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Chapter 4: Public Perceptions: Terrorism and Media

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Chapter 4: Public Perceptions: Terrorism and Media

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  1. Chapter 4:Public Perceptions: Terrorism and Media

  2. The Media and Social Construction of Images • Ross: • Reporting is a part of the social construction of terrorism. • Terrorists are aware of the power of media. • The media enhances the power of terrorism, but does not cause it. • Terrorist will increasingly use the internet. • Terrorism is a message generator. • Communication develops in three primary manners: • Reporting of terrorist events • Creating social definition of terrorism • Propaganda and communication through the World Wide Web

  3. Popular Media Misconceptions • The myths circulated by television news shape the world view of consumers. • If social constructs are created by collective definitions, the power of the media helps to define the boundaries of those constructs. • Thussu: The media’s view of terrorism is dominated by several simplified stories presented on 24-hour news cable news networks. • Leads to misconceptions and falsehoods concerning terrorism

  4. Tension between Security Forces and the Media • Scholars believe media favors governments. • Police and security forces at odd ends with the media power. • Media social constructions often run counter to government objectives and policies. • Compete for favorable media coverage • Exhibit distain for the press • Government seeks to harness power of the media for social control. • Hostage situations • Police and military frequently try to take advantage of the media’s ability to define social reality.

  5. Media as a Weapon • Clutterbuck: • Media were similar to a loaded weapon lying in the middle of a street. The first person to pick it up got to use it. • Ayman al Zawahiri: Views media as one of al Qaeda’s arsenal. • Struggle dramatization • Sub-organizations devoted to public relations • Personal writings on the victimization of Muslims throughout the world • Internet use

  6. Media as a Weapon • Literature from violent extremists reveals important information concerning organizations and strategies. • Jihadists are aware of media’s ability to influence social construction of reality. • Jihadists media strategies: • Legitimacy for their movement • Proliferation of their message • Increased sympathy • Opponents are targeted for intimidation

  7. News Frames and Presentations • Levin: Reporting patterns packaged in segments called news frames. • News frames create a pattern surrounding an event. • Symbolic representation of an event • ‘Meditization’ = shaping the way an event is communicated • Reporting frame • The classic approach • Designed to provide the latest information • Usually short

  8. News Frames and Presentations • Type of frames • Dominant frame – presents a story from a single viewpoint • Conflict frame – presents a story with two views • Contention frame – summarizes a variety of views • Investigative frames – champion role of the press as protectors of democracy • Mythic frame – depicts those people who have sacrificed their lives for a cause

  9. Ambiguous Stories and News Frames • News frames give stories structured meaning; however, stories may defy structure. • Media reports terrorist events within well defined frame. • Ambiguity destroys the ability to create a sustainable news frame. • If terrorism is reported in well defined news frames, both the media and the consumer will assume that there is a political beginning, a violent process, and a logical end. • If there is ambiguity about the story, the method by which reporters gather the story and present it becomes the story because there is no logical conclusion. • News frame is centered on: • Getting viewer’s attention • Presenting information • Revealing the results • TWA Flight 800

  10. Beating the War Drum • Kellner: After September 11 American television beat the war drum. • Called in a variety of exports reflecting a single view • Radio engaged in sensationalistic propaganda • Process went beyond news reporting • Patriot war movies • News frames simplified the cause • Pointed war as the only logical solution

  11. Terrorism and Television • Barber: coined the phrase the Infotainment Telesector • Twenty-four hour news networks • Designed to create revenue • “News” becomes banter between news anchor and the guest • Debates ensue • Issues are rarely discussed • Negative effect of Infotainment Telesector • Documents are leaked • Confidential plans unveiled • Vulnerabilities exposed

  12. Terrorism and Television • The drama pattern is designed to keep the viewer tuned to the station. • The overriding message of the drama is “stay tuned.” • Drama pattern of the media no longer a Western monopoly. • Al Jazeera and al Arabia challenged Western hold on international news. • Localized networks present other perspectives and definitions of terrorism. • The growth of media outlets and competing perspectives has had a huge impact on the way the United States is viewed around the world.

  13. The Internet and Terrorism • The Internet often exceeds the ability of established media to report an event. • Internet used as: • Communication • Propaganda • Reporting tool • Recruiting tool • Training tool • Target selection • Reconnaissance • Tactical weapon • Either side has ability to data mine and gather intelligence • Tool to support an attack

  14. The Internet and Terrorism • Hinnen: Internet used as communication device • Non-secure e-mail most common form • Terrorists understand power of the Internet. • Run their own websites • Hack into existing sites to broadcast propaganda videos • Enhance power of terrorist groups • Purchasing equipment • Fraud • Internet’s communication capabilities present terrorists with the opportunity to attack the global community. • Liff and Laegren: Cybercafes enhance Internet’s striking power.

  15. The Internet and Terrorism • Steganography • One of the Internet’s greatest vulnerabilities to criminal and terrorist communication. • Process of embedding hidden information in a picture, message, or other piece of information. • There are two positions on the steganographic threat to the United States: • used by terrorist groups to communicate and launch cyber-attacks • used in denial of service attacks or to deface websites • In the areas of propaganda, reporting, and public relations, the Internet has been a boon. • It allows terrorist groups to present messages and portray images that will not appear in mainstream media.

  16. Issues in the Media • Media claim to be objective when presenting information about terrorism. • Critics claim that media has a liberal bias. • Tim Groseclose and Jeffrey Milyo: • The American media has a liberal bias • The news media cited the think tanks referenced by liberal members of Congress more than conservative ones.

  17. Issues in the Media • Sutter: No incentive for liberal or conservative bias • As profit-making entities, news organizations have incentive to attract largest possible audience. • If the entire media where to exhibit a bias, some owner would need to have a monopoly on all media outlets. • Journalism is a profession. • As news organizations expand, there will be pressures for bias to develop special audiences among liberals and conservatives. • News organizations are increasingly led by boards and groups of owners driven by the desire to make money.

  18. Issues in the Media • Barron: Bias appears on two levels • Individual discretion of the reporter • Public’s desire to read or watch the most captivating story • Reporters’ individual bias may slip into the story – corporation presenting the news will ultimately limit the bias

  19. Issues in the Media • Slisli: Use of pejorative labels introduces bias into the news. • American media is full of stereotypes and over-simplifications. • Media plays to lowest level of understanding. • Targeting the most simplistic viewers. • Terms such as fanatic, fundamentalist, and terrorists sensationalize reports. • Levin: • The news is aimed at particular audiences. • Different organizations approach audiences in a variety of ways.

  20. Issues in the Media • Miniter: • Media has shifted toward liberalism • Media are blamed for spreading incorrect information • Twenty-two misconceptions about terrorism accepted as truth • Myths come from variety of sources to include: • Honest mistakes in reporting • American and foreign government disinformation • Contrived leaks • Disagreement of Miniter’s findings by other investigative journalists.

  21. Issues in the Media • Fraley and Roushanzamir: • Sub-national and supra-national violence is shifting and distorting all media presentations of violence, including terrorism. • The mass media is spreading more propaganda than news in a world dominated by media corporations. • The flow and amount of information, however, could serve to raise the awareness of news consumers, creating a new critical media consciousness.

  22. The Contagion Effect • Effects of media are complex • Media images produce some types of behavior • Many researchers believe fear generated by media is contagious • Effects are not totally clear • Bomb threats in nuclear industry • Bassiouni found media coverage had several contagious effects: • Promoted fear and magnified threats • Spread fear • Influenced how terrorists select targets • Spread violence • Selected targets for maximum publicity

  23. The Contagion Effect • Other findings demonstrate that: • Media reports might inspire a person to engage in terrorism, but so do stories from friends and families. • There may be a contagious relationship between a terrorist event and the level of violence in later events. • Some researchers believe that: • if a contagion effect exists, it might be used to counter terrorism • While a model linking media violence to social aggression and violent behavior may be acceptable to policy makers, Barrie Gunter argues that it is not demonstrated to the level of certainty that social scientists seek.

  24. Censorship Debate • Debates surrounding censorship are always present during time of national crisis. • Arguments concerning censorship are heated and central to democracy. • Does free speech automatically allow media access to information? • Media: Public has a right to know • Critics: Free speech does not equal unlimited access to information • Right to know v. Right to speak • Wilkinson reports that the government faces three choices in regard to the media and terrorism: • Laissez faire attitude • Government agency veto power over news reports • Self regulation

  25. Censorship Debate • Graber reports several arguments to support censorship: • National security • Public wants information withheld • Americans should behave patriotically • Terrorism is essentially a war of information • Supporters: • National security demands censorship • Opponents: • Censorship hides government mistakes and public must have information to make informed decisions • Terrorism is a war of information • Every government camp downcast officials in a bad light