Open access to Mahmoud Eid's chapter "Terroredia: Exchanging Terrorism Oxygen for Media Airwaves"

Terrorism's Dependency on the Media

By IGI Global on Apr 14, 2015
Terrorism's Dependency On The MediaContributed by Dr. Mahmoud Eid (University of Ottawa, Canada)

The role of the media is fundamental in the processes of crisis management and conflict resolution. The media is a double-edged sword, as it can help de-escalate a severe stress situation as much as it can exacerbate it. Terrorism has recently become one of the most frequent severe stress situations. Modern terrorism is codependent on the media. Today’s terrorists are much more aware of their relationship with the media and understand how they can benefit from using it. Moreover, they are even more aware of how to avoid being “used” by the media. On one hand, there are many incidents in history when the media was used by terrorists and their sympathizers. On the other, terrorists themselves have been used by the media that broadcasts their actions without necessarily transmitting their messages. Inevitably interacting together throughout the long history of terrorism, terrorists and media personnel are today increasingly becoming more able to maximize their mutual benefits.

The relationship between terrorism and the media has been described in various terms. "Terroredia" is a newly coined term by Dr. Mahmoud Eid that explains the phenomenal, yet under-researched relationship between terrorists and media professionals in which acts of terrorism and media coverage are exchanged, influenced, and fueled by one another. The term has been explained in the leading chapter of Exchanging Terrorism Oxygen for Media Airwaves: The Age of Terroredia, a book that provides a timely and thorough discussion on a wide range of issues surrounding terrorism in relation to both traditional and new media. This publication is of interest to government officials, media professionals, researchers, and upper-level students interested in learning more about the complex relationship between terrorism and the media.

With the advancement of modern information technologies and the Internet, terrorists gain public attention not only through mainstream media but also through new media, including those of their own. In fact, terrorists use the Internet as a tool both to obtain and to disseminate information. The advent and growing use and popularity of the Internet has allowed for a transformation in the ways in which terrorists communicate with their adversaries, making the dissemination of their ideas to their target audiences much easier, faster, and exactly as intended without any alteration. Cyberspace allows terrorists almost full control over the contents of their messages, and the advancement of information technologies can help increase international terrorist activities. On the media side, information and communication technologies open unprecedented platforms for seizing public attention, and consequently achieving a major goal for the media during times of terrorism—i.e., reaching a wide-ranging public audience.

The unique relationship between terrorism and the media requires inquiry that goes beyond the widely-known simple process of “symbiosis,” which implies both “interaction” and “mutual dependence.” Instead, inquiry must combine the notion of interaction with issues pertaining to symmetrical and asymmetrical “codependency.” The idea of codependency may involve some sort of control or manipulation if the relationship is imbalanced. However, it is challenging, while possible in rare instances, to find a perfect process of codependency—instead, an imbalance is most common. Hence, codependency can be symmetrical or asymmetrical. While symmetrical relationships indicate equality, as both parties are equally dependent on each other to function, asymmetrical relationships indicate that one party is more or less dependent than the other. Being more common, it is important to note that asymmetrical codependency can sometimes demonstrate a parasitic relationship in which one entity is the parasite and the other is the host. Moreover, the two entities can manipulate, leverage, or abuse each other for their own betterment. This is true of the relationship between terrorism and the media as the media coverage of some terrorist events can be more, (sometimes) equally, or less beneficial to terrorists than the media personnel, depending on the nature of the tactic of terrorism, the terrorist’s obtained volume of public attention and other achieved goals, and the direct profits and benefits gained by the media.

While the interaction, the symmetrical codependency, and the asymmetrical parasitic codependency between terrorism and the media warrant the term “relationship,” they also imply a process of exchange (or exchanging). Each party has methods of strength or power; albeit in the meantime, requires basic needs to survive. Terrorism has tactics of violence, force, and coercion while the media has the power of reaching and influencing the opinions, attitudes, and behaviors of wide-ranging audiences. Meanwhile, in order for both to survive, terrorists seek to garner public attention and the media seek to find top-stories to sell. The exchanging process contributes to the survival of each party; acts of terrorism provide media stories that result in more broadcasting airwaves, press texts, and digital data bytes, while the media coverage brings public attention to terrorists—the oxygen necessary for their existence. The more the audiences are widespread the more both parties benefit and achieve their goals—i.e., the more they survive and grow.

Therefore, this multifaceted relationship that is rooted in interaction, codependency, and inseparability necessitates a representative term. Eid introduces and defines Terroredia as “the interactive, codependent, and inseparable relationship between terrorism and the media, in which acts of terrorism and their media coverage are essentially exchanged to achieve the ultimate aims of both parties—exchanging terrorism’s wide-ranging publicity and public attention (i.e., oxygen) for media’s wide-ranging reach and influence (e.g., airwaves)”. The equation in this relationship is simple; the more terrorist attacks accumulate, the higher the multiplication of media broadcasting airwaves, press texts, and digital data bytes. The reverse is also true; the higher the level of exacerbation, sensationalization, and manipulation by the media, the more terrorist attacks are committed.

Dr. Eid's lead chapter is being offered for open access for 30 days through the month of May. Access "Terroredia: Exchanging Terrorism Oxygen for Media Airwaves" here.

Dr. Mahmoud Eid is an Associate Professor at the Department of Communication, University of Ottawa, Canada. Dr. Eid is the author of Interweavement: International Media Ethics and Rational Decision- Making (2008), co-author of Mission Invisible: Race, Religion, and News at the Dawn of the 9/11 Era (2014), editor of Research Methods in Communication (2011), and co-editor of Basics in Communication and Media Studies (2012) and The Right to Communicate: Historical Hopes, Global Debates, and Future Premises (2009). Dr. Eid is the Editor of the Global Media Journal – Canadian Edition, serves on the editorial boards of several academic journals and as an organizing committee member for various international conferences, contributed several book chapters and journal articles, and presented numerous papers at global conferences. He has led and collaborated in projects for Public Safety Canada, Citizenship and Immigration Canada, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, and various other Canadian and international institutions. His research interests focus on international communication and media studies, communication and media ethics and effects, terrorism, crisis management, conflict resolution, Islam, Arab culture, Middle East politics, media representations and ethnic studies, research methods, and the political economy of communication.

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Some of IGI Global’s other publications discussing terrorism and the media include the following:

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