Media’s Relationship with Terrorism

Dr. Shubhra Sanyal on the media and how terrorist respond to it.


Abstract

There is a symbiotic relationship between terrorism and the media. The terrorist’s rely on the media to further their terror-inspiring goal. Whatever may be the form of terrorism either the individual against the state or the state sponsored acts of terrorism against the individual, the perpetrator’s strategy involves the use and instrumentation of the media. Media has made terror-violence an attractive strategy for effecting social or political transformation for two reasons. It has enhanced the power image of those who are opposed to the socio-political system. Secondly technology has made the media an indispensable devise by which an individual or a small group can magnify their power and influence over the society within a short period of time and also with a little effort.


Researches studying the effect of the media on the viewers have indicated that media messages are not passively and homogeneously received by an audience, but rather different categories of viewers perceive different aspects of media messages and interpret them in various ways.

Keywords: media, terrorism, symbiotic relationship, terrorism a media creation, electronic media, print media.


Singh (2002) beliefs that the modern terrorist has been quick to exploit the media in a way that shows the government as a poor rival. The author claims that the modern terrorist is the creation of the mass media. He has been magnified, enlarged beyond his own powers by others. It has been asserted that terrorists use the media to achieve their goals by consciously designing strategies to appeal to the media typically the staging of dramatic and violent events. No doubt terrorism breeds terrorism by a process of contagion that is initiated and fueled by the media coverage of the terrorist events. Kadish believes that the need of the hour is a series of scientific research to resolve the effect of the media terrorism coverage on potential terrorists and on the public attitude towards terrorism, and to investigate the specific organizational and contextual factors that affect what is presented in the media regarding the terrorist and their activities. He further believes that the most common strategy of investigating the effects of the ‘media world of crime’ on audience members is to compare the crime related beliefs, feelings and behavior of groups that vary in degree of media exposure.


Researches studying the effect of the media on the viewers have indicated that media messages are not passively and homogeneously received by an audience, but rather different categories of viewers perceive different aspects of media messages and interpret them in various ways. Mcherif Bassiouni’s review of CIA statistics on terrorism goes farther contending that terrorism breeds terrorism by a process of contagion that is initiated and fueled by media coverage of terrorist events.It is also presumed that a researcher should investigate the coverage of terrorism that may be committed by the government or the police groups representing those in power.


How Terrorists perceive the Media

It is often asked as to why terrorists plan their attacks keeping an eye on the media coverage The more the display of their acts by the social media, create a fear psychoses in the society and the risk of economic destruction, mass human causalities create a risk factor which for the government of the country becomes an instant task to resolve. Terrorist attacks often dominate news coverage as reporters seek to provide the public with information. Yet, not all incidents receive equal attention is a matter of debate. A few researchers like Kearns, E.M., Betus, A. & Lemieux (April 2, 2018) searched the fact that there are some underlying dynamics which attract media’s attention more to a particular attack than the rest and they argued that perpetrators’ religion is the largest predictor of news coverage The rest which follow are the type of arrests the mass casualties and the reaction of the society.


Researches analyzing a variety of different types of media and media markets have found that crime accounts fall between 20 and 50 percent of the total space available for news. Media cover a narrow range of topics, emphasizing incidents and ignoring the criminal justice policies. Levinson (2002) believes that the type of crimes presented in the news do not accurately represent the realities of crime. Also there is a doubt that the ability of the media to influence the course of criminal justice is entirely legitimate or desirable especially when that influence stems from the increasing dominance of the media’s entertainment over its journalistic function. In such respect it will be incorrect to define the ideal relationship between the media system and the criminal justice system.


It is an accepted fact that terrorism could not exist in its present form without a mass violence. Farner (1996), while reflecting on terrorism and the mass media, states that what we know as terrorism is a media creation. According to him mass media define, delimit, delegitimize and discredit events that have not been witnessed. It provides discreet knowledge of an issue or event rather than in depth knowledge about a controversy or public policy, as such efforts may require delving into causes and solutions. Farner sums up the relationship between mass media and violent terrorism as akin to host (media) and parasite.(violent terrorism) It means in a more descriptive and explainatory manner that media by providing a platform acts a host to the terrorist group who depend on the motive and the skill of the media to propagate or display their acts.


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Suggested Citation:

Sanyal, Shubhra, Media’s Relationship with Terrorism (2015). Published in the book: Terrorism The many Dimensions in 2015, later modified in June 2019. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3426453

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