Politics, media and war: 9/11 and its aftermaths
Politics, media and war: 9/11 and its aftermaths

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10.6 Reflection (2)

Activity 49 Reflection (2)

Now we offer you the chance to reflect on what you have learnt. Consider one of the three questions below. It may help you to write down your thoughts; aim for about 1,000 words.

  • To what extent can a ‘terrorist threat’ be manufactured by the news media?
  • Can news media ever be considered a reliable and independent reporter of matters related to terrorism, war and peace?
  • ‘The state will, in the face of a terrorist threat, inevitably have to restrict civil liberties.’ Is such an opinion defensible?

Reveal the discussion below to pick up some guidance notes relating to each of the three questions.

Comment

Guidance notes

To what extent can a ‘terrorist threat’ be manufactured by the news media?

This broad question encourages you to draw on each of the media study sections (sections 6, 7 and 8), but given the word limit you will need to be selective about the material that you choose. From section 6 you will have to carefully consider the role of the media in creating the ‘spectacle’ of 9/11. Reflect on how other institutions such as the government and military play a role in influencing either the media’s representation of the event or the public’s perception of it. You will wish, obviously, in order to discuss the ways in which the media frames or doesn’t frame the public’s attitudes to terrorism, to critically interrogate the notion of ‘largely determine’ that is presented in the quote you are invited to consider. For instance you might think that the media only ‘influences’ public attitudes or else has ‘little impact’ on them. You will also want to consider whether the media ‘creates’ or simply ‘reports’ such ‘spectacle events’. From section 7 you could consider the argument between Chomsky and Herman on the one hand and Hallin on the other, over the relationship between the media and government and explore how the media can either challenge or collaborate with government. Section 8 provides an opportunity to examine evidence about audiences directly, so you should consider the studies by Kull et al., Poole and Al-Ghabban for what light they shed on the question. Show how you understand and intend to answer the question in a brief introduction, and try to answer the question directly in your conclusion, drawing on the examples that you have considered.

Can news media ever be considered a reliable and independent reporter of matters related to terrorism, war and peace?

This question invites you to explore when and why news media can be considered to be reliable/independent (or not) and to identify the explanatory factors that come into play. In answering this question you will find it useful to refer to Herman and Chomsky from section 7 at some point in your answer, but you will also be able to refer to materials drawn from sections 6 and 8. You should explore what Herman and Chomsky mean by ‘manufacturing consent’ and consider if there are examples of this happening post 9/11 or not. Relevant materials from section 7 include the Gilligan and Seymour M. Hersh articles, the Kellner and Smith articles (section 6) and the Kull et al, Mythen and Walkgate articles (section 8) could also be used. You should carefully interrogate the question that is presented for discussion. Focus on the notion of media ‘independence’, the ways in which news is ‘produced’ and consider the ways in which governments and the military can either ‘influence’ or ‘determine’ the ways in which news agendas are made. Show how you understand and intend to answer the question in a brief introduction and try to answer the question directly in your conclusion, drawing on examples that you have considered. You will, to answer the question, find it useful to discuss the relationship between independent journalism and the state and to explore to degree to which government is able to influence the news that is presented by commercially oriented media, including US TV audiences in the wake of the US invasion of Iraq.

‘The state will, in the face of a terrorist threat, inevitably have to restrict civil liberties.’ Is such an opinion defensible?

This question presents a contestable opinion with which you are expected to critically engage. Its subject matter invites you, in line with course material, to explore the impacts of 9/11 on security policy in contemporary Britain. The question asks you to develop your own argument as to how this has affected civil liberties in Britain. You should examine - and critically consider - the trade off between the need for the British state to protect citizens by preventing terrorism and apprehending terrorists and having also to protect and enhance the civil liberties of the people. This question largely focuses on the issues raised in section 10, where background information on actions taken by the British government in response to 9/11 is presented as well as contrasting views on the implications of these measures for the civil rights of British (and other) citizens. There is, as presented by Mottram, the former senior civil servant, the broad government view that proportionate measures have had to be taken to protect the population against terrorism. The extract by Saward summarises the key measures taken by the state between 2000 and 2006 and identifies some areas where they might be seen to impact civil liberties. Gearty, a critic of the government’s approach, identifies the threat posed by the state to human rights, particularly civil and political rights. Porter, another critic, further develops the critical view and argues that our personal freedoms are under threat as never before. The interview shows Mottram and Porter elaborate their views at greater length and provides a more direct contrast of their views on terrorism and civil rights issues. It will be up to you to adjudicate between these different views and to construct an argument to support your own conclusion.

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