Terrorism and the Media: Adding Fuel to Fire

Guest Post by: Julia Markun, Student

Terrorism by definition is “the use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims” (Oxford Dictionary). The word itself even evokes pain, suffering and fear. In the United States, images of the September 11 attacks fill our heads, or our thoughts might jump to more recent coverage on groups such as ISIS. And suddenly, without as much as a second thought, we become pawns in their game. We’re intimidated, vulnerable and willing to give whatever it takes to just stay alive. Why is this? Think about everything you see in the media.

D Markun

Source: Alex Wilhelm, The Next Web

The media give terrorist groups exactly what they want: attention. It’s how they thrive. It’s the fuel to the fire terrorists start. If their violent acts weren’t publicized, they would have no way to intimidate us. Similar to the way a small child might act, these groups go out of their way to make a scene, create attention and scare enough people to eventually get what they want. So why can’t we treat them like a toddler and ignore the tantrums? Because this also happens to be information that affects millions of lives and is our right to know.

One of the many roles and expectations of the media is to truthfully inform us of what’s happening in the world, especially when it impacts lives. But what is more important: our need for information or decreasing the power of terrorism? Which is more ethical?

Not only is the publication of terrorist acts validating their efforts and potentially provoking more, but the content is also questionable in itself. Is it ethically sound to broadcast a human being’s death or even the distress and humiliation of a prisoner? Should terrorist propaganda and recruiting videos be shared to influence even more people?

There are so many factors at play that finding a definitive “right” or “wrong” is impossible. On one side, it is unethical for the media to withhold information from the public. However, it is also ethically unsound to exploit acts of terrorism for the sake of something such as ratings. Media outlets need to find a balance between giving us what we need and giving the terrorists what they want.

However, as much as it might be right to censor some news, I believe informing the public of the whole truth will never go out of style. Not only do we expect nothing less of our press, but also they rely on us to keep them going. Headlines about terrorism catch our eye and it’s difficult to ignore an extremist group’s YouTube video when it’s playing on your daily news show. I believe media are now less gatekeepers and more in a race to open the gate first, and with our increasing technology and instantaneous access to everything around the world, I don’t think that is going to change any time soon.

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