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what to do terrorism and the media essay

what to do terrorism and the media essay

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Published by: singingman on Oct 08, 2008
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02/01/2013

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What To Do?: Terrorism and the Media

Imagine you are a resident of Jerusalem, in the year 60 AD. You
are taking
a walk throughout the marketplace doing your weekly shopping. You see
a man
pull out a dagger and he yells \u2018death to all Romans' and attacks a
roman guard,
killing him in front of hundreds of spectators. The assassin quietly
slips into
the crowd and is lost in a sea of people never to be found. The word
of the
attack spreads and soon it is the talk of the town. Many more attacks
on Romans
are made by the Sicarii and the Zealots. Sympathizers of the Romans
slowly
disappear and their voices vanish from Jerusalem. The fear of
terrorism grows
and Roman repression grows along with it, this in turn leads to the
people of
Jerusalem to revolt in 70 AD (Miller V). If this attack had been made
in some
dark alley with no spectators would the people react the way they did?

The marketplace of old Jerusalem, can be compared to the media
of today.
What better place to get the public informed about your reasons and
purpose for
attacks than the news. Albert gave a good definition of terrorist's
objectives
when he stated: "Terrorists try to exercise influence over targeted
officials on
nations through intimidation of the public and arousal of sympathy for
the
social and political causes they espouse. Without widespread publicity,
terrorist acts can achieve neither of these effects" (Bandura, Albert
qtd. In
Nacos 1). Terrorists need the news media to get the publicity, and the
media is
a willing accomplice. The news media is an accessory to terrorism, and
as such
they should develop a set of standards that will limit the terrorist
ability to
get their message out to a large audience during terrorist situations;
Also the
media should also point out police mistakes without over emphasizing
them,
giving equal coverage to both sides of the issue.

Terrorism is the use of violence against innocents to bring about
political
change through fear. It is a combination of indoctrination and drama.
The
relationship between terrorism and the media is symbiotic. As
terrorists
require widespread attention, the media needs news (Miller v-vi).
Terrorism in

effect is a from of advertisement of the terrorists goals and what they
want
accomplished. In 1980 the New York Times printed a total of 916
articles on
terrorist events. That means that terrorists were getting their
message out
nearly three times a day to the American public(Miller 60). Terrorists
have
usually used the media for four main reasons. The first reason is to
have their
message heard and strike fear into their target group. The second is
to win
over the publics 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 ov erreacting, and their efforts are counterproductive. Finally
the fourth
is to raise the moral of their current members, raise recruitment, and
encourage
more attacks (Alexander 30-31). John O' Sullivan gave this quote about
media
and terrorism, "If the media were not there to explain their political
and
social significance [their goals and motives], terrorism would cease to
exist"
(Nacos 48).

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 that they have gathered to be released, for fear of the
publics
safety, and the security of their future actions. One motive of
terrorists is
to sway the publics belief in police forces dealing with the terrorist
incident.
For that reason the printing of damaging articles and stories requires
some
restraint (Alexander 36). 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, that was almost destroyed by a cameraman
from British
ITV (Independent Television) who got past the police barricade and
broadcast a
live assault on the embassy. One can only speculate what would have
happened if
the terrorists had been watching the television (Miller 28). Complete
and total

censorship is not the answer. Schmid put it well in his book Violence
as
Communication when he said:

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...[terrorist] groups will feel freer to engage in
terrorist
acts\u2026since 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\u2026
terrorism can, in our view, be a cure that is worse than the disease.
(150) 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

leader in this movement of self-censorship is CBS. CBS has set up a
list of
guidelines that all the reporters must follow during terrorist
situations (Alali
10). One option for the media to take is that there should be a
consensus of
standards for covering terrorism stories. There are several parts to
this
consensus and they are as follows: don't over exaggerate events that
are already
sensational; the media should paraphrase terrorist demands so they do
not get
all their political messages out; also they should not broadcast live
coverage
of terrorist situations unless the head of the news department allows

it. News

reporters should also have permission to talk with terrorists, and if
there is
permission these interviews should not interfere with the ongoing
negotiations.
The reporters should also be attentive to the warnings and orders of law
enforcement officials on the scene (Paletz 108).

When all the media
can set a
standard to live by a total blackout of coverage will not be needed.
But, if a
total blackout of media's coverage of terrorist events becomes policy,
many
believe that there will be abuses made by the police forces, that will
go
unreported to the public and the proper authorities.

There are mistakes that the police forces make that need to be
brought out
and made known to the public and the courts, so proper actions can be
taken.
Liberal democrats believe that the police is responsible for the publics

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