How Is Terrorism and Its Perception Shaped by Mass Media?

How Is Terrorism and Its Perception Shaped by Mass Media?

The following article, “How Is Terrorism and Its Perception Shaped by Mass Media?” is written by Sana Basharat, a student of Sir Syed Kazim Ali. Moreover, the article is written on the same pattern, taught by Sir to his students, scoring the highest marks in compulsory subjects for years. Sir Kazim has uploaded his students’ solved past paper questions so other thousands of aspirants can understand how to crack a topic or question, how to write relevantly, what coherence is, and how to include and connect ideas, opinions, and suggestions to score the maximum.

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1- Introduction

  • ✓Terrorism refers to deliberate, political violence committed against non-combatant targets.
  • ✓Mass media and fake videos play a role in contemporary terrorism.

2- Relation between terrorism and mass media

  • ✓Relation between mass media and terrorism is symbiotic.

3- Overview of terrorism acts exaggerated by media

  • ✓Incident of 9/11

4- How is terrorism and its perception shaped by media?

  • ✓Terrorist organizations gain popularity because of the media.
  • ✓Social media paves the way for terrorist organizations to achieve their goals.
  • ✓Social media is used to create fear.
  • ✓Media affects public opinion.

5- Steps to revamp the situation

  • ✓Media should stop providing a free platform for terrorist propaganda.
  • ✓Media should change its rhetoric while covering news related to terrorism.
  • ✓Media should counter cyberterrorism.

6- Critical analysis
7- Conclusion

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Answer to the Question


Terrorism refers to deliberate, politically motivated violence against non-combatant targets, which is typically done in an effort to persuade the populace. Nonetheless, modern terrorism is media terrorism. It is a fact that the growing prowess of media can no longer be ignored. It has affected the world socially, politically, and economically. Extreme acts of terrorism attract the media because it must cover any major incident. However, there is nothing wrong with saying that the spread of terror, fear, and chaos depends largely on the images and videos being carried by media outlets. Nevertheless, terrorism and its perception are shaped by mass media through news related to terrorism. It paves the way for terrorist networks to achieve their goals, and social media is used to create fear. However, the situation can be reversed by following effective measures, including stopping providing a free platform for terrorist propaganda and changing the media’s rhetoric while covering terrorism-related news.

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Relation between terrorism and mass media

Terrorism and media coexist harmoniously. There have been mutually disadvantageous roles between terrorism and mass media. As Nacos aptly points out, “Whether it is the relatively inconsequential arson by an amateurish environmental group or mass destruction by a network of terrorists, the perpetrator’s related goals are the same: attention, recognition, and perhaps even a degree of respectability and legitimacy in their various publics.”

Overview of terrorism acts exaggerated by media

History is witness to many terrorist acts that were presented terrifyingly by media outlets. For instance, 19 terrorists of Al Qaeda organization attacked the World Trade Centre in the United States on September 11, 2001. Media outlets exaggerated the incident and created an atmosphere of fear worldwide.

Role of media in shaping the perception of terrorism

✓Terrorist organizations gain popularity through the media Terrorist organizations gain popularity through the media.

Terrorist networks gain popularity because of the media. According to Hoffman, “Without the media coverage, the act’s impact is arguably wasted, remaining narrowly confined to the immediate victims of the attack rather than reaching the wider target audience to whom the terrorist’s violence is aimed.” Winning the attention of media, and decision makers in government is one of the primary goals of terrorists.

Social media paves the way for terrorist networks to achieve goals.

Social media paves the way for terrorist networks to achieve their goals and win psychological warfare. Many terrorist organizations use social media platforms to create an influence of fear. For instance, ISIS broadcasted live the killing of Turkish soldiers on the internet. In brief, mass media and social media increased the scope of terrorist propaganda and became an acting tool for terrorists in terms of advancing their operational objectives.

Social media is used to create fear.

 Social media is used to create fear in people. Nowadays, terrorists have picked up the dynamic to take action not only to make their victims suffer but also to create maximum fear around the world. For instance, more than 100,000 tweets were posted during the ISIS invasion of Iraq. Tweets created fear among residents in Iraq, and people began to flee from their cities. Terrorists managed to spread fear through mass media.

Media affects public opinion.

Mass media is the most important element that affects public opinion. According to Nadeem Paracha, “Terrorist attacks affect the people of certain areas, but the news of this attack affects the whole nation traumatically.” For example, the way media coverage after the traumatic incident of 9/11 dramatically changed the public perception and discourse at the government level. People began to perceive ethnic and religious minorities as a threat.

Remedial measures to revamp the situation

 Media is in a position where it can either highlight or minimize the perception of crimes. Media can provide coverage that may avoid either of the two extremes. It plays a significant role in the calculus of political violence. That is why the following measures can be implemented to mitigate the effects of terrorism. These are as follows:  

  • ✓ Media should stop providing a  free platform for terrorist propaganda.
  • ✓ Media should evaluate and change its policy while covering terrorism-related news stories.
  • ✓ Media should provide clear, factual, and balanced information.
  • ✓ Media should counter cyber terrorism.

Critical analysis

After analyzing the role of media in shaping terrorism and its perception, it is proved that the discourse of media coverage paves the way for terrorist networks to fulfill their objectives. Terrorism is a category of political violence to fulfill symbolic goals. The coverage of terrorist acts by media outlets renders it possible for the perpetrators to conceive an unimaginable victory in terms of penetrating the daily lives of a huge audience. Through the use of the media’s fear narrative, terrorists can garner recognition, global attention, and legitimacy in the eyes of potential recruits. Terrorist networks are aware of the impacts of violence and the sensation their attacks create through media coverage.


In conclusion, it is proved that mass media shape terrorism and its perception via news and stories related to terrorism. Terrorist networks gain recognition through mass media; social media paves the way for insurgents to win psychological war, and it is also used to spread fear and chaos. Although the situation is challenging, few pragmatic measures can reverse the situation. These steps include countering cyber terrorism and stopping providing free popularity to terrorist networks.

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