Archive for March, 2011

What is terrorism?

The worldwide public shows immanence interest for the terrorism after September 11, 2001.Terrorism may be the most influential buzzword of the decade”, suggested political sociologist Ziad Munson in his article Keywords Terrorism published in Sage on line journal. Having in mind this, what is my definition on terrorism?

Encyclopedia Britannica defines terrorism as systematic use of violence to create a general climate of fear in a population and thereby to bring about a particular objective.  Even though, there is no universal definition of the terrorism, the United States Department of Defense defines terrorism as “unlawful violence to inculcate fear and to intimidate governments or societies in the pursuit of goals that are political, religious, or ideological”. Then, the FBI uses the following definition to explain terrorism. “Terrorism is the unlawful use of force and violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.”  The U.S. Department of State definition of terrorism is that it is “premeditated politically-motivated violence perpetrated against non-combatant targets by sub-national groups or clandestine agents, usually intended to influence an audience”.

United Nations definition of terrorism from 1992 articulates “an anxiety-inspiring method of repeated violent action, employed by (semi-) clandestine individual, group or state actors, for idiosyncratic, criminal or political reasons, whereby – in contrast to assassination – the direct targets of violence are not the main targets.”

Considering the fact, that there is no universal definition of terrorism, my opinion on it will be that it is use of violence to achieve political, religion or other goals. Having no universal definition on terrorism can influence how the media cover and frame not only the terrorism, but also the terrorist attack.

Munson underlines that “research after the wave of terrorism in the mid-1980s showed the important role the media play in dramatizing terrorism and making it an effective means of communication”. He recommends that understanding the basic mechanism responsible for its social constructions can help us put the threat in proper perspective. I can agree with Munson that proper perspective can give more information on what can be labeled or not as terrorism act. Furthermore, the fear of terrorism should not justify how the governments create and frame the terrorism and present that picture in the media.

Work cited:

1. Munson, Z. (2008, September). Keywords Terrorism. In Sage journal on line. Retrieved March 6, 2011, from

2.  What is terrorism? (n.d.).  In Terrorism Research. Retrieved March 8, 2011, from

What is Terrorism?

The term terrorism is a word that cannot be defined by one simple definition. It is a word that provokes thought into what it really means and for most it carries with it a connotation of violence and fear. According to the Belgian Red Cross there is no universal definition of a terrorist act instead it may cover many different things that include different types of perpetrators, different types of targets and different types of objectives. Furthermore the Belgian Red Cross has agreed to qualify a terrorist act on the basis of three elements: A terrorist act is a specific offence, that may seriously damage a country or an international organization and is committed for the purpose of intimidating the population, forcing a third party to act or destabilizing or destroying the fundamental structure of a country or of an international organization. In Packaging Terrorism by Susan Moeller, she quotes British academic and former foreign correspondent Anatol Lieven, “Terrorism is not a movement, terrorism is not a state, terrorism is a tactic.” Moeller goes on to list factors that separate terrorism apart from other political violence such as guerilla warfare. These factors include: Terrorism deliberately targets civilians, the victims and the intended audience of a terrorist act are not the same, and the psychological impact of a terrorist act is intended to be greater than the physical damage caused. The goal of terrorism is to send a message, not defeat the enemy. As you can now notice there is no uniform definition for the term. Many Americans perceive the word terrorism by the way in which the media uses it. After the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, a radical religious person carrying out surprise attacks on a population in order to spread their radical ideology most closely associates to the word terrorism or terrorist. The United States Department of Defense defines terrorism as “the calculated use of unlawful violence or threat of unlawful violence to inculcate fear; intended to coerce or to intimidate governments or societies in the pursuit of goals that are generally political, religious, or ideological.” Although there is no precise definition for the term terrorism one commonality between each of the definitions presented is that violence is carried out in order to instill fear and intimidation among a population.

Bloody Sunday Reflection

As violence ripples through the Middle East, it creates the impression that protests rarely remain peaceful. In Egypt, Bahrain, Libya, Iraq, and elsewhere, protests that begun peacefully have met forceful, even murderous responses. While the blame for a large deal of this violence can be assigned to authoritarian governments wishing to maintain power, questions still remain. What is it about human nature that makes government after government so likely to meet peace with force? What element of protest allows for such rapid ascension to brutality? While political and social sciences offer academic, theoretical explanations of this phenomenon, it seems as though a more mysterious, more human element plays a role. Through use of “mockumentary” filming and editing techniques, the 2002 film Bloody Sunday explores this element, demonstrating the chaos and emotion so able to transform peaceful protests into massacre within minutes.

Film captures emotion perhaps more thoroughly than any other medium, as it creates the most lifelike representation of the actual event being depicted. Andre Bazin, influential film critic, believes that filmmakers strive to approach an ideal of “total and complete representation of reality… unburdened by the freedom of interpretation of the artist or the irreversibility of time” (Shaviro 1). If filmmakers were to reach that ideal, the emotion experienced by a film’s audience would mirror the emotion felt by a real-life participant in the same event. Although filmmakers may never completely reach this ultimate goal of complete realism, Paul Greengrass comes close with Bloody Sunday, a documentary-style film about peaceful protest in Northern Ireland turning sour.

Throughout the entire film, the viewer feels as though he or she could be on site, holding the camera—or not even worrying about one. Ceaseless wobbling, jerky zooming, out of focus shooting, and often non-existent lighting do away entirely with visions of metal tripods,  towering film lights and take after take of the same scene. As multimedia journalist Brian Storm puts it, “panning and zooming is not how the eye sees.” Greengrass seems to understand this entirely. The viewer’s eyes stay glued to the screen throughout the entire film, because this is not made easy-to-understand like an average Hollywood production.

Small elements that most filmmakers would purposefully avoid show up intentionally and have a momentous emotional effect. Camera flashes that obscure the speaker at a press conference highlight the intensity with which reporters try to capture a scene. Rooms so dark one can only hear what takes place cause a certain frustration, elevating the sensation of helplessness. This technique becomes especially effective during moments of life-or-death gravity. When the car on its way to the hospital cannot make it through, the viewer cannot even peer through the window to check on things. Furthermore, just a single scene’s audio includes various pieces of sound, each seeming equally important. The viewer, unsure whether he should listen to conversation, cries from off-camera, or sirens growing louder and softer and louder again, experiences the same conflict that occurs during moments of chaos in real life. Finally, the lack of change in camera angle during intimate scenes adds the finishing emotional touch. The viewer feels almost as though he or she has intruded on something personal, watching through a hidden camera or from behind a closet door. Greengrass prevents multiple angles and regular lighting from making these private moments into a public spectacle, placing further emotional significance upon them. In her book Packaging Terrorism, Susan D. Moeller discusses this phenomenon. “It’s our access to what should have been a private moment reserved for family and friends that gave the coverage the power it had,” she writes about an attack on Jordanian hotels where wedding celebrations took place. Access to personal moments spark human curiosity, and knowledge that violence didn’t just kill people— but destroyed intimate relationships— triggers heartbreak.

In addition to reeling in human interest, these few personal angles at the beginning of the film explore the emotional element of government inflicted violence even further. Greengrass creates the impression that these scenes are not public, and then switches instantaneously to dialogue between British soldiers. By exemplifying the “women and children” mentioned at the start of the film, and then moving without transition to men so seemingly unaware of these family intricacies, Greengrass fully exploits the juxtaposition of  private tenderness and public force. These transitions, in which the screen fades quickly to black before a new, different scen opens with no explanation, increase a sensation of chaos and helplessness. “The director makes things move even faster by assembling it as a series of blackouts, and all the cuts build a charged thoughtfulness,” writes Elvis Mitchell in a New York Times movie review. Toward the end of the film, these blackouts become increasingly brief and lacking in dialogue. In a traditional film, dialogue often provides the clearest insight into exactly why and how things happen. Here, that lack of dialogue abandons logical explanations for pure emotional propulsion. But despite the lack of dialogue and clarity, that violence would occur makes perfect sense when such fast-paced action meets intensity of emotion. “For all the characters on screen, we can glimpse their hearts in their eyes,” writes Mitchell.

Bloody Sunday makes evident the ways in which emotion and chaos interact to create force. Although disgusted with the violence, the audience understands the confusion felt by soldiers who fired. An official asks, “Well, what is force in a situation like this?” He attempts to justify his actions, but at the same time verbally illustrates the room for ambiguity generated by such chaos. The leaders behind today’s protests turned bloody employ the same strategy.   “I dare you to find that peaceful protesters were killed. In America, France, and everywhere, if people attacked military stores and tried to steal weapons, they will shoot them,” announced Gaddafi in a speech about military force used in Libya. Just as the British official in Bloody Sunday does, Gaddafi attempts to obscure the unjust use of force by referencing the frenzied situation in which it occurred. In a time when peaceful protests so often meet with force, a cinematic look into the causes proves especially relevant.

Works Cited

“Libya: Gaddafi’s speech in quotes.” The Telegraph 2 March 2011. Web. 6 March 2011.

Mitchell, Elvis. “FILM FESTIVAL REVIEWS; ‘Bloody Sunday’ In Londonderry.” New York Times 2 Oct. 2002. Web. 6 March 2011.

Moeller, Susan D. Packaging Terrorism. Singapore: Blackwell Publishing, 2009. Print.

Shaviro, Steven. “Emotion Capture: Affect in Digital Film.” Projections 1.2 (2007): 63-82. Web. 6 March 2011.

Munich Reflection

Undoubtedly, films about terrorism propagate fear. But so do films about haunted houses. Fear that stems from a theatrical portrayal of terrorism differs from fear generated by a horror film only because the former reproduces an actual event. While the average viewer believes it unlikely that his attic contains a demon, a constant inundation of threatening news reports about terrorism renders him less uncertain that his workplace contains a bomb. Although theatrical portrayals of terrorist events do facilitate terrorists by furthering fear, they do not act alone. If the press serves as “oxygen of publicity” to the flames of terrorism, then movies are like additional logs—strengthening the fire when added on occasion, but not directly responsible for its endurance. Government and media construct conditions that determine much of how audiences perceive the entertainment industry’s product.

While cinematic portrayals of terrorism deepen fear, they rarely initiate it. Government officials and news media respond to acts of terror far before the entertainment industry does, setting up the framework within which the public understands terrorism. In Packaging Terrorism, Susan D. Moeller illustrates how a government’s response to a terrorist attack sets the tone in which the public understands it. She cites New York Times columnist Paul Krugman’s assertion that after 9/11, “the administration portrayed America as a nation under threat from every direction” (184). Krugman’s column illustrates that as time passed, the government continued to call for absurd responses— bombing Iran and uniting against “Islamofacism” (1) — that incite a sense of pure desperation among the public.

And the press—perhaps inadvertently mirroring government response or perhaps simply trying to garner viewers— contributes to an overstated public fear of terrorists. Phrases like “radical Islamist,” excessively extensive coverage of only selected events, and even the tone of reporters’ voices all generate fear. Fear, for media, is the norm, rather than an exceptional response to select situations. These types of responses render the emotions created by film about terrorism far too deeply intertwined with other forms of communication to analyze alone.

Although some viewers may be too young to have witnessed press coverage of an event later portrayed through theater, this framework of understanding does not deal in specific events. One does not need to have lived through the events at the Munich Olympics to perceive the gravity of terrorism after watching Munich. In fact, just as Munich does, films about terrorist acts often include their own portrayals of the press. By illustrating families and individuals glued to the television as reports air about the attack in Munich, Steven Spielberg reproduces the sentiment that news broadcasts are to be taken seriously and received with wide eyes. While Spielberg does implicitly promote the audience’s failure to critically assess the news, this failure would not exist for anyone to promote if not for the weighty and overplayed tone the press employs.

One might argue that since movies serve entertainment purposes and news serves information purposes, fear and dramatization belong in entertainment. However, the lines are never so clearly drawn, and this lack of division sparks questions. Do movies about factual events inform viewers? Should movies about factual events inform viewers? In what respects should the original event be objectively replicated, and it what respects can it be dramatized? Which facts are appropriate to include?

To answer these questions, one must first understand and analyze the objective of the film industry. While goals vary from director to director, movies are typically produced to profit through the fulfillment of some public desire. In “Fear in the News: A Discourse of Control,” David L. Altheide and R. Sam Michalowski explain the audience’s “expectation that danger and risk are a central feature of the effective environment” (1). That is, news viewers don’t care about a story unless it contains a threat to be conquered. Without that hope of satisfaction, they have little reason to watch the news.

This phenomenon carries over to the film industry. Jeffrey Goldstein, a psychology professor at the University of Utrecht, explains that people watch horror films to fulfill a need for excitement and intensity of emotions. However, films about non-fictional terrorist events take this fulfillment a step further. Goldstein also explains that the practice of sensation-seeking, “the enjoyment of stimulation or physiological arousal,” creates an audience for fear.

And while horror may seem at home in the back of an old cemetery or the corners of an abandoned warehouse, fear within ordinary, realistic situations, releases chemicals that bring sensation-seeking to a new level. The victims of terrorism—and of counterterrorism—in Munich haven’t been fleeing zombies for half of the movie. As Moeller points out in Packaging Terrorism, “the deliberate randomness of their targeting of civilians is what makes [terrorists’] violence so arresting” (184). Thus, as long as government and news aid terrorists by inducing public fear with headlines like “Where will they strike next?’ the film industry will fulfill the public desire to observe fear within everyday situations from the comfort of a theater.

However, directors often cite loftier desires than making money by fulfilling desires. In a Time Magazine interview, Spielberg says that while he wasn’t “making this picture because the message can do some good for the world,” he also “didn’t make this movie to make money.” Rather, he says, he wanted to tell a story that others didn’t have the courage to get “out in the ether.” After making the movie, Spielberg facilitated a project in which he distributed video cameras to 125 Israeli children and to 125 Palestinian children and instructed them to make short films about their lives. Then, they exchanged the videos. (“Munich: The Interview). These types of actions demonstrate that while Hollywood does play upon public desire for income, making money isn’t its sole objective. Political context created by government and news transforms neutral or good intentions into avenues for terrorists to spread fear.

Spielberg cites a desire to “get that story told.” While it makes perfect sense for filmmakers to be interested in storytelling, it is interesting to note that those who usually deal in fiction have such a great interest in spreading awareness. While admirable of Spielberg and other directors to help to fill a void of knowledge in society, doesn’t the existence of that void indicate that the press is too busy “fear-mongering” (Moeller 184) to complete its job?

The theatrics of Hollywood do get tangled with the ethics of awareness-spreading in unsettling ways; one of Munich’s bloodiest scenes involves a portion of a blown up human corpse hanging from a moving ceiling fan. Details like this spark debate about whether gore is necessary or appropriate, although it is undoubtedly accurate. However, a Guardian article discusses the “firestorm of controversy about its political sympathies and historical accuracy.” Discrepancies range from factual inconsistencies like the number of agents involved in assassinations, to major claims, such as Spielberg’s portrayal of the spirit behind the attacks. (MacAskill). Further research conducted on Hollywood’s portrayal of terrorism found similar discrepancies in a number of films, and concluded “that real life is much more multi-faceted than the movies” (Wagge). While arguments against censorship suggest that filmmakers and viewers alike are okay with occasional bloodshed, the context in which this violence is understood should be a clearer one. If filmmakers appealing to a hunger for fear were not the sole means of spreading awareness, the movies would become a place for informed citizens to stimulate their emotions after reading the paper. Whether movies serve terrorists as well as producers depends upon the degree to which viewers are previously informed.

Works Cited:

Altheide, David L. and R. Sam Michalowski. “Fear in the News: A Discourse of Control.” The Sociological Quarterly. 40.3. (1999): 475-503. Web. Feb. 6 2010.

Black, Ian and Ewan MacAskill. “Munich: Mossad breaks cover.” Guardian 26 Jan. 2007. Web.

Goldstein, Jeffrey. Why we watch: The attractions of violent entertainment. Oxford University Press, New York, 1998. Web.

Krugman, Paul. “Fearing Fear Itself.” New York Times 29 Oct. 2007. Web.

Moeller, Susan D. Packaging Terrorism. Singapore: Blackwell Publishing, 2009. Print

“Munich: The Interview: His Prayer for Peace.” Time 14 Dec. 2005. Web.

Wagge, Jordan. “A Captive Audience: The Portrayal of Terrorism and Terrorists in Large-Scale Fictional Hollywood Media.” Web.

Reflections on September 11

Reflections on September 11

The events of September 11, 2001 dramatically changed the way in which the news media operated. We were faced with what was possibly the worst attack on American soil ever. The tragedy of 9/11 held global implications that are still being seen today. On the day of the attacks, news media outlets all over the United States, and the world, interrupted their planned broadcasts to alert citizens of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

In the hours immediately following the terrorist attacks, the American news media tried to report with objectivity. However, often times they were just receiving the breaking news themselves as the day unfolded. CNN anchor, and current ASU professor, Aaron Brown interrupted fellow anchor Jamie McIntyre to report the collapse of the South Tower, “Jamie…Jamie, I need you to stop for a second. There has just been a huge explosion. We can see a billowing smoke rising, and I’ll tell you that I can’t see that second tower” (Collapse of the South Tower, CNN). News anchors all over the country interjected with new information as it came in rapidly. According to a study conducted by Amy Reynolds and Brooke Barnett, during the first five hours of live coverage after the attacks, ABC, CBS, NBC, and CNN reported rumors 84 times as news was constantly brought in. In addition, journalists acting as eye-witnesses that day made personal references 64% of the time (Barnett). Because of the crisis nature of this event, information was coming in so quickly that journalists reported in ways that differed from their traditional roles. Journalists were interviewed as eyewitnesses as they watched the action from the streets, basic information was lacking in the studios and many broadcasters were at a loss for words for periods of time as they watched the horrific events.

In the aftermath of September 11, the American media began to focus on the hunt for Osama bin Laden, President Bush’s “War on Terror”, and other powerful White House rhetoric like “vengeance” and “justice”. Susan D. Moeller notes that “most of what the American and British media cover of terrorism relates to the impact of terrorism on governments and the body politic, not its impact on people and their very human bodies,” (46). This is somewhat reflected in the American media’s coverage of September 11. After the initial reporting of September 11, where the focus seemed to be more on the human lives lost and personal reflections, the media turned its focus to the political implications. The terms “terrorist”, “terrorism”, and “War on Terror” were now familiar to nearly all US citizens. The use of these words, initially stemming from the Bush White House, took on a life of their own in the media, “After September 11, many media first sourced the terms of the ‘War on Terror’ and ‘terrorist’ to the President and other administration officials, then as the terms slipped into common usage they began applying them to Bush foreign policy goals without attribution,” (Moeller, 109). Every day one could turn on their TV and hear this rhetoric, now infused in our nation’s vocabulary. Our nation was urged to unite as one and fight for justice for what had happened to us.

While the American media focused primarily on the personal political impact the attacks had on our country, the media in other countries focused more on the global impact. The British Broadcasting Corporation is the network that the United Kingdom turns to most frequently in times of crisis, and 9/11 proved no different (Barnett 120). In the first hours of the attack the BBC’s coverage mirrored that of the American media. They offered a “live, continuous, single-focused reporting of the event,” (Bouvier). Both news medias used phrases such as “the images you are just seeing” and “we are about to show you a repeat” for viewers just joining, breaking news was coming in every few minutes, and images of the collapsing towers were being played on loop.  However, following the initial shock of the event, the BBC turned its focus to the global ramifications. The BBC began to direct more coverage to the Middle East and terrorism. In the months following, they tried to remain objective, “When reporters from non-American news outlets wrote about the Bush’s administration’s ‘War on Terror’, the words were typically placed in quotation marks and preceded by the phrase ‘US-led’… that made it clear that this… was part of the White House’s political rhetoric and that the conflict was the United State’s,” (Moeller, 109-110). Because the attacks did not happen in the United Kingdom, the BBC had the luxury of not personalizing their broadcasts and instead focused on worldwide consequences.

The BBC coverage of the attacks did not stop right away, they published special “one-year on” and “five-year on” sections that feature items such as eyewitness reports and 9/11 Commission findings. This demonstrates the great impact that September 11 had on the global media. Years after the attack, esteemed foreign outlets were still publishing information regarding September 11.

My pen pal, Linette Ramos, the news editor at a newspaper in the second largest city in the Philippines, has noticed the affect of September 11 all over the world, “I think it’s not just the American media that changed after 9/11, and I guess you can say that it’s all the media in all countries that changed after US was attacked, although it was more evident in American media,” she said. “For one, personally I noticed that news magazines and other print media were giving more space and prominence to intelligence reports and correct me if I am wrong, stereotyping seemed to show in some news stories, and some are quick to identify bearded, Arab-looking individuals with ties to Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran as terrorist.” In regards to the effect in her own country, she felt that,

“In the Philippines, journalists were also on the look out for materials on the JI, Abu Sayyaf and other breakaway groups of the Al Qaeda and were quick to report any threat to peace and order. Media organizations are also more conscious of their journalists’ safety, especially after a prominent and high-caliber broadcast journalist was kidnapped by the Abu Sayyaf.”

I agree in that the terrorist attacks made many citizens of the world quick to judge and stereotype. Unfortunately, September 11 made many people paranoid for personal safety. September 11, 2001, changed the way in which not only the American media, but the global media, operates. 9/11 was brought into our collective memory and a pattern was established for covering horrific events like this that has since been seen with coverage in places like Russia, Georgia and now Egypt and Libya.

Works Cited

Barnett, Brooke, and Amy Reynolds. Terrorism and the Press. Vol. 1. Washington D.C/Baltimore: Peter Lang, 2009.

Barnett, Brooke, and Amy Reynolds. “This Just In.” Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly (2003). Print.

Bouvier, Gwen. “Breaking News: The First Hours of the BBC Coverage as a Media Event.”  Journal for Crime, Conflict and the Media 2005 (2005). Print.

“Collapse of the North Tower: CNN Coverage.” CNN Live. CNN. WNYW, New York City, 11 Sept. 2001. Cable News Network, 19 Oct. 2006. Web. 7 Feb. 2011. <>.

“CNN 9/11 – South Tower collapses.” CNN Live. CNN. WUSA, New York City, 11 Sept. Cable News Network, 29 Oct. 2006. Web. 7 Feb. 2011. <>.

Moeller, Susan D. Packaging Terrorism. Singapore: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009.

Ramos, Linette. “Reflections on 9/11.” Message to the author. 8 Feb. 2011. E-mail.

The Scenes of 9/11 In Your Living Room

The Scenes of 9/11 in Your Living Room

“Mom! Mom! Mom! A plane just hit a big building” Rudy said to his mom rushing to get ready for work. “Honey, I’m getting ready for work I’ll see later”, replied Rudy’s mom. “Mom! Another plane hit a building! There’s fire!” Rudy explained. Rudy’s mom came rushing over and from then on, America has been different. I was only in sixth grade when the World Trade Center and America was attacked. But, I vividly remember watching the morning news and seeing the images. I can remember watching KTLA anchor, Carlos Amezcua report on the images I saw. The images were so raw, and no one knew what was going on. The media in America handled the 9/11 attacks like everyone expected them to. However, the media did not have a good reputation before 9/11,  the media reported on stories as they saw them and did it around the clock, and the media coverage affected everyone watching.

The first mistake the media made was before the 9/11 attacks happened. The American media only focused on domestic stories and there were few international stories. Americans lived in a bubble. One example of a story that should have made news before 9/11, “According to one NBC News report, 80 percent of the baggage screeners at Dulles Airport outside of Washington were non-citzens” (McGowan, 2). It is absurd that this story was not reported on before 9/11. Another airport related story not reported on before 9/11 was, “While 94 foreign airlines had extended cooperation (with watch lists of ‘high-risk’ passengers) Egypt Air, and Saudi Arabian Airlines refused to do so and continued to refuse, even after 9/11” (McGowan, 1). If this kind of story happened today. the media would have a field day with it. The United States media seemed to have blinders on to world affairs pre-9/11. If the media would have been aware of current affairs around the world, Americans would have demanded more questions, but when Americans have no idea about certain stories, Americans cannot ask more questions, and that is the media’s gatekeeper’s fault.

September 11th, 2001 was a day that will go down as one of America’s saddest days. Dr. Matthew Robinson a Professor at Appalachian State University said this point, “On September 11th, 2001, the United States was attacked by terrorists like it had never been attacked before. Even the attacks of Pearl Harbor by the Japanese on December 7th, 1941, were not as deadly” (Robinson, 1). As simple of a remark this is, it sheds light on how the media coverage was. Technology has advanced so far since Pearl Harbor and the media has advanced as well. The media was learning how to report on a tragedy as the tragedy unfolded. Orville Schell, Dean of the Graduate School of Journalism at University of California, Berkeley told Newsweek, “I thought all of them (news networks) pulled themselves up by the bootstraps and, considering the defoliated state of their global reach, they did pretty well. You could see they wanted to do well. They cared about doing well. They had the time to do well. For the moment, they also had the resources” (Schell, 2). There is little doubt that the journalists on 9/11 from Ground Zero to Los Angeles wanted to report the facts. But, when it is pure chaos it is hard to put a solid package together so most of them did live shots with man on the street reactions. Dean Schell brings up a brilliant point about 9/11 and the media, “I think September 11 was an enormous tragedy, but for the media it was also an extraordinary opportunity to remind itself and its keepers of why it’s important, why the media is more than just entertainment” (Schell, 2). Everyone one in America sat in their living rooms glued to their television and for once to not be entertained by the bantering of the weatherman and anchors but for the facts. On Twitter, film student @JoshSiegers said, “I remember coming home to TV fixed on the towers and then them falling live. It was crazy. Directors of the broadcast did great!” It is those kind of reactions that so many Americans felt on September 11th and the days following.

Everyone in America knows how the media handled the attack, but how was the attack shown overseas? It was taken as America did this to themselves for their past behaviors. In the book titled, “How the World’s News Media Reacted to 9/11” by Tomaz Pludowski it states:

“In an article written for the Guardian two days after 9/11, UK-based journalist

Seamus Milne blamed the American people themselves, including those killed

in the World Trade Center buildings that morning, for the atrocity. By their

‘unabashed national egotism and arrogance,’ argued Milne, and their failure

to address “the injustices and inequalities” that, in his view, motivated the

bombers, they had gotten more or less what they deserved, “once again

reaping a dragon’s teeth harvest they themselves sowed.” A contributor to

the London Review of Books declared in an essay a few days later that ‘however

tactfully you dress it up, the United States had it coming. World bullies, even

if their heart is in the right place, will in the end pay the price” (Pludowski, 38).

This response was the complete opposite to what Americans were feeling days after 9/11. Most Americans were asking, why us? Not, I guess we got what we deserved.

The attacks affected everyone, even children watching the images before their eyes. I was in sixth grade when the attacks happened and I can remember watching the towers fall into the streets of New York City. I can also picture people jumping from the tower with sheets acting as parachutes. That image is something I will never forget. So, how did the media’s coverage of 9/11 affect the children like myself? A study from Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School showed these statistics: “ 3.8% did not watch any television coverage of the attacks. 25.9% watched under an hour of television coverage of the attacks. 22.3% watch one hour of television coverage of the attacks. 30.7% watched 2 to 4 hours of television coverage of the attacks. 4.8% watched 4 to 6 hours of television coverage of the attacks. 2.4% watched over 6 hours of television coverage of the attacks” (Tull, 1). Most children watched 2 to 4 hours of the television coverage. That is a very large amount of dramatic television for a child to taken in. With the raw images of the attack, one must think about future risk such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). In the study, “They found that 5.4% of children and 1.2% of parents in the study had symptoms consistent with a diagnosis of PTSD stemming from indirect exposure to 9/11 events. An additional 18.7% of children and 10.7% of parents showed some symptoms of PTSD, but not enough for an official PTSD diagnosis” (Tull, 1). In the book “Packaging Terrorism” by Susan Moeller she says, “For Americans, linking the words ‘terrorism’ and ‘victims’ together still, years later, calls up memories of those who perished in the World Trade Center” (Moller, 62).  It brings another sense of how traumatic the 9/11 attack was to know that a child like myself in California could have PTSD just from watching television coverage of 9/11.

All in all, 9/11 impacted every single American. The media painted the picture of how deadly this attack was. The news was the most important thing in Americans lives the day of the attack and days following. Those are big shoes to fill for the media networks, when all of America was watching. I know I was watching the buildings fall as I was getting ready for school and I know my fellow Americans were watching the same thing.


Stevo Pendarovski – University American College – Skopje

It is probably true that each nation has more that one “Munich”. Clear winners usually do not emerge whenever and wherever life and death meet each other. But, understood as a crossroad of politics and morality, this kind of events has potential to turn inward the face of the nation. Who and when is authorized to apply controversial principle “an eye for an eye” in a world being more and more laid upon the global rules and mutual solidarity?

In democracies Government has upper hand over the intelligence, but, some of later consider (or even act) to obtain prime influence. Honestly: is it possible to merge two different organizational cultures of “shadowy” and “sunny” poles of the world, ones of Governments and secret services? Who in essence creates policy and tailors national interests: first group of people with undisputed electoral legitimacy or latter one, which is put in power by the former?

What if “impossible” happens: political leader and intelligence chief fully agree on the content of retaliation having in mind the same set of values? It might be a difficult guess on the kind of values which reside in the minds of Iranian Grand Ayatollah and the boss of notorious paramilitary organization Basij? Will their reaction in urgency be in compliance with the globally accepted civilization norms, when two years ago they have been opposed to the half of their own population?

Media plurality and political interests make the danger of treating both sides (terrorists and law-enforcement agencies) as morally equal, to be very realistic. But, much more important is the question: in a fragmented world what is supposed to be a response of the post-modern citizens against the barbaric acts of the pre-modern ones? Robert Copper in 2000 said that applying proper instruments should be the order of the day, when contemplating the use of force as a last resort. Nevertheless, how many people are ready to accept this principle a decade later?

Media exposure of terrorist acts and anti-terrorist activities alike should be wisely balanced not to install fear among the average viewers or promote evil people as role models for the wider audience, thus helping recruitment process of youngsters. Unfortunately, TV dramas of this kind are business as usual: prejudices recycled, stereotypes sustained, good people praised, bad people punished. What is wrong with the last two points? Nothing, but the passports of those people. Good characters are always members of our nation, since we routinely avoid having anything in common with the nasty boys. They are anyhow coming from the “different and distant” cultures.

Pen Pal Cooperation

Guns And TV-Munich Massacre Messages Unfolded By Steven Spielberg

Aleksandra Dukovska

The press and its standpoint on terrorism are not in the initial focus of Steven Spielberg Munich movie from 2005. Spielberg showed the press, reporter views and reports on terrorist attack at the Olympic Game in Munich as a part of the big picture to confront Israeli nation with its history and reluctance from the past.

Instead of focusing the viewer’s attention to the reflection of terrorist attacks on the Israeli athletes during the 1972 Olympic games in Munich, Spielberg is showing archive footages of two notable American journalists who reported on the Munich massacre for ABC TV network. Spielberg used the archive TV reports for the first shoots in the Munich movie and made effective introduction to its story on the event that unfolded the news of international terrorism globally. How experienced Hollywood film director framed the press in the Munich and what can we conclude from it?

The public perceived the story and sharpened their views on already existing Israeli and Palestine conflict via mediators – journalists who reported from the Munich Olympics massacre.

As movie unfolds with the reconstruction of the horrible attacks in Munich, Spielberg shows archive TV broadcast of ABC sport commentator from the games, Jim McKay, who made 16-hours long coverage ending it with the words: “Tonight our worst fears have been realized. They are all gone”.

In an atmosphere of TV presence everywhere – at the hotel where the hostage drama occurred to the room of Israeli Prime minister Golda Meir, Spielberg continues with ABC’s youngest anchor and reporter Peter Jennings archive TV broadcasting materials.

This was the first breaking news story for Jennings. Journalist Sandra Martin from Canadian daily The Globe and Mail asked whether “his live reporting provided the context for Americans who were unfamiliar with the Palestinian group”. Such reporting was not approved by Israeli and pro-Israeli supporters.

The pro-Israeli groups criticized Jennings reporting and the wordings he used to refer to the members of Black September. According to the Web page Honest Reporting that claims itself as Israeli defender from bias reporting “in 1972, as a reporter covering the Palestinian murder of Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics, Jennings would not refer to the murderers as ‘terrorists’ and instead he called them ‘guerrillas’ and ‘commandos.’

The question is whether the reporting from Munich prepared the viewers in the USA and the world for the justification of Black September attacks on Israeli athletes. Spielberg in his movie Munich eschewed to portrait the media as focus element of his film.

He rather gave the space each viewer to construe his own opinion. By showing the archive of live TV coverage and close up shots of the members of Black September, Spielberg refers to the ways the press framed the terrorists.

We can hear the voice of Jim McKay summarizing the words of Jennings on the laws as obstacle for the German army to intervene and help to the German police. That can lead to the conclusion of the difficulties that Germany faced as a host of the Olympic games, brutally interrupted with this terrorist attack.

The whole atmosphere present in the movie tends to explain the complexity of actions that triggered secret Israeli operation to eliminate eleven Palestinians who organized the attacks. For the first time, Spielberg who devoted his career to explain complicated Jewish history made the movie and tried to find explanation for Palestinian demands for homeland. Through the main character Avner (Eric Bana) Spielberg challenges “an eye for an eye” actions of Israeli state after the Munich massacre. Back in 2005, this created different views and opinions among Israeli representatives and Israelis in the USA.

Journalist Anthony Berznican in his USA Today’s article ‘Messages from Munich’ from December 2005 asked for various Israeli opinions on the movie.  He wrote that “the Israeli consul general in Los Angeles, Ehud Danoch, attacked the movie in The New York Times, saying it tried to create “equivalency” between the Olympic terrorists and the Israeli government.

Berznican used the view of Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, who praises Munich and doesn’t see it as an indictment of Israel’s action. “Did it in fact bring about an end to violence? No,” Foxman says. Berznican wrote the statement of Calev Ben-David, director of the Jerusalem-based public advocacy group The Israel Project, who said Spielberg ‘is perceived as an American who may be appropriating Israel’s struggles as a way to comment on post-9/11 America.

“I can’t escape speculating that this film is as much, if not more, about 9/11” than it is about Israelis and Palestinians, said Ben-David, who wants to see the film but has not yet been invited to a screening. “This was a safe way for him to deal with 9/11 without risking a real kind of backlash. “Would he make a film where he has an al-Qaeda terrorist talk about the reasons why an attack on America was justified? It could be that a filmmaker would make it. But it would have to be a filmmaker braver than Spielberg — or at least less commercially oriented.”, commented Ben-David.

Spielberg made this movie thirty years after the Munich massacre that should be enough time to look at it without emotions. Maybe this is not sufficient time to heal open wounds for Israelis caused by the Munich massacre. Framing the terrorism, terrorist groups and describing the complexity of those events can leads to various interpretations of events.

In their book Framing the Terrorism, Pippa Norris, Montague Kern and Marion Just stated that the “essence of framing is selection to prioritize some facts, images, or developments over others thereby unconsciously promoting one particular interpretation of events”.

With carefully chosen archive press video materials highly mixed with the main storyline in the screenplay, written by Tony Kushner and Eric Roth and highly visualized by the director of photography Janusz Kaminski, Spielberg is creating ethical interpretation of post Munich events. It is almost like you are watching Shakespeare drama play, but in a context of 21st century. Some questions never dies no matter of ticking clock.

To summarize this essay I still have the dilemma whether the “bombs eliminate targets and terrified terrorist” or the legitimacy of the cause could justified the means used to achieve those goals. Spielberg doesn’t give that answer in Munich too, but brings up on the surface little bit of how the press is covering the terrorism. The journalists are there as mediators and they shaped the public opinion. If a terrorist attack such as Munich happens today some questions will be the same. But the media will be different. New media will spread the news and tell the story to the world.

Works cited:

1. Peter Jennings. (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved February 18, 2011, from

2. Peter Jennings: The ABCs of Bias. (2003, February 6). In Honest Reporting. Retrieved February 18, 2011, from

3. Breznican, A. (2005, December 22). Messages from ‘Munich’. USA TODAY. Retrieved February 18, 2011

4. Norris, P., Kern, M., & Just, M. R. (Eds.). (2003). Framing terrorism: the news media, the government and the public (p. 6). London, Great Britain: Psychology Press. Retrieved February 18, 2011, from

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Terrorism and the Press

This blog is an integral part of a special section of Honors 394 Spring 2010, Arizona State University. Rather than a routine history course this dynamic, interactive seminar explores the interplay between terrorism and television, and other media sources on-line and in print. 26 students and their global pen pals comprise the bloggers. We welcome all to share their opinions, pertinent observations, insights, comments, feedback. Please post in a responsible manner.