The Media's Role in Terrorism Essay

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“If the media were not there to report terrorist acts and to explain their political and social significance...terrorism as such would cease to exist” said John O'Sullivan, an editor of the Times of London.1 This is also the way many other people feel about the recent increase in terrorist activity; they feel that the media is causing it. The media is doing this by fulfilling the terrorists' need for publicity.2 Terrorists need media publicity in order to get their views spread to the public.3 Because of this need for publicity, terrorists are committing their acts of terrorism in areas where a lot of publicity will be gained; the United States and Western Europe are the most recent targets. The bombings of the federal building in Oklahoma City and the Olympic Centennial Park in Atlanta are current examples of terrorists seeking publicity in the United States.4 Terrorists' need for publicity has been around for a long time, but new media technologies are causing the problem to grow faster than ever.5 Terrorism is growing at an impressive rate of 12 to 15 percent per year.6 The media cause many problems besides helping terrorists. They inspire more terrorism to happen, cause terrorist attacks to be bigger, cause problems with authorities, and cause ineffective laws to be passed. To solve these problems, government censorship and self-regulation have been suggested.

Government censorship involves the government controlling what the media can report; there has been controversy over this because it could take away many American freedoms. Self-regulation involves the media controlling themselves. Because of the way the media are currently covering terrorist events, many serious problems are occurring; if the media do not voluntarily change their ways, government regulations could be enacted.7 Although debates over how to solve the problems are relatively new, terrorists' use of publicity has been around for many years. When a terrorist has publicity as his main goal, he is known as a "modern" terrorist; this type of terrorism has been around for a long time, but not until around 1968 was it widely known. Most people connected terrorism with "classical" terrorists. This kind of terrorism is used in the time of war; there is no goal of publicity.

All they want to do is intimidate the opposition. The FLN in Algeria are labeled as this t...

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...pp. 186-188.
18 O'Sullivan, p. 70.
19 Livingstone, pp. 69-70.
20 "Fighting Terrorism: Do it With Care," The Economist, August 1996, p. 26.
21 Katharine Graham, "The Media Must Report Terrorism," In D. L. Bender & B. Leone (Eds.), Opposing Viewpoints: Terrorism, p. 78.
22 Livingstone, p.69.
23 Bassiouni, pp. 196-199.
24 Bassiouni, p. 180.
25 Lord Chalfont, "The Price of Sympathy," In B. Netanyahu (Ed.), Terrorism: How the West Can Win, p. 126.
26 Daniel Schorr, "The Encouragement of Violence," In B. Netanyahu (Ed.), Terrorism: How the West Can Win, p. 115.
27 Lewis H. Lapham, "Seen But Not Heard: The Message of the Oklahoma Bombing," Harper's Magazine, July 1995, p. 30.
28 Bassiouni, pp. 185-186.
29 Livingstone, pp. 72-73.
30 Long, p. 120-121.
31 "Milosevic Shuts Down Independent Radios," The Post-Crescent, 4 December 1996, col. 4, A-2.
32 Long, p. 120.
33 Livingstone, p. 76.
34 Livingstone, pp. 73-74.
35 Long, pp. 119-120.
36 Chalfont, p. 128.
37 Morris and Hoe, p. 37.
38 "Eau Claire Plagued With Bomb Threats," The Post-Crescent, 2 December 1996, cols. 2-6, p. B-2. ??

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