Terrorism and the Media
Bomb blasts, glasses shattering, loss of property and life, suicide bombing kidnappings, assassinations, executions and other like terms is what an ordinary person can relate to when he or she hears about terrorism. There is no explicit definition of terrorism but it can be briefly defined as acts of extreme violence. These acts are usually carried out with the intent of killing or destroying lives and they are done for a particular purpose. Terrorism acts include bombing, kidnapping and assassination. Each terrorist attack is usually planned to the last detail and no errors are supposed to be made. These acts are mainly carried to express different purposes/ ideals like political, cultural, economical, social, psychological, racial or religious acts (Ghosh, 1995).
A major difference between terrorism and guerilla or homicide is that, while common criminals will want to hide their identity, terrorists expect to be noticed and they mostly use the media for this. Guerrillas, on the other hand often work to oppose the government. They choose targets who they think will befit their purposes. Although terrorists may choose a particular victim, they usually have interest in a larger audience, mainly cities. They instill fear on the public and often show no mercy to the victim(s) waiting for the public’s reaction. Seldom will terrorists work alone and most of them are members of different groups. These gangs consist of few members due to the element of secrecy and undivided allegiance.
Many forms of terrorism exist with the first being state terrorism. This is where states or countries support various terrorist groups and do not restrict them or stop their actions even when they terrorize their own citizens. They may even support them by providing the weaponry they need. It may also refer to when the leaders of the country terrorize its citizens. This is often for political gain and the principle leader always hide their identity. The second form of terrorism is bioterrorism. This form utilizes toxic chemicals and substances such as plagues to harm people. This often results to death because the chemicals react very fast and more often than not, they have no cure. The third form of terrorism is cyber terrorism. The terrorists mostly use the internet as a form of attack. They may disable network services by using computer viruses or hack into secured computers where they will get vital information and use it to get what they want. Due to flexibility of the internet, they can do this when they are very far from their victims. This ensures their security.
Fourth, the terrorists may use nuclear weapons, which, are known to cause the severest damage. These weapons are called weapons of mass destruction because they are capable of killing many people at once (Naco, 2002). The terrorists may buy or manufacture the nuclear weapons. Manufacture of the nuclear weapons is made easier in the countries that have a stock of such weapons. Finally, there are the suicide terrorists also called suicide bombers. They usually use bombs to cause destruction on themselves, environment and others. The method is usually cheap since these gadgets are own-manufactured. Suicide bombing is very successful and often targets places that very crowded.
Buses, airplanes and any other means of transport are also potential targets fro suicide bombers. The suicide bombers are usually a part of a larger group and they are not afraid of death. Although they usually die, many of them would like to see the effects of their work. The public needs to be informed about all the various forms of terrorism. They also need to know how to avoid them and that they should speak out when they see suspicious activities around them. Since most of the people watch the television, read newspapers or listen to the radio, the best way of passing on the information is through the stated forms of media (Zalman, 2010).
The media comprehensively includes television, radio, the internet films and print media. They have the major task of reporting news as it happens and giving out facts to the public. They also inform the public of what is happening, what they ought to do in times of crisis and what they should not do. The media should not be partial in information relaying. On the contrary, it should give accurate and relevant information. In cases of crisis, the media should try not to make things worse in the process of covering news. The availability of media sources has enabled most people to keep up to date with current events.
In addition to news coverage, the media is also used by the terrorist groups to pass information instilling terror to the public. Since the groups are small, they usually depend on the media to amplify their ideas and draw attention to their cause. The infusion of bloody destruction is used achieve fear in people. The terrorists in seeking an audience know they will get one when they make people afraid of them. They usually use video recordings (mostly showing pictures of tortured victims) to instill fear in people and to pass their message. At times, they may also use recorded audio tapes filled with chilling and terrifying messages, which they distribute to newsrooms. To them the message matters more than the victim does. They feel a strong need to communicate and go out of their way to provide shocking and brutal images. Their actions are usually premeditated and they ensure they have the best news coverage (Naco, 2002).
In the recent past, there has been an increase in the hijacking and executing of journalists. In their characteristic fashion of being the first individuals in news coverage, they have become easy hostage targets to the terrorists. It is a common occurrence in today’s news to hear that a journalist who had been abducted by a terrorist group has been found executed. The terrorists know very well that this type of news is influential especially since it is aired for quite a while. The terrorists may also terrorize newsrooms so that they can have their message repeated over the airwaves many times (Netherland Organization for applied Scientific Research TNO, 2008). They do this because they know the longer people hear the message the more terrified they will be and by doing this they will have already achieved one of their objectives. With the terrorists’ belief of fighting for a common purpose, they hold the view that a portion of people who will sympathize and understand them. They will expect some to be on their side and that is why, for instance, they may stay for some time without harming a hostage.
Terrorism is like a magnet to newsrooms and they are pulled so strongly towards it. The news reporters and anchors often overlook more stories that have positive messages like technological developments, or humanitarian stories such as children’s issues, and look for stories filled with violence and bloodshed. They do not believe that they can report something without the mention of violence. They know that this will keep viewers on the screens as they try to monitor the terrorism acts and situations. This will increase their ratings and consequently, their business processes like advertisements. They also get an opportunity to cover an interesting and exciting story. On a different note, many movies that are being produced are full of violence (White, 2008). These films have negative impacts on individuals since they glorify violence as they make up heroes and create movie lines. Idolization of the lead movie characters has led many people to overlook the full impact of what the violence could do. For instance, there has been an increase in suicide bombings among the young people and this is feared to be one of the biggest contributing causes.
Terrorists do not just execute their actions without a well-elaborated and calculated plan. They take their time to select their victims and torture them. They then call the media and make sure that the most horrific images are displayed to the public. Sometimes they may plan the terrorism act for years before taking any action (Zalman, 2010). They acknowledge responsibility for the terror they cause and they take pride if they have managed to cause major harm and damage. However, care should be taken by the authorities because a terrorist group can claim to have done something that they did not. They do this to get attention. They have various names for their groups and the members are very loyal to each other choosing to die for the cause other than surrendering. Majority of the terrorists have nothing to benefit by doing all these but they do it in order to gain recognition from the intended audience like the government. They believe that they have to have their way or there is no way at all. Sometimes they are also motivated by a desire to be known and respected especially by their supporters and sympathizers and that is why they will always admit liability.
To help in the fight against terrorism, the media could do a few things such as; it does not have to cover every terrorist act. If the media does not give the terrorists the attention that they are seeking, they will not have an audience or a means to psychologically disturb the public with their threatening messages. In addition to that, the media could also regulate the news they cover without the government banning or dictating to them the content they will cover. This will be better than if the government banned them from covering violent stories because that will cause protests and it would be interfering with press freedom. It is important for the media and government to speak with one voice in order to prevent any further terrorist activities. The media should also inform the government of any anticipated attacks that the State may not be aware of so that the matter can be investigated before any damage is caused. The media should also make sure that they have credible sources and they have confirmed every report before announcing it or imprinting it (Frey, 2004).
Movie producers can also play an important role in fighting terrorism. They can do this by refusing to elevate violence. They should produce movies that are moderate in content and avoid violence. Some individuals are of the opinion that things should be left as they are. They argue that no steps ought to be taken because any change might lead to more acts of terror as a way of retaliation if the terrorists’ attacks are not met. This is a dangerous view because many terrorists nowadays use the internet and most of them have radios that they use to communicate. It is a more effective communication channel for them and especially those who are far from civilization.
Note that, because terrorists do seek to be understood, most of them do not execute their captives. They use very horrifying methods when executing people. They can slit a victim’s throat using a knife, torturing the person by starving him or her until he dies, shooting them among other horrific methods. They usually have no conscience and will do anything to the victims. Perhaps, a factor has been left out in the fight against terrorism. Many questions have been asked about where the terrorists get their funding. They use many weapons some of which are very expensive. There have been speculations that some groups sell hard drugs to get the funds. If everyone could get involved in this fight, terrorism will not have as many supporters as it does now (Ghosh, 1995).
Frey, B. S. (2004). Dealing with terrorism: stick or carrot? Northampton, MA: Edward Elgar Publishing
Ghosh, S. K. (1995). Terrorism, world under siege New Delhi, India: APH Publishing
Nacos, L. B. (2002). Mass-mediated terrorism: the central role of the media in terrorism and counterterrorism. Blue Ridge Smt, PA: Rowman & Littlefield
Netherland Organization for applied Scientific Research TNO (2008). Transnational terrorism, security & the rule of law. Retrieved 26 March 2010, from http://www.transnationalterrorism.eu/tekst/publications/WP4%20Del%206.pdf
White, R. J. (2008). Terrorism and Homeland Security Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning
Zalman A. (2010). Guide to Different Types of Terrorism. Retrieved 26 March 2010, from