How is Terrorism and its Perception Shaped by the Mass Media?

How is Terrorism and its Perception Shaped by the Mass Media?

CSS 2022 Solved Essays | How is Terrorism and its Perception Shaped by the Mass Media?

Hifsa Darvesh Khan, a Sir Syed Kazim Ali student, has attempted the CSS 2022 essay “How is Terrorism and its Perception Shaped by the Mass Media?” on the given pattern, which Sir Syed Kazim Ali teaches his students. Sir Syed Kazim Ali has been Pakistan’s top English writing and CSS, PMS essay and precis coach with the highest success rate of his students. The essay is uploaded to help other competitive aspirants learn and practice essay writing techniques and patterns to qualify for the essay paper.

1- Introduction

  • ✓ Terrorism is the use of violence for political, religious, or ideological purposes, and mass media is a diverse array of platforms that reaches a large audience, shaping their opinion and attitude, having a complex and multifaceted relationship between both.
  • ✓ The extensive media coverage of every terrorist incident is displayed on media platforms, causing various implications for society.
  • ✓ Sagacious measures must be taken to counter the perception of terrorism portrayed by the mass media.

2- Deciphering the terms ‘terrorism’ and ‘Mass Media’

3- Explaining the bond between ‘terrorism’ and ‘Mass Media’

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

  • Increasing the efficiency of terrorist outfits
    • Case in point: According to a report published by The United Nations Office of Counter-Terrorism (UNOCT), terrorists are being up-to-date through the extensive coverage of terrorist incidents.
  • Portraying Muslims as terrorists and spreading Islamophobia
    • Case in point: After the 9/11 attacks, the top news channels, such as CNN News and BBC News, depicted the whole Muslim world as terrorists.
  • Supporting Western propaganda
    • Case in point: In 2003, the American media claimed that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction, leading to the Superpower’s invasion of Iraq.
  • Creating fear among the masses
    • Case in point: According to the Bureau of Counterterrorism, the live Facebook streaming of the Christchurch shootings amplified the fear 100 times among masses worldwide.
  • Presenting freedom fighters as terrorists
    • Case in point: Palestinians fighting for freedom against Israelis are pictured as terrorists on media – Al Jazeera
  • Changing the ideologies of the masses
    • Case in point: according to a research article published by The National Interest, atheism and Christianity are spreading like wildfire, owing to the portrayal of Muslims as terrorists on media platforms.
  • Promoting Western culture
    • Case in point: the ban on hijab in France in 2011 was pictured by mass media as a positive course of action, depicting it as a symbol of extremist and terrorist mindset.

5- Remedial measures to counter the perception created by the mass media

  • ✓ To ensure responsible and ethical reporting by mass media through proper checks and balance
  • ✓ To filter out the violent content on mass media to eliminate the perception
  • ✓ To promote public awareness and raise voices against terrorism and biased media through social media platforms

6- Conclusion

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Technological advancement accelerates the flow of information and makes it accessible to every individual worldwide, covering and providing the minute-to-minute details of every corner of the world. Without any doubt, mass media- a diverse array of communication platforms, reaching a large audience in no time- plays a significant role in spreading information and shaping public opinion, attitude, and behaviour. Likewise, terrorism- the use of violence for political, ideological, and religious purposes – is deeply intertwined with the mass media, making the relationship complex and multifaceted between both. Sadly, the extensive and exaggerated coverage of terrorist incidents through the mass media adds fuel to the fire and causes negative consequences on society, such as portraying all Muslims as terrorists and spreading Islamophobia, especially after the Twin Towers incident. Furthermore, the display of Palestinian freedom fighters fighting against Israelis are pictured as terrorists in the mass media, leading the world to hold or show no empathy for them. In some cases, the media’s coverage of terrorism may be manipulated or controlled by the terrorist groups themselves, so the exaggerated picture of violence shaped by the mass media does nothing but boost the fear among the masses and is more likely to change their ideologies. However, it is important to note that the relationship between terrorism and the mass media is complex. Therefore, responsible journalism and ethical reporting can help minimize unintended consequences and prevent terrorists from achieving their propaganda goals. By filtering out sensitive content from media and spreading awareness and authentic information among the masses, the media can play a critical role in counteracting the influence of terrorism.

To proceed, it is of utmost importance to understand both the said terms. Terrorism is a complex and multifaceted concept that involves the use of violence, intimidation, or other forms of coercion to achieve political, ideological, religious, or social goals. It generally refers to the acts of violence or threats that are intended to create fear and panic in a population, often targeting civilians or non-fighters, in order to draw attention to a particular cause, ideology, or grievance. Also, the goals behind terrorism can vary and all acts of violence, whether minor or major, are considered terrorism. On the other hand, the mass media refers to the various forms of communication that are designed to reach a large audience, which includes television, radio, newspapers, magazines, the internet, and other digital platforms, playing a crucial role in shaping public opinion, influencing societal norms, and disseminating information on a large scale. It has the ability to reach millions of people simultaneously and can have a significant impact on individuals, societies, and cultures.
The relationship between terrorism and the mass media is intricate and multifaceted. Undoubtedly, the mass media serves as a powerful amplifier, providing extensive coverage of terrorist acts that can inadvertently glorify perpetrators and their ideologies. Hence, the media’s framing and narrative of terrorist incidents shape public understanding and influence opinions on both the motives behind these acts and the government’s responses. Unfortunately, terrorists exploit the media’s reach for recruitment and radicalization purposes, utilizing platforms to spread propaganda and ideologies globally.
Since there is a huge debate on how the mass media portrays terrorism and its perception, consequently shaping public opinions and behaviours, some of its crucial indications are discussed here. To begin with, the extensive and speedy coverage of terrorist incidents in any corner of the world gives rise to the efficiency of the terrorist outfits, making them more cautious in order to achieve their motives. According to a report published by The United Nations Office of Counterterrorism (UNOCT), terrorists are being updated through the extensive coverage of terrorist incidents on media platforms. Thus, the role of mass media in shaping terrorism is crucial in increasing the efficiency of terrorists, making them well aware of the further steps to be taken by the organizations or agencies, fulfilling their goals, and causing more devastation to the masses.
Furthermore, the biased nature of the mass media displays Muslims as the root cause of terrorism, ultimately spreading Islamophobia worldwide. To illustrate, after the Twin Tower attacks, the top news channels, such as CNN News and BBC News, depicted the whole Muslim world as terrorists. As it is said that one dirty fish spoils the whole pond, undoubtedly, it is the mass media that played a fundamental role in spreading Islamophobia, turning the whole world against the Muslim community and indicating them as a terrorist nation because of the extensive and biased coverage of the 9/11 incidents by the so-called impartial new channels. Hence, the perception of terrorism shaped by the mass media has compelled the world to perceive all Muslims as terrorists and likewise.
In addition, the mass media has played a crucial role in displaying terrorism and supporting Western propaganda. Evidently, in 2003, the American government claimed that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction, which was further emphasized and exaggerated by the mass media, leading to the Superpower’s invasion of Iraq. In other words, the extensive coverage of the American mass media alleged Iraq’s possession of destructive weapons. Although no actual evidence of the weapons was found in the accused country subsequently, it led to significant controversy and criticism regarding the irresponsible reporting of the mass media, as well as the accuracy of intelligence, resulting in the American invasion. Thus, the mass media has played its role significantly in supporting Western propaganda in the name of bringing terrorism to light.
Moreover, the substantial coverage of terrorism in the mass media has led to an overemphasis on dramatic and violent aspects of terrorist incidents, amplifying fear and anxiety in people. According to the Bureau of Counterterrorism, in 2019, the live Facebook streaming of the Christchurch shootings amplified the fear 100 times among the masses worldwide. Not only this, the whole terrorist incident was streamed multiple times on different media platforms, providing people with the actual footage of a brutal killing in the mosque in New Zealand. Thus, the sensational and repetitive nature, 24/7 coverage, and fearful narratives of the mass media have played a significant role in boosting fear among the masses while displaying terrorism and its perception of the world.
In addition to the amplification of fear among the masses, the portrayal of individuals or groups involved in conflicts, such as the situation in Palestine, can be highly contentious and often depends on the perspective of the media outlet. According to Al-Jazeera, Palestinians fighting for their freedom, for decades, against Israelis are pictured as terrorists on media platforms. Thus, it is evident that the mass media, especially the Western news channels, depicts the individuals and groups fighting for their basic rights as alleged to be involved in terrorist activities, leading people to hold no soft corner or empathy in their hearts for the freedom fighters.

Likewise, the mass media is playing its role essentially in changing the ideologies and perspectives of some individuals. According to a research article published by The National Interest, Atheism and Christianity are spreading by leaps and bounds in the Muslim community, owing to the horrible picture of terrorism displayed on media platforms. Thus, the mass media can shape perceptions and potentially influence some individuals, ultimately leading them to change their beliefs and ideologies. People, especially Muslims, are switching from Islam to other religions, as well as to Atheism, as a result of the hatred they hold for their counterparts who are portrayed as terrorists in the mass media throughout the world.
Furthermore, the influential role of the ruling Western media plays a vital role in promoting and imposing Western culture worldwide. To illustrate, in 2011, the ban on hijab in France was pictured as a positive course of action by the mass media, depicting it as a symbol of extremist and terrorist mindset. In fact, the hijab usage of females was declared as a secret dress code of terrorist outfits, violating their right to dress. As a result, the initiative was appreciated and supported solely on media platforms throughout the Western world, declaring it as a sign of extremist and terrorist frame of mind.
Undoubtedly, the 24/7, extensive, and exaggerated coverage of the mass media portrays the perception of the menace in such a way that it has adversely influenced public opinions and perspectives. However, it is crucial to recognize that the relationship between media and terrorism is just one part of a complex web of factors. Therefore, a moderate approach must be taken to promote the positive role of media. For example, ensuring responsible and ethical reporting by the mass media is crucial through proper checks and balances by the relevant organizations. Further, the censor boards should keep an eye on the violent and sensitive content on media platforms – whether be it print media or digital – and filtering them out should be mandatory so that the content cannot be seen or approached publicly, and the perception should be eliminated. Last but not least, raising voices against terrorism and the biased nature of the mass media, spreading authentic and relevant information, and keeping a neutral approach towards countering the menace are of utmost significance.
To conclude, terrorism and its perception are displayed in the mass media in such a way that it has adversely affected the public perspective. Undoubtedly, the mass media, such as various forms of communication that are designed to reach a large audience, has the power to spread information from any corner of the world in no time. However, the biased nature of the mass media, the 24/7, extensive, and exaggerated coverage of terrorist incidents through media platforms, overpower its ethical characteristics, playing a significant role in shaping and influencing public opinions and perspectives. Thus, the perception has caused various impacts on individuals, as well as societies, such as depicting Muslims as terrorists and spreading Islamophobia, amplifying fear among the masses and changing their ideologies, promoting Western culture, and supporting Western propaganda. Nevertheless, to eliminate the exaggerated perception of terrorism shaped by the mass media, there is a dire need to take remedial measures, such as ensuring the ethical and responsible role of media and filtering out violent and sensitive content from media platforms in the supervision of authorities.

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