Mediating terror: Why the coverage of terrorism in the news can be damaging

Image credit: Sollok29

When acts of terror occur, it is nigh on impossible to react in a level-headed manner. Immediately after hearing the news, one is consumed with suffocating grief, horror, and desperation; an indelible hopelessness that seeps into every inch of our daily lives. Bloodshed is never easy to cope with.

But there is a problem here.

The media is a bastion of communicative clout, raising awareness about worldly events to an infinite audience of ready listeners, and providing a platform for the spread of ideas and beliefs. While the media remains neutral in such instances, the clamorous illumination of events, opinions, and mind-sets is blatant. And it is precisely this that terrorists can capitalise on, through the desire to diffuse terror to as wide an audience as possible.

Inadvertently, then, the news can become a dangerous device. And yet, it is not as simple as a dilemma of to speak, or not to speak.

The purpose of the media is to inform the population of what is occurring around the world; without it, we would be ignorant of affairs that could impact our lives, leaving us vulnerable to threats. If no information was ever broadcast on these occurrences, we would not understand the full picture of why they happened, and thus how to prevent them happening again. Silence is a resignation of the inevitability and perpetuity of terror. But our emotions, particularly in the case of despair and anguish, are so tied to the media that the minute we see a ‘Breaking News’ alert of another terrorist attack, we cannot help but feel desolate – a desolation that, sadly, terrorists want us to feel. The media becomes a double-edged sword: do we speak, and spawn a terror that terrorists desire to cultivate; or do we hold our tongues, in the name of refusing to perform the wishes of such people, and thus leave ourselves open to hidden peril?

But there is a third option. Perhaps we must follow this example of the media: seek neutrality and consideration, rather than exhibiting our disgust. Yes, these atrocities are unbearable; and sometimes our agony is irrepressible. But we must try to carry on. It may seem callous, but, like dealing with the playground bully, sometimes disregarding what has happened to move forward is the way to go. This does not mean that we should not know what is happening in the world, but that we have control over this knowledge, rather than surrendering it to a group of despicable creatures.

This is not to say we don’t care. Of course, we care. We always will. But we mustn’t forget that the media is not the enemy here. Terrorism is.

Yet we mustn’t forget too that the wrong approach to reporting on such news, and the wrong approach to receiving it, can, in fact, exacerbate the problem.

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