Archive for the ‘Film & Terrorism’ Category

Munich Reflection

Munich Reflection

“Suffering thousands of years of hatred doesn’t make you decent. But we’re supposed to be righteous. That’s a beautiful thing. That’s Jewish. That’s what I knew, that’s what I was taught and I’m losing it. I lose that and that’s everything. That’s my soul” (Munich 2005). Robert, a character in Steven Spielberg’s 2005 film Munich, expounds on the ethical dilemma that he and his fellow Israeli’s are confronted with. He realizes what must be done for his country, but cannot come to terms with it ethically. If an action, such as targeted killing, may save the lives of thousands of innocent people, is it worth the violation of one’s morals?

Munich tells the story of the five men selected by the Israeli government to assassinate members of the Black September terrorists who killed 13 Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics. Mossad, the national intelligence agency of Israel, played an integral role in the assassinations of the Palestinian members of Black September. The Israeli agents were covertly contracted by Mossad to complete this mission. Avner, the group’s leader, is told by his handler, “We deposit money from a fund that doesn’t exist into a box we don’t know about in a bank we’ve never set foot in. We can’t help you because we never heard of you before” (Munich 2005). The Mossad cut all ties with the men in order to distance themselves; however, they financed the entire operation.

In accordance with international law, there are instances when the practice of targeted killings is lawful. However, author Nils Melzer points out that “targeted killing not directed against a legitimate military target remains subject to the law enforcement paradigm”. In the case of Munich, the agents in the film practiced target killings against individuals outside a legitimate military target. At the time of the killings, the members of Black September were civilians. This violates the United Nation’s concept of civilian versus combatants (Melzer). While the Israeli’s actions may have been justified, they were in violation of international law which makes their actions illegal.

When a nation practices targeted killing, they must factor in the consequences. They will likely face retaliation, they may be in violation of international law, they face ethical dilemmas, etc. But is some cases, the outcome may warrant the potential risks. “Fighting terror is like fighting car accidents: one can count the casualties but not those whose lives were spared by prevention. Hundreds, if not thousands, of Israelis go about their lives without knowing that they are unhurt because their murderers met their fate before they got the chance to carry out their diabolical missions” (Luft). When the use of targeted killings can save the lives of hundreds of innocent civilian lives in a nation, than a nation is liable to do what is must to counter terrorism. In Munich, the five Israeli agents make a point to avoid the loss of innocent lives. They know their targets, the members of Black September, and periodically eliminate them. In doing so, they send an important message to Black September and other similar terrorist organizations.

More recently, the Israeli government’s alleged practice of target killing has come into international focus. The Israel Foerign Minister Avigdor Lieberman would neither confirm nor deny whether the Mossad had a role in the assassination of Mahmous al-Mabhouh, a Hamas leader. Jim Krane, the author of the book City of Gold, said, “If Israel did authorize the hit, it either found Mabhouh’s elimination worth the damage to its relationship with Dubai, or the hit squad made a big mistake.” If we are to believe that the Israeli government was behind the assassination, and evidence points directly to them, then the government clearly felt the result was worth the potential risk. In killing al-Mabhouh, they severed ties with many nations. Those in power in Israel clearly felt that this assassination was necessary in order to keep their country safe.

I recently spoke to one of my pen pals, Emily Flanigan, about this issue. Emily has been working in El Salvador for over a year as a member of the Peace Corps. She majored in international relations at Northern Arizona University, so I thought she could bring in an interesting perspective. She saw the film a few years ago when it came out in theaters.

“I think that the state should always approach things in a legal matter. They have the responsibility to the people and other countries to go about things in a diplomatic way, if not they are acting in terrorism as well. In the case of Munich people felt that the violence and actions against the terrorist were justified but if each government took matters into their own hands and didn’t go about things in the correct manner countries would constantly be attacking each other. There would be no notion of civilization since the government would be secretly deciding the will of the people without going through the correct democratic channels. The values of the nation would also go down significantly.”

Emily’s comments really made me think. While watching the film, I sympathized with Israel. I thought that the actions of Mossad were justified after such a heinous act had been committed against their county. A nation should have the right to defend its citizens, but at what cost? If each nation that has been attacked retaliates in some way, that creates a circle of violence. What distinguishes one country’s act of terrorism from another’s? An act of terrorism in one country is justice to the opposing nation.

“Every civilization finds it necessary to negotiate compromises with its own values” (Munich 2005). The Israeli Prime Minister Golda Mier makes this statement early in the film, following the attacks at the Munich Olympics. Mier, and other Israeli prime ministers, have confronted with a profound ethical dilemma. Can they permit targeted killing by members of their own government in order to protect the citizens of their country? The end of the film portrays the guilt that Avner, one of the sole survivors of the original team, will have to suffer with for the rest of his life. As Robert states in the film, those involved may feel like that are losing a part of their souls; however, they save the lives of countless Israelis in the process. Meir and the members of Mossad, perhaps at great cost to personal values, did what they believed they had to in order to keep their country safe. If there was no counter action against terrorists, that would give them the message of submission. However, in doing so, they are only perpetuating the circle of violence.

Works Cited

Krane, Jim. City of Gold: Dubai and the Dream of Capitalism. New York: St. Martin’s, 2009. Print.

Luft, Gal. “The Logic of Israeli’s Targeted Killings.” The Middle East Quarterly (2003): 3-13. Print.

Melzer, Nils. “Targeted Killings in International Law”. Oxford Press. 2009.

Spielberg, Stephen. Munich. Dreamworks SKG, 2005.

The United Nations. Extra-Judicial Killings. 2 June 2010. Web. <>.

Worth, Robert F. “New Hints of Skulduggery in Hamas Killing.” The New York Times 16 Feb. 2010. Print.

Theatrical Terrorism and Popcorn

Throughout the cinematic ages, countless fiction and non-fiction films have been created documenting and reflecting the time period’s political and social atmosphere. Today’s current atmosphere is permeated with terror and terrorism; therefore, directors and producers have created a plethora of films depicting this subject matter. What remains interesting is the influence of directorial creative freedom upon the framing of the topic and for which purpose the film serves be it propaganda, educational or entertainment.

According to the Associate Dean for Graduate Studies and Research at Louisiana State University’s Manship School of Mass Communication, Richard Alan Nelson:

Propaganda is a systematic form of purposeful persuasion that attempts to influence the emotions, attitudes, opinions, and actions of specified target audiences for ideological, political or commercial purposes through the controlled transmission of one-sided messages (which may or may not be factual) via mass and direct media channels (Nelson, 1996).

The inculcation of terrorism, by the way of propaganda film, is prevalent throughout the world. Those who strive to promote their ideological, political or commercial messages and those who counter these messages utilize directorial creative freedom to persuade their audience.

For example, Steven Spielberg’s movie, Munich, serves the purpose to educate the audience of the fine line between terrorism and counterterrorism. Munich is based off of true events surrounding Israel’s retaliation against Black September, a Palestinian terrorist organization, after they murdered 11 Israeli Olympic athletes during the 1972 Olympic games in Munich, Germany.

Spielberg infuses actual footage with the cinematic dramatization of the events exposing the audience to factual information. The violent and brutal imagery framed Israel’s Prime Minister Golda Mier’s justification of counterterrorism. Additionally, Spielberg placed great emphasis on the moral dilemma precluding Mier’s decision when she said “Every civilization finds it necessary to negotiate compromises with its own values” (Munich, 2005).

Throughout the film, the viewer is shown Israel’s acts of counterterrorism, as well as the collateral damage that is usually absent in pro-American counterterrorism activities. Conversely, the Israel agents are shown to be nervous and motivated by their own personal convictions, yet, at times, they are shown to struggle with the conflictions of duty and their personal conviction.

In the end, Avner, the leading Israeli agent, realized the domino effect of terrorism – a counterterrorism act is an act of terrorism, which initiates a counterterrorism act that ultimately catapults state sanctioned and non-state terrorists into a never-ending cycle of terrorism.  Spielberg captures this phenomenon when Avner proclaimed “There’s no peace at the end of this no matter what you believe” (Munich, 2005), thus “framing terrorism as a global war that can not be won” (Silcock, 2011).

In contrast, in 2006 Universal Pictures released United 93. The film, directed and written by Paul Greengrass, is a cinematic portrayal of the events surrounding the hijacking of United flight 93 on September 11th, 2001. The film depicts the four Muslim hijackers as “conflicted and afraid” and “fervently engaged in prayer” (Kellner, 2005). These images project to the viewer that the terrorists who carried out 9/11 were unsure, frightened and surmountable.

The American passengers were shown “as ordinary citizens, involved in the petty cares and mundane rituals of everyday life” (Kellner, 2005). Once they “[became] aware of the disaster unfolding” (Kellner, 2005) they banned together and overwhelmed the terrorists; thus, successfully thwarting the terrorists’ goal. These images promote American heroism and the inability of a terrorist to destroy American ideology.

United 93 put a face on a faceless enemy and frames terrorism as defeatable. The imagery projects and infuses the American psyche with the belief they are undefeatable when united. The message is reinforced when political and military leaders quote a passenger, Todd Beamer, who was overheard on an open cellular phone line moments before the passengers fought back: “Let’s roll!” (IMDB). American policymakers have utilized his quote as a “moral cloak” (Moeller, 2009) “of purposeful persuasion” (Nelson, 1996).

The film serves the purpose of propaganda for American superiority over the inferior terrorists’ extremism. United 93 “[distracts] the population from the real source of the problem, which is an ideology that wants to destroy the west” (Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West, 2005).

United 93 and Munich are just two examples of the plethora of fiction and non-fiction films depicting terrorists and their acts of terrorism. United 93 perpetuate American dominance and their ability to conquer any enemy threatening their way of life. Furthermore, it diminishes fear of terrorism by its unspoken message if we stand united we have nothing to fear. Munich, on the other hand, creates fear of terrorism because it depicts terrorism as an undefeatable faceless enemy.

By and large, theatrical terrorism is a result of directorial creative freedom. The framing of the topic can serve as a means to educate, spread fear or as propaganda to persuade its targeted audience towards a political agenda.


Kennedy. K. (Producer), Spielberg, S. (Producer & Director). (December 23, 2005). Munich [Motion picture]. United States: Universal Studios.

Kellner, D. (2005). Social memory and the representation of 9/11 in contemporary Hollywood film. Retrieved from

Mier, P. (Producer), Shore, R. (Producer) & Kopping, W. (Director). (October 21, 2005). Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West [Documentary film]. United States: Clarion Fund.

Moeller, S. D. (2009). Packaging terrorism: Co-opting the news for politics and profit. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.

Nelson, R. A. (1996). Chronology and glossary of propaganda in the United States. Goleta, CA: ABC-Clio, LLC.


This is the Bloody Sunday movie reflection of my Pen Pal, Stevo Pendarovski from University American College from Skopje

I have always been suspicious about the real impact of the time flow upon our lives and it is proving correct time and again whenever going back to the vital parts of the “Troubles” on the island just “opposite to Europe”.

Unfortunately, we have witnessed frequently the same kind of troubles in the Balkan history, not to mention “troubles” going on “in live” nowadays from North Africa.

The general matrix is recognizable in at least two stages: first, on the spot and in the immediate unfolding of the chain of events, second, later on, in accelerated nation-wide political and security dynamic affected by the initial clash on the ground.

Up close perspective will expose so common and ugly elements of the picture so familiar: army against unarmed demonstrators, indiscriminate killing of civilians and state supporting openly the culture of impunity.

Consequences in the mid to long-term are also well known: scenes of spilled blood and dead bodies directly contribute to amassing the people’s revolt and recruitment of paramilitary units.

Undemocratic regimes had never been fans of the “lessons learned” seminars, hence their repetition of the same mistakes: instead of critical analyses on and the sanctions for the operational misconduct they are stepping up political rigidity and violence.

So-called “interment without the trial” which followed the Bloody Sunday has made definitive rupture between the state and part of the population that started looking for alternative political authority.

In addition about the soldiers: even in the decades of the bipolar world engaging the army for internal security has always indicated misbalanced civil-military relations. Although that lesson (at least on the continent) has been grasped much later, soldiers of today are in the barracks or in the peace-keeping missions abroad. Instead, multiethnic police boots are on the ground.

Movie in question is hard to watch, some scenes are utterly realistic. It sound cynical, but, it has always been much easier to follow pictures on the home screen, than facing a fraction of them in reality. However, despite of our “soft” or “hard” stomachs, historical events of this proportion to all of us extend a simple wisdom: small individual contributions on a daily basis can prevent humiliation and ultimately make our world better.

Using words instead of weapons will spare lives of innocent people. And of course, will spare future Governments efforts to extend apologies for the misdeeds of their predecessors. Is anything wrong with apology? No, it might be valuable for the future cohabitation, but in a specific case, it means virtually nothing to so many people.

Bloody Sunday Movie Reflection – The Only Winner Was IRA

Northern Ireland today is the example of reconciliation of the communities that were for years divided because of the religious and political issues.  In 1998 the government of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and Government of Ireland signed the Good Friday Agreement to end over three decades of conflicts between Protestant and Catholics. The conflict between the Ulster Unionist, and the Nationalist are centuries old. The Protestant Unionist, appealed to remain a part of the United Kingdom, while the Catholics liked to assemble with Republic of Ireland. This conflict included not only the political disputes, but brought the violence and terror to the streets of Northern Ireland. Bloody Sunday is a recent history incident that occurred on 30th January 1972, when British army soldiers killed thirteen civilians in Londonderry during the civil rights march against the internment without trial. The Government of Northern Ireland introduced special Power Act in August 1971 that allowed arrests and detention without judicial process.

According to World Socialist Web Site article Saville inquiry continuous cover up of Bloody Sunday massacre “under the Special Powers Act, mass arrest began and by-mid January 1972 there were 600 internees”. Such a brutal response created wage of revolt that explode in the civil right struggle.  “The brutal response of the British bourgeoisie in Northern Ireland was conditioned by the fear of an emerging challenge to their rule, not just in the north, but throughout the UK”, suggested Chris Marsden from the editorial board of World Socialist Web Site. (Marsden, C. 2010, June 18)

The glimpse of the violence that happened in 1972 is portrayed in the movie Bloody Sunday directed by Paul Greengrass. The movie tells the story on Ivan Cooper who was prominent figure of the civil rights movement and founder member of nationalist SDLP. As BBC stated in the movie review of January 30th2002, “Ivan Copper is not the name of the lips of many people.”  BBC in 2002 movie review Bloody Sunday leader finds fait in film wrote the Greengrass “remains a self-confessed idealist who came to politics because he believed in the notion that Catholic and Protestant working class could be united”. (Bloody Sunday leader finds faith in film 2002, January 30)

Despite the central role Copper had in the Bloody Sunday movie, an official report published last year rejected his claims that the journalist from the Sunday Times did not interview him.

For years and in the second official inquiry for Bloody Sunday that was initiated by the former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Cooper blamed that his interview to Sunday Times journalist John Berry was fabricated. Still, the role and opinion of Greengrass is important because of his stands that use of force of British paratroops helped only IRA to increase its membership and to involved Northern Ireland in deadly violence for more then two decades.

“Before Bloody Sunday, I believe there were no more than 30 to 40 IRA volunteers in Derry. They had a very small base, small amounts of hardware and, most important, very little support”, remarked Copper for BBC in 2002. Not only the actors and eye – witnesses of Bloody Sunday events hold the position that the bloody victory belongs to the IRA movement. Jenny McCartney who writes a social and political analysis for the online edition of the British newspaper Telegraph stated that the after Bloody Sunday events IRA gained more supporters among “radicalized young Catholic man”.  “I was not yet a year old on Bloody Sunday: I grew up in Northern Ireland under its long toxic shadow. Its sole beneficiary was the IRA. There was only one Bloody Sunday, but thereafter the IRA and the Loyalist paramilitaries ensured that civilian blood flowed every day of the week”, underscored McCartney. (Bloody Sunday: The only winners were the IRA 2010, June 12).

In the 5,000 – page document that was coordinated by the Lord Saville and prepared for dozen years, he assessed that “What happened on Bloody Sunday strengthened the Provisional IRA, increased nationalist resentment and hostility towards the Army and exacerbated the violent conflict of the years that followed. Bloody Sunday was a tragedy for the bereaved and the wounded, and a catastrophe for the people of Northern Ireland.”

The presence of the IRA members in the movie is almost invisible, but the viewers should be culpable to identify they strengthened their position in Northern Ireland after the British soldiers killed unarmed civilians. The Saville report described that Official IRA and Provisional IRA was among the civil rights protesters on 30th January. “What we have concluded, however, is that there is no evidence that suggested to us that any member of the Provisional IRA used or intended to use the march itself for the purpose of engaging the security forces with guns or bombs”, was suggested in the Saville report.  The report, nevertheless, notified that “Martin McGuinness was armed with a Thompson sub-machine gun on Bloody Sunday and we cannot eliminate the possibility that he fired this weapon after the soldiers had come into the Bogside”.  (Report of Bloody Sunday Inquiry. 2010, June 15)

This lead as to crucial and dramatic moment in the movie Bloody Sunday and that is the action of the British soldiers against the civilians at the protest. Catholic community disputed the report conducted by Lord Widgery who reported, “Paratroopers firing had “bordered on the reckless” and concluded “the soldiers had been fired upon the first and some of the victims had handled weapons. Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair commissioned the new inquiry for the Bloody Sunday events in 1998.  The report was published on 15th June last year followed by the statement of current British Prime Minister Gordon Brown. In a statement to the House on the Saville Inquiry, Brown affirmed the findings of the report. “What happened on Bloody Sunday was both unjustified and unjustifiable. It was wrong”, appraised Brown. (PM: Statement on Saville Inquiry. 2010, June 15)

Then, Brown expressed what Lord Saville concludes on the balance of used armed force against civilians at the protest.  “None of the causalities shot by soldiers of Support Company was armed with a firearm”, appraised Lord Saville in his report. Even though, the Saville report does not indicated the responsibility of the authorities for toleration or encouragement of unjustified lethal force, still recognized the lack of discipline among armed forces.

The contrast between civilians and British armed force is apparent in the movie Bloody Sunday. It was filmed with the documentary approach to make the events of Northern Ireland history more closed to the viewers. I can agree with the approach of the director Greengrass used in the movie to catch at least a glimpse of a personal and collective memory drama of Northern Ireland history. It took more than two decades for the British Government to apology for the Bloody Sunday.  The revision of the past and the collective memory is something that every nation should face in their history. The use of documentary approach and showing the drama in the last minutes of its film, Grengrass opens the possibility to every viewer to seek for its true of the Bloody Sunday happenings. The role of the press and media is only a small part in this TV docudrama from 2002. It showed only BBC reporter asking why the military attacked unarmed civilians. However, Grengrass does not touch the role of the Sunday Times in the aftermath of Bloody Sunday because the movie ends shortly after the killings of civilian protesters. The 250 interviews conducted by Peter Pringle and Philip Jacobson for The Sunday Times Insight File of Bloody Sunday was pivotal material to “the longest-running inquiry in British history”.   (Times Newspapers Limited. 2010, June 13)

However, the key issue and the right of peaceful protest are recognized in the Bloody Sunday movie.  The importance of civil rights and the free expression of the opinion is the cornerstone of every democracy. In the light of news from Libya and the protesters that are killed it is important to underline that every government should investigate the killing of civilians. What is the difference between United Kingdom and Libya? British government undertook the investigation and finally apologized for the Bloody Sunday. Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi asked from NATO and EU to investigate how the people in Libya were killed, accusing for conspiracy towards Libya. In a democracy, the society is prepared to confront itself with every misuse that might occur against the civilians and their right of protest. The negligent behavior after the Bloody Sunday event in 1972 exactly lead Northern Ireland in the violence driven by mixture of politics and terror. While we follow the news from Libya, we should ask: how many civilians will suffer in the anti and pro – Gaddafi protest? 

Work cited:

1.Chairman, D., Beams, N., Dias, W., Grey, B., Hyland, J., Jones, K., & Marsden, C. (2010, June 18). Britain: Saville Inquiry continues cover-up of Bloody Sunday massacre. In World Socialist Web Site. Retrieved March 6, 2011, from

2. Bloody Sunday leader finds faith in film (2002, January 30). In BBC News Online. Retrieved March 6, 2011, from

3. Bloody Sunday: The only winners were the IRA (2010, June 12). In The Telegraph. Retrieved March 6, 2011, from

4. Report of Bloody Sunday Inquiry. (2010, June 15). In The Bloody Sunday Inquiry. Retrieved March 6, 2011, from

5. PM: Statement on Saville Inquiry. (2010, June 15).  In Retrieved March 6, 2011, from

6.  Times Newspapers Limited. (2010, June 13). Return to Bloody Sunday. In The Sunday Times. Retrieved March 8, 2011, from

7. Saville inquiry dismissed evidence of Ivan Cooper. (2010, June 20). In SundayTribune. Retrieved March 6, 2011, from

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.


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.