Altheide’s article identifies a thesis in which the author states that “News media and popular culture depictions of the reaction by America to terrorist activities reflect the culture and collective identities steeped in popular culture, marketing, consumerism, and fear. The article extensively supports its thesis in which it argues about the role of News media in cultivating fear among US citizens. Terrorism discourse describes the general context that entails the discourse of fear that is mainly associated with crime and nearly two decades of negative reporting and imagery about some areas, particularly the Middle East and Iraq. The article is based on the aspect that we learn about the world and the way the world is run by the mass media and popular culture. It is evident that the state of a citizenry’s world perspective can be obtained by its dominant news sources and is particularly true in foreign policy and international affairs. The use of mass media information gives a context of meanings and images that prepare audiences for political decisions concerning certain actions such as war. The chapter on “fear, terrorism, and popular culture” draws on qualitative document analysis to show how news reports and popular culture depictions concerning the war on terror (WOT) get grounded in a discourse of fear and also cultural images that proclaimed the moral and social superiority of the US. An instance of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the US that were artfully built through news accounts. The attacks during the disaster on that day got defined as an assault on American culture, if not for civilization.
The article recognizes that popular culture’s engagement of audience emotions as well as aspirations to be extraordinary in the know and relevant. The article recognizes fear as the foundation of much of the dominant narrative in the last half a century. The role of mass media in enhancing fear has become more prevalent in the US since the discovery of international terrorism on September 11, notwithstanding the long relationship in American between fear and crime. The essay provides an example of a terrorist event that occurred and led to the significant fear associated with such offenses. After the 9/11 bombing, WOT becomes the only topic of stories and US news media particularly network TV organizations decided not to present critical contextual and background information concerning the Middle East, and particularly Iraq since it was not consistent with other news themes nor was it entertaining. The stories did not include the horrifying scene images and the catastrophic consequences, but also the American retaliation that included a manhunt for Al-Qaeda leaders and also planning to attack nations that supported terrorist groups. The implementation of these plans by the administration meant actions such as invading Afghanistan and also an expansion of the military power in the world. Fear and terrorism have since become broad symbols that comprise of consumption and international intervention. Studies conducted about news media previous stories related to terrorism indicate that advertisers and politicians joined the citizen concerns concerning the victims of 9/11. These individuals marketed and also framed fear and the impact of terrorism as part of national identity that was commensurate with personal caring and community. Jean Baudrillard stated that the news media was part of the event (implying terrorism), part of the terror and its vital role plays in both directions (Catherwood, Christopher, and Joseph DiVanna, 114). Jean did not imply that news created terrorism but that it led to the existence of insecurities among citizens where they are not supposed. The meaning of the term terrorism changed to now include the idea, a lifestyle and a condition of the world rather than implying it is a tactic only. The article comprehensively described the association of fear with a crime. Some of the factors attributed to this change in the definition of terrorism include news media reports.
The theme Project for the New American Century (PNAC) was also a core source of the change of terrorism as a condition. Key policymakers in the US had considered invading Iraq for a long time. The plan was done in almost ten years bringing about regime change in Iraq as part of a complex plan of the US to become the hegemon such as withdrawing from particular treaties and also becoming more independent of the United Nations (UN). The US invaded Iraq in the name of fighting terrorism in which they claimed that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction that had been used in attacking the US. These allegations have however been disputed as false since Iraq was not the prime target of America. PNAC actions informed the Iraq war and the outcome of the propaganda campaign to convince the American citizens that attacking Iraq was tantamount to attacking terrorists and other people who threatened the US. A majority of the PNAC members joined the government and became credible claims-makers who constructed the frames for shaping subsequent news reports. The aim was to remove the US from certain treaties and alliance that included the 1972 anti-ballistic missile treaty. The failure of the first plan led to the emergence of new sources which included, cabinet members, journalists, presidential advisors and publishers, in which the PNAC was a major contributor to the US-Iraq war. Political decision makers changed propaganda passages that were prepared as part of the PNAC so as to emphasize domestic assistance for the new US function in leading the entire world. A majority of the Gulf coverage came from the white house and the national government. Before the Iraq war, only a few newspaper article dealt with PNAC and no news reports appeared on the main TV channels. The report was broadcast several days before the Congress voted to authorize the US to attack Iraq. The major news agencies in America and especially the TV networks limited their coverage of the role the PNAC played in shaping the Iraq war. News agencies explicitly and implicitly editorialize through the use of news sources for particular concerns. The major news sources presented virtually no strong disclaimer to the subject, and the grateful news organizations were rewarded by becoming close to military sources
Research has shown that popular culture and mass media depictions of patriotism, fear, consumption, and victimization led to the emergence of a national identity as well as a collective action that was promoted by elite decision makers’ propaganda. Fear and terrorism share a common news space although they are varying narratives. The discourse of fear has been joined with the politics of fear that has enabled policy makers to couch control efforts and measures as being in the best interests of American citizens so as to safeguard them.
Altheide, David L. “Fear, terrorism, and popular culture.” Re-Framing 9.11 (2010): 11-22.
Catherwood, Christopher, and Joseph DiVanna. The merchants of fear: Why they want us to be afraid. The Lyons Press, (2008): p. 114
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