How Terrorism has been affected by the media
When can an act of violence, perpetrated by an individual or group properly be termed “terrorism”? This is a question passed over without due attention in everyday journalism. Jennifer Jane Hocking in her wok, noted, “Terrorism is a social construction, and once an action have been given that label, it becomes difficult to treat it in a value-neutral manner”. According to her, “Replete with implied moral opprobrium, a socially assigned value and meaning, an imputation of illegitimacy and outrage, ‘terrorism’ can never fit apparently value-neutral typologies much used in the social sciences… (Hockings 86). An apparent definition of terrorism that has been deemed serviceable for most purposes is the definition of the United Nations General Assembly: Criminal acts intended or calculated to provoke a state of terror in the general public, a group of persons or particular persons for political purposes…whatever the considerations of a political, philosophical, ideological, racial, ethnic, religious or other nature that may be invoked to justify them (Koh 148).
The language of the media in reporting acts considered “terrorism” and terrorist organized actions is extremely important, as any language used will set the parameters for public discourse. Since the phraseology and terminology of the insurgent terrorist groups and government officials are generally at odds, the media is forced to adopt words or phrases, which will generally be an acceptable way to express the idea in the public forum. Therefore, by inducing the media to accept their nomenclature, terrorist organisation or the counter-terrorist group has already an important psychological victory.
Most studies into the relationship between terrorism and the media have focused on the response of the media to terrorist actions (Briggitte). The relationship between the mass media and terrorism have generally be agreed to be ‘symbiotic’, in that insurgent terrorist groups use the media as a channel for their political message to be heard by the target audience, and supply ‘exciting news’ for the media (Nacos 48). There perceived a mutually beneficial relationship between terrorists and the media. “Terrorism is theatre”, and terrorist plan attacks choreographed carefully, to attract the attention of the media. In turn, “the media responds to these overtures with almost unbridled alacrity, proving unable to ignore what has been accurately described as ‘an event…fashioned specifically for their needs’ ” (Hoffman 174). Because of terrorism’s enormous emotional impact, there is often lack of neutral words with which to describe their actions. For example, few neutral nouns for journalists to describe an insurgent terrorist include, ‘terrorist’, ‘soldier’, ‘freedom fighter’, ‘criminal’, or ‘guerrilla’, require the journalist to make a moral judgement. Often, journalists are forced to employ words, which seem to indicate a bias standpoint or neutral stance. In Janny de Graaf’s text, violence as communication, he argues, “When journalists use an insurgent terrorist as a source, the terrorist’s romantic language often seduces the journalist into unconsciously adopting it” (Alex and Janny 88). An example of this phenomenon occurred during the kidnapping and subsequent murder of former-Italian Premier Aldo Moro, when the editor of La Repubblica ran a headline, which seemed to be a paraphrase of a previous statement by the Red Brigade (Robin 90). The terrorist organization had clearly excited the newspaper with their engaging language. The media does not only adopt the language of the terrorist. Janny de Graaf (65) pointed out that “‘in many cases’, the news media automatically adopts the nomenclature of the government. However, most commentators allege that the language of the government does not seduce the media; rather are intimidated by the government’s perceived information superiority (Edward 22). Terrorist using the media:...
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