The attacker or gunman should be used as



The media is often
viewed as the “fourth estate” (Schultz, J, P 230) of the British political
system, acting as a common-carrier between the government and the people which
intends to keep the public informed on political affairs as accurately and
contemporaneously as possible. However, it is evident that the western
portrayal of the East is somewhat sordid as the Western media effortlessly
manages to reinforce damaging stereotypes when it comes to the phenomena of
terrorism. The media indoctrinate the minds of millions world-wide preventing the
public from making educated, personal decisions when the topic arises. This
essay aims to show how news organisations negatively depict the East and Islam
through a constructivists approach.


A constructivist
approach within the media means “we give things meaning by how we represent
them” (S, Hall. P 3) so particular words used, and images produced all link
back to the ultimate point. For example, “the word terrorist itself can be a
barrier rather than an aid to understanding” (BBC, 2018). Words such as
attacker or gunman should be used as they explain the perpetrator much more in
depth which then allows an audience to make their own decision on who is doing
what. Buzz words as such can be presented as damaging as they carry heavy negative
connotations. It is popular belief that natives of the East and members of the
Islamic community are the sole perpetrators of terrorist attacks although terrorism
has been decreasing sharply year on year since the 1980s and over half of all
attacks carried out in West by Al-Qaeda/Islamic State were carried out by
people with no direct connection to such groups. In a study by ECROMER (2002)
topics such as culture, education and entertainment were rarely mentioned
alongside the Middle-East and Islam, however, words such as terrorist, bomber,
and ISIS were at the top, which ultimately associates that diaspora as a
“problem” (ECROMER)


The media provide terrorist
groups with the “oxygen of publicity” (Pettigrew, M. P36) meaning as long as
terrorists offer drama or anything which sparks human interest it will take a precedence
over more important news (Nacos, B. P. 8). It is argued that terrorism “provides
a particularly potent story for the media as it has all the perfect ingredients
– violence, drama, fear, and so on” (Lewis, J 2008). News values, which ‘over-represent’
terrorism as a threat, coincide with economic and political pressures to fix ‘terror’
as a decisive narrative in the contemporary media landscape. For example, in an
article by The Guardian, showed that
the over representation of terrorism lead to even more violence stating that:

“evidence is emerging that suggests
even the reporting of violence can trigger further attacks. Research has found
that sensationalist media coverage of acts of terrorism results in more such
acts being committed” (The Guardian, 2016).


This shows that the
ostracization and misrepresentation of terrorism in the media leads to more
violence which could be an example of William Randolph Hearst’s ‘yellow


The media seem to
adopt a colonialist attitude when depicting the East and portray them in a very
archaic manner which dates to the early eighteenth century. Westerners believed
themselves to be superior to the “others” which is how they typically described
the east. Edward Said coined this ‘orientalism’ which is “a way of thinking
based upon a binary distinction between the ‘allegedly inferior Orient and the
allegedly superior Occident” (Said, E. P 98). Said argues that this period was
a textual universe for the West, with Orientalists interested in classical periods
and not all in the contemporary, living Orientals. This may be the reason for
the sour depiction of the East in modern day media.


This links with the
weight of imperialism and how Western culture likes to echo stigmas surrounding
Islam and negatively connotes it with “violence, terrorism, fundamentalism and
religious extremism” (Poole, E & Richardson, J. 2006) This is prevalent in
an article by the Boston Globe where
they speak about the “cultural conflicts set in motion by colonialism” (ADD
SOURCE). Britain as a colonialist country ruled over 80 percent of the world at
one point, including some of the nations westerners directly link to terrorism.
In 2015, eleven men were arrested as they planed suicide bombings who were
originally from Pakistan, which Britain ruled for generations as part of India
and Britain’s leading Islamic radical, Abu Hamza, who was sentenced to life in
prison for terrorist crimes was bon in Egypt, which Britain dominated for over
seventy years. Euro-centricity seems to adopt a hypocritical nature when it
comes to ‘civilising’ the people they oppressed, and the Boston Globe rightfully points out “if they had never sent armies
to places such as Syria, Iraq, India, or North Africa – they would not be facing
the terror that afflicts the today” (Boston Globe, 2015).


The media provide
visual cues when presenting a certain story to optimise engagement which is quintessential
in modern day society as everything is now digital, meaning the visual
representation of the East and Islam is just as important as the story written.
For example, the representations of ‘Islamic terrorists’ in the media often
show very degrading and stereotypical images forcing readers to make a general consensus
of an entire religion based on a few images even though over half of all
attacks carried out in West by Al-Qaeda/Islamic State are carried out by people
with no direct connection to such groups. However, when it comes to western terrorism,
images are now purposely made misconstrued and make the perpetrator seem like
the victim. Photos become highly publicised and pre-meditated and quite tedious
as an ongoing theme becomes prominent. Discounting war zones, studies show that
there have been very few people killed by ‘Muslim extremists’ each year. An article
by Brookings claims that:

“terrorism often leads to
insurgencies or civil wars; it could destabilise U.S. allies in the Middle East
and the whole Middle Eastern architecture; terrorism keeps oil prices high; and
it has psychological effects beyond the actual death tolls”. (Brookings, 2008)


This shows that the
exacerbation of terrorism in the media helps a western economy capitalise and
although the representation breaks ethical and moral codes, western economy owns


The media often
offer ideologies of terrorism a platform and terrorists are embracing digital
media more than ever. One of the biggest terrorist organisations Isis have shown
to be very capable when using social media. During the march into the northern
Iraqi city Mosul, posting activity on twitter manages to reach highs of almost
forty-thousand tweets in a day and visual content being uploaded by Isis soldiers
are then shared globally by the general public and mainstream news
organisations. These images and videos entice vulnerable minds to such an extremist
ideology and make it seem like a social and political norm. Conclusively, the
media are just relaying the tiniest fraction of such a huge phenomenon and
indoctrinating the minds of impressionable people. (Awan, 2013) Moreover, this
provides extremist groups with a direct platform where they can play upon
individual grievances and dissatisfaction that makes those feel vulnerable feel
as though they are significant and important (Awan, I & Blakemore, B.
2012). This ultimately allows terrorism to become glamorised.


The media focusing
on specific types of terrorism. Extreme right and left and pro-independence movement.
“religiously-inspired terrorism” (Neumann, P. P 105) attracts the most
attention, and particularly attacks instigated by organisations claiming to
follow Islam, which generate the widest media coverage. The news general vocalise
that such groups are engaged in a war against the West yet fail to acknowledge that
Muslim-dominated societies are impacted the most. This was the case during the
attacks in Brussels on the 22nd of March 2016, when there were Muslims
among the victims. References to Islam seem to pervade the media as was seen
following an attack in Munich in 2016 by a young German of Iranian origin. the
mention of Iran misled news commentaries with the media one again focusing on
Islam whereas the crime was really committed because of an extreme right-wing ideology.


In conclusion, the western
media generally ostracise and exacerbate stories covering news stories which
ultimately reinforce and reproduce negative stereotypes within the East and Islam.
The religion is too closely related to most terrorism attacks although statistics
orate something much different. The Western diaspora need scape-goats and
reasons to keep the news exciting even if it is at the expense of millions of
people worldwide. Dangerous labels are being placed on Muslims which produce
more hate, creating more hate crime which technically creates more terrorism as
there are political and religious undertones. This is evident with President of
the United States Donald Trump, as the number of anti-Muslim hate groups have
tripled since he came into power. As an audience it is vital to question what
representations are being mobilised and to fathom that all news is not as
accurate as it may come across. The media is supposed to provide an unbiased platform
to the public, so they can make an educated decision. Reporters must stick to their
relevant codes, remain accurate, independent, accountable, impartial and be
able to confidently challenge stereotypical representations to create a much
more global and fair type of journalism. Newsrooms must understand that a
diverse team is essential for an accurate range of opinions and to avoid a political