Essay Question: Critically evaluate the differences in the representation of terrorists and terrorism before and after 9/11.
The representation of terrorists and terrorism can be said to have changed significantly since the attacks on the United States of America on September 11th 2001. On this day, referred to as 9/11, Islamist extremists hijacked four aeroplanes that were flying above the United States. The hijackers intentionally flew two of these planes into both the North and the South Tower of the World Trade Centre (WTC), a third plane was crashed into the Pentagon building in Washington DC and the fourth plane crashed into a field near Pennsylvania. The hijackers responsible for the attacks were members of the Islamist militant group, Al Qaeda. “The 9/11 attacks remain the worst terrorist event worldwide in terms of loss to both property and human life” (Coburn et al, 2011 p.26). This essay intends to critically evaluate the representation of terrorists and terrorism pre- 9/11 and post- 9/11. It is argued that we now live in a so-called “Age of Terror” (Furedi 2007, p.1). This essay intends to examine how we have moved into this “Age of Terror” and to what extent the events on 9/11 have affected this shift. Terrorism is not unique to contemporary society, the term ‘terrorism’ and ‘terrorist’ date back to the late 18th Century (Laqueur 1987 as cited in Newburn 2007, p. 871). Defining the word ‘terrorism’ is a difficult task; Walter Laqueur is said to have counted over 100 definitions of terrorism and he concluded that the only general characteristics that are most often agreed upon are that terrorism involves violence and the threat of violence (Laqueur, 1999 as cited in Furedi 2007). Although these are not new terms to society, it is important to analyse any changes in the representation, of the words ‘terrorism’ and ‘terrorist’ since the events on 9/11. The perceptions that individuals in society have and the message that the media portrays, appear to suggest that representations of terrorism have changed post 9/11. Whether or not the media is influential in creating changes in these representations and people’s perception, is to be discussed further. According to Enders & Sandler (2004, p.1) “while there is no question that perceptions changed and deep-seated fears arose that fateful day, there has been no data-based analysis on how transnational terrorism (i.e. terrorism with international implications or genesis) differs, if at all, since 9/11” There are many varying opinions on this topic, however, there is evidence to suggest that we have become more aware and fearful of terrorism. Fear and danger were evident in terrorist attacks pre 9/11, but public fear was not broadcasted all over the media as it is post 9/11. It is how this fear has come about that is interesting; it can be argued that the media is most influential in creating their own representation of terrorism and terrorists, which has an over powering effect on society’s’ perceptions. It can also be suggested that fear has arisen from the development and rapid advances in technology and communication and the knowledge that these advances can lead to catastrophic destruction. The public is aware and constantly reminded that advances in technology can be very threatening in terms of a terrorist attack; “terrorists always possessed a capacity for surprise and unexpected behaviour. But today it is claimed that they have access to powerful forms of technology that significantly amplify their capacity for causing mass destruction” (Furedi 2007, p. 5) As well as the media creating fear and changing representations of terrorism, politicians and state government are also highly influential in constructing a representation of a ‘terrorist’. It can be argued that differences in the representation of ‘terrorism’ and ‘terrorists’ post 9/11 attacks, emerged from the events in 1995; the Oklahoma bombings....
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