more terror in future. In addition, such media and social media and other forms of media on the internet are continually being used to not only recruit, but also spread propaganda, which is contributes to their recruitment and organization. This has been found to be the case in various countries in Africa and even Europe, where locals are themselves recruited to support the activities of terrorists. In this case therefore, the media contributes to the activities of terrorists. According to Weimann (2014) it has become evident that well over 90 percent of terrorist activities on the internet are through social media. Through this platforms, the identity of users is mostly hidden, which allows for people to easily get in contact with terrorist representatives and even form groups where they can interact with more people and get a chance of recruit. Through social media therefore, it has become very easy for terrorists to plan and organize themselves for more attacks.

According to Seib and Janbek (2010) terrorists groups are actively using the media to communicate their agenda to the general population. This is particularly through various extremist programming on television as well as various terrorist websites. By reaching women and younger individuals through these forms of media, terrorists get an opportunity to explain their goals, reasons for their actions and what they need from their audience. This has been successful in the recruitment strategy with various governments experiencing increased numbers of women and young individuals engaging in terror activities. Whether it is for financial gain or to support the agenda of terrorists, these forms of media have been found to be successful in recruiting many more youth in to terrorist organizations.

With various media sources hoping to catch and report the biggest news, Shurkin (2007) notes that this has contributed to media bodies serving the efforts and needs of terrorists. One of the goals of terrorists is getting their message across, while the other one is creating fear. According to Hoffman (2006) and Jenkins (1975), the media has become crucial platform for terrorists with many more terrorist groups seeking media attention in order to communicate their message and influence the scale and tone of media attention to their attacks. Although not all terrorist attacks or terrorist groups get aired, airing these attacks only plays to motivate them to increase the scale and intensity of their attacks in order to get more coverage and cause fear. This is effectively achieved when media bodies rush to cover terror story activities. In most cases, this tends to encourage terrorists, where they go on to strike more attacks in order to get their message across through more coverage. This is a good example of how media coverage contributes to more attacks.

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