In What Ways, If Any, Have Terrorists Exploited Religion, the Media and Democratic Processes to Pursue Their Goals?

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TOPIC: In what ways, if any, have terrorists exploited religion, the media and democratic processes to pursue their goals?

The events of September 11 brought the issue of terrorism to the forefront of world affairs through global mass media. The media linked the terrorists to the religion of Islam. Due to international human rights, democratic governments are finding it difficult to combat terrorism. In this essay I will critically discuss how terrorists group has exploited the media, the religion of Islam and democracy to pursue their goals.

Terrorism is the use of violence against innocent's victim to bring about political change through fear. It is a combination of indoctrination and drama. With the aid of the present day media, acts of terrorism are now becoming designed to grasp the attention of the entire world and thrust the terrorist organisation's message into the spotlight for the whole world to examine (Weimann and Winn 1994).

The relationship between terrorism and the media is symbiotic. As terrorists require widespread attention, the media needs news (Miller 1982). Terrorism in effect is a form of advertisement of the terrorist's goals and what they want accomplished.

In 1980 the New York Times, printed a total of 916 articles on terrorist events. This means that terrorists were getting their message out nearly three times a day to the American public (Miller 1982).

Terrorists have usually used the media for four main reasons. The first reason is to have their message heard and to strike fear into their target group. The second is to win over the public's support for their cause, by highlighting themes like, the righteousness of their cause, and the assuredness of their victory. Third they use media to disrupt government and security responses. By suggesting that they are overreacting and their efforts are counterproductive. Finally, the fourth is to raise the moral of their current members, raise recruitment, and encourage more attacks (Alexander and Latter 1990).

John O' Sullivan gave this quote about media and terrorism, "If the media were not there to explain their political and social significance, terrorism would cease to exist." (Nacos 1994). With all the interaction between the media and terrorism an option being considered by many governments is censorship of media's coverage of terrorist events. During many terrorist incidents the police do not want all the information they have gathered to be released, for fear of the public's safety, and the security of their future actions. One motive of terrorists is to sway the public's belief in police forces dealing with the terrorist incident. For that reason the printing of damaging articles and stories requires some restraint (Alexander and Latter 1990). An example of the media needing restraint occurred on April 30, 1980, when a group of Arab secessionists captured the Iranian embassy in London. As the SWAT teams began to move in their biggest advantage was the element of surprise but a British Independent Television got past the police barricade and broadcasted a live assault on the embassy. One can only speculate what would have happened if the terrorists had been watching the television (Miller 1982).

In many countries it is likely that the level of terrorism will increase rather than decrease after the introduction of terrorism. The increase is due to the fact that... groups will feel freer to engage in terrorist acts...since they can count on not being exposed and criticized by the local media. The mass terrorism of Hitler and Stalin was possible because the people were not fully aware of what was going on. Government imposed censorship on news of... terrorism can, in our view, be a cure that is worse than the disease (Schmid and Graaf 1982).

A total blackout of media's coverage of terrorist events is not necessary, if the media will reform its procedure for covering terrorist activities. A...
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