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Media coverage in the era of technology has changed a lot of things in this day and history. One of the most prevalent and a staple of new media repertoire is terrorism. And this has been the case since the first major terrorist attack known through American history, 9/11. The news media coverage has shaped the views in these attacks and more so in the eyes of the people who consume the information they throw out there.
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Now it’s important to note that media has changed especially when they have aligned themselves in a way to suit every taste. Such that there is a conservative base that is taken on by conservative outlets and then there is the other base taken by say liberal outlet. But as terrorism evolves, one thing has become clear, that for all the screaming headlines about the terror inspired attacks, it is a fact that few people understand the complexities of the act of terrorism and the religion of Islam (Nacos, 2016). Through this questions as to who they are, and what they do what they do arise. But then such answers may need daily coverage of news that may need more than the media depicting the chaotic scenes. A holistic approach to the coverage the media gives terrorism can explain this concept and reshape lives just like the cold war did in the years back. This will therefore enhance perhaps understand the environment which media coverage has created and it reasons for doing so.
Let’s try and demystify the question of media coverage on terrorism by looking at one of the theories that will be addressed today. The McLuhan, which I have to say that has some very valid issues that bring about the perspectives if media coverage today. But there are also points that I felt to disagree with. According to McLuhan, it was not the media content that was considered significant but rather the form or better yet the technology of the media. In his argument, he postulated that the media leads to cultural changes McLuhan, M., & Fiore, Q. (1967). He made a point that has gone ahead and resonated with the media today. He stated that the effects of technology “do not occur at the level of opinions or concepts but rather change sense ratios or even patterns of perception in a steady manner and with little or no resistance.” This argument sums the kind of environment media coverage has created in the terrorism debate. The reporting of terrorist by the media through all the platforms today has created a constant link between terrorism and Islam. But then that connection dies right there. Many platforms don’t take on religious politics. And as a result, the media leaves a void that can be exploited by many people including propaganda hate-filled politicians and other people.
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As a result, a religion that has over billion followers has been defined by just but few individuals. McLuhan further postulated that. Media technology was continually operating as a prime mover in the everyday structuring of human interaction and even experience in the world. This is a sad reflection that we are in today where the media and technology have gone ahead and curved out the certain notions and preconceptions on and influenced our everyday interactions massively (McLuhan & Fiore, 1967). Funny enough this platform has been used to stir certain feelings in us and has further politicized the every part of our lives.
Now, there is one front that I disagree with McLuhan’s theory. In this approach, he drives the idea that rather than people concentrate on the content, or the subject matter that the media is delivering, our attention should preferably be in the form that it is delivered in. The theory further argued that the form rather than the content could shape the relations and actions that are taken by humans (McLuhan & Fiore, 1967). This theory laid out that new forms of media created new forms of interpersonal interactions and it is in this that McLuhan takes the position that we should be putting our focus upon.
This theory doesn’t take on the fact the content carried more weight than the form. And that the form was merely a carriage vessel. The form could sell something that was useless no matter how it was carried it was still going to be useless. The form could never change the content of that which the form is delivering (Nacos, 2016). Any place where the form of delivery was the principal concern and not the content of the delivery, should be a place that elicits great concern. One can’t claim the delivery was not as important as the mode in which it was delivered. That would to me be as in objective as some of the media outlets that have shaped our opinions today with careless remarks and statements.
Then there is the Chomsky’s theorem one forwarded by Noam Theory. Noam was a linguist, scientist and activist and a staunch critic of the United States foreign policy. His theory brought about the aspect of the manufacturing consent. He postulated the idea that news media was just a business like any other. And because of that, it was subject to biases just like other business would be biased. Therefore whatever they air and whichever way they reported it and the items they reported was to a considerable extent based on the desires and an absolute need to rake in profits (Achbar, 2014). This could mean that they could distort news to retain a particular group of viewers and not just that, they did that to please their sponsors. This they could do in two ways either censoring the story that would show the sponsor in a bad light or add a little something to it to stir controversy. The other option they could take was not to air anything displeasing at all to the sponsors. Isn’t this what we call tabloid journalism? Because we have seen the media every day sucks up to the sponsors or the authority who owns them. One example that has been witnessed for example in the American press with regards to terrorism is how they report the Israeli, Palestinian conflict.
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It’s no lie that there are some of the most influential lobby groups that are supported by big companies in the United States. And because of the financial power and influence of the lobby groups as they come, they have flexed their muscles by controlling the narrative that comes out to justify what they call the fight against terrorism in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Therefore these sponsors have always managed to influence and stay ahead of the story. With this trend, we can say that the media which should always be a tool to shine light where there is darkness has been used to oppress people and cause injustices all at the behest of powerful sponsors and possibly the government. It’s already known in the media culture that there are certain groups that specific stories appeal to. And as such the media has from time to time engaged itself in selective sorting out of facts that are only appealing to their viewers. They do that with almost surgical precision.
Another thing that Chomsky stated that was very much on point was the government interference. He provided that when a TV program, or print press among many others attempted or showed the government in bad light, the government would do everything to shun it out of access, and thus it loses readers and possibly profit. This means that whenever they do this and are denied the access, they will have to create good stories that are censored by the government to return to profitability.
Chomsky highlighted some of the editorial filters and one of the biggest according to him was size, ownership of the company and its profit orientation (Achbar, 2014). Therefore the bottom-line here was that these were organizations whose primary desire was to gain profit and as such, they will have to run at their owner’s interests. Another filter that Chomsky brought was the Flak enforcers Flak here would refer to any negative responses that would be attributed media story or even program (Achbar, 2014). If this is very bad for the company and there is the risk of losing profit, the flak will be avoided in that the media will shy off specific facts and add-on false statements all to avoid giving bad publicity to the company. Noam also asserted the fact that if people fear then they are likely to accept authority at some point this was referred to as anti-communist and this was because at some pointy communism was seen as the biggest threat to the world. This then made the media a tremendous tool for oppression.
However, there is something that should be noted, and it’s that there are not all instances when the big companies have control of the media or the government machinery. There are those countries whose media have thrived and gained space and as such have some independence to report and criticize the government and still stand tall. Others are not so lucky because just as Chomsky had stated, that when the government wields power and ultimate authority, then it would be a mistake to fight it. Because then it will drown the media by choking it doubt poof business and as such media tends to allow thorough government censor in some places before stories are run.
In conclusion, media coverage of terrorism to some extent usually is not as objective as someone would see on the face of it. They normally go through censorship either directly or indirectly to satisfy their sponsors, the government or their group of viewers. And the result at times can be a story so distorted there is very little truth to it.
- Achbar, M. (Ed.). (1994). Manufacturing consent: Noam Chomsky and the media: the companion book to the award-winning film by Peter Wintonick and Mark Achbar (Vol. 207). Black Rose Books Ltd..
- McLuhan, M., & Fiore, Q. (1967). The medium is the message. New York, 123, 126-128.
- Nacos, B. (2016). Mass-mediated terrorism: Mainstream and digital media in terrorism and counterterrorism. Rowman & Littlefield.