Date

5-13-2020

Description

The so-called "war on terror" launched in the aftermath of 9/11 created a seismic shift in public discourse about a terrorism threat. Shaping this discourse was a galvanized U.S. media with a dominating ideology about the Middle Eastern terrorist, the ISIS member, the Jihadist, etc. As Arabs and Muslims became increasingly visible to the U.S. public, panic-riddled reactions to this "Middle Eastern terrorist" immediately mutated to drumbeats of war to punish "others" for acts of terrorism, a group of others. This project examines how U.S. media is an important influencer in shaping public opinion throughout the U.S. and how media dehumanizes and denigrates the Arab through assumptions and even expectations of terrorist group affiliations without any "lone wolf" type considerations of individual developments.

By assessing media's attachment of a normative weight to the terrorism label, this paper argues that mass media has created an ideology around the concept of the "terrorist" that strips the Middle Eastern terrorist of individuality and relies instead on assumptions of group dogma. This is staunchly the opposite of what we see with media representations of white nationalist or far-left terrorists where, even when in terrorist collaboration, media seeks to individualize or romanticize them. This problematic framing of Middle Eastern terrorist as always representative of a group makes U.S. media fall squarely into traps that real terrorists set out to promote their ideological agendas by adding weight to causes that may not even be real--their threat is now everywhere and in every aggression by an Arab.

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May 13th, 12:00 AM

Mass Media's Ideology of Middle Eastern Terror and the Impossibility of the Individual

The so-called "war on terror" launched in the aftermath of 9/11 created a seismic shift in public discourse about a terrorism threat. Shaping this discourse was a galvanized U.S. media with a dominating ideology about the Middle Eastern terrorist, the ISIS member, the Jihadist, etc. As Arabs and Muslims became increasingly visible to the U.S. public, panic-riddled reactions to this "Middle Eastern terrorist" immediately mutated to drumbeats of war to punish "others" for acts of terrorism, a group of others. This project examines how U.S. media is an important influencer in shaping public opinion throughout the U.S. and how media dehumanizes and denigrates the Arab through assumptions and even expectations of terrorist group affiliations without any "lone wolf" type considerations of individual developments.

By assessing media's attachment of a normative weight to the terrorism label, this paper argues that mass media has created an ideology around the concept of the "terrorist" that strips the Middle Eastern terrorist of individuality and relies instead on assumptions of group dogma. This is staunchly the opposite of what we see with media representations of white nationalist or far-left terrorists where, even when in terrorist collaboration, media seeks to individualize or romanticize them. This problematic framing of Middle Eastern terrorist as always representative of a group makes U.S. media fall squarely into traps that real terrorists set out to promote their ideological agendas by adding weight to causes that may not even be real--their threat is now everywhere and in every aggression by an Arab.