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Discussion Questions: The relationship between the media and terrorism is often described as symbiotic. What is meant by this characterization? Please provide an example to illustrate your position. Is there anything that could be done to lessen the ‘use’ of the media by terrorists while still maintaining freedom of speech (consistent with the media’s protection under the 1st Amendment of the Constitution)? 


  1. The relationship between the media and terrorism is often characterized as symbiotic, but what is a symbiotic relationship and why would the media and terrorist organizations be characterized as such? Symbiosis is a “close ecological relationship between the individuals of two (or more) different species.” Sometimes a symbiotic relationship benefits both species, known as mutualism. Sometimes the relationship only benefits one species at the other’s expense. And sometimes, a symbiotic relationship benefits neither species (Meyer, 2013). In the case of characterizing terrorism and the media as having a symbiotic relationship, both entities benefit from each other’s actions. Although the characterization of their relationship as symbiotic is only one theory of many when it comes to the relationship between terrorism and the media. Exploring the symbiotic relationship theory between terrorism and the media deeper does reveal truths, or perceptions of truth, which are easy to agree with. First, obtaining media coverage allows for global broadcasting, which in turn brings legitimacy to the terrorist organization who claimed the attack along with a global platform to air their grievances. This global outreach platform can instill fear in large populations and projects the terrorist group’s power far greater than what it actually is, which in turn damages the legitimacy of the political target and applies pressure on their governments to negotiate with the terrorist organization to limit future attacks. Thus, the political aims of the group can be realized. However, as noted earlier, in the characterization of the symbiotic relationship, both parties benefit from the relationship. So what then does a media outlet get in return? The media, in return, gets headline stories that they can capitalize on in an assortment of ways. The media gets to cover the attack itself, which is headline-worthy (Ganor, 2008). They are able to bring in experts to dissect why the target was chosen, who was behind it, the grievances of the terrorist group and the media dissect everything down to the character building of the victims involved, all in an attempt to get more viewers to watch their network which brings in money. An example of this was the media coverage of the 1972 Munich Olympics terrorist attacks. Three main Israeli newspapers. Although this event was globally covered, the Israeli newspapers framed the attacks and massacre of Israeli athletes as a pivotal example of the fight between Israel and Arab terrorism. However, the papers taking an absolute stance on them versus us also ballooned the perception of the terrorist’s real strength and making them appear as a “formidable global terrorist network rather than a small fringe group”. (Tal Laor, 2022). Internationally, this incident highlighted the Palestinian struggle to the world, energizing sympathizers while also influencing the public’s understanding of the situation. So if the media and terrorism have a symbiotic relationship, couldn’t we just manage the media coverage in order to remove it as a benefit to terrorism? In the US, I do not believe this is possible. First, freedom of the press is a constitutional right of the American people, and setting legal limitations for coverage of a terrorist attack would open up pandora’s box of what else the government could limit under the guise of “national security.” So legal intervention is not the answer. Self-regulation is a better approach. This would leave the responsibility to the media outlets but also preserve freedom of speech. This can be a realistic approach. After the attacks of 9/11, the Department of Defense asked media outlets to not specify the locations of troops as they moved into Afghanistan. Most media platforms obliged, and when one stepped out of bounds, the others highlighted the offense as an attack on the Soldiers themselves. However, that was a different time and America had just suffered the worst attack since Pearl Harbor. The media and the government often do not see eye to eye. I believe this can still be done though. It would take effort on all sides though, and accountability would have to maintain by all agencies. The media outlets could still cover the attacks, but they could agree on some ground rules. Some of those rules could be to always use derogatory terms such as terrorist and not guerrilla forces, or the name of the group who claims the attack. Another could be to not highlight the wants and needs of the terrorist organizations.

 2. For this week’s discussion I will be evaluating the use of media and its relationship with terrorism as well as how some concerns of media usage could be address without hindering the rights of the people. For starters media sources are able to captivate a large audience by the types of information and imagery they release (Gerhards & Schafer, 2013). In doing so networks are able to boost their ratings by the more individuals that watch there network. Now given that terrorist organization desire is to influence political decision by the use of or threat of violence then the media plays a vital role. By utilizing the media terrorist organizations are able to increase the number of individuals who are affected by such an event. Through both the reach of the media platform as well as the possible live coverage that can display imagery of such an attack it can help to create the desire outcome sought by the terrorist organization (Gerhards & Schafer, 2013). A great example of media usage for terrorism can be seen during the Boston Marathon Bombing. This attack was not only displayed on media platforms following the attack but was directly filmed and aired by media platforms as the attack unfolded. Whether the direct intentions of the perpetrators or simply an indirect result of the attack location this media coverage was able to inflict fear and panic on a national scale through media coverage. As individuals continued to watch the coverage of the manhunt of the attackers it continued to boost ratings of all platforms partaking. Now when discussing possible methods that could be implemented in order to prevent media coverage of terrorist attacks the first issue that is brought up is the first amendment. Any restriction implemented by the government on a media platform could be seen as an infringement on the American people’s rights. It has been voiced many times by politicians that there are somethings that the media should not cover however there are no restrictions in place (Congressional Research Service, n.d.). With that said I do not believe that there is anything that can be implemented other than the request that media platforms implement some discernment and understanding that some information should not be broadcast given the greater effect it has on the people and the free coverage given to the suspects.

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