Terrorism and Personal Fear

Terrorism and Personal Fear

In its broadest sense, terrorism involves the employing violence, or creating a perception that violence is imminent to realize a specific aim. In contemporary society, terrorism is categorized as a significant threat to security and this has made it illegal across many states. The exact cause of terrorism is difficult to pinpoint mostly because different parties use it for different objectives. Diverse groups have adopted terrorism as their preferred approach to achieving their goals. Revolutionaries, governments, religious groups, political parties, and nationalist groups have used terrorism to further religious and political interests. Terrorism by itself has been responsible for the death of many individuals, destruction of city infrastructure and the disruption of economic and social life. In the discussion on terrorism, one of the elements that stand out is the role played by fear. Fear is responsible for perpetuating the effect of terrorism beyond the actual violent act. This essay seeks to evaluate the detailed features of terrorism that make it unique and powerful in changing peoples’ perceptions and emotions.

It is important to investigate the unique aspect about terrorism that triggers a completely different response. Over a short period, people have been willing to permit the government to fill the society with calls for antiterrorism policies and action. In general, the public has allowed itself to become enslaved by terrorism after several major attacks. The world has been immersed into a state of fear. In this state, lack of knowledge and sheer perception control people’s thoughts, feelings and reactions. The government as well as other security stakeholders seldom extends sufficient information to make the defensive measures plausible or practical. Terrorists hardly ever announce their attacks beforehand; quite frequently, the announcement comes as an attack. Citizens become the target of attacks while they walk free. People have come to learn that the state engages in propaganda about controlling the situation. This cyclic pattern of insecurity and helplessness is responsible for creating and sustaining a sense of fear among the members of the public. A decade before the current global security situation currently being experience, terrorism was not a significant concern for many although it was a relatively common occurrence especially within the Middle East. The September 11 bombings of the World Trade Center in the United States was a wake up call that sent the world into a frenzied rush to deal with elements of terrorism. This reaction was not inspired by a need for security. Rather, it was driven by fear. However, statistics have revealed that terrorism is not even a significant cause of death globally.

The role Played by Media Saturation

            One of the issues that have greatly accelerated the heightened sense of fear for terrorism is media involvement. Most of the acts of terrorism that involve actual deaths or destruction of property is categorized as “newsworthy” material by the media. Publicity-seeking terrorists exploit this perception to their advantage. Terrorism has shifted from ordinary targets into highly visible and valuable targets in a staged manner to ensure that they get full news coverage. New agencies are businesses like any other and as such, they have to make profits through increased number of viewers. Therefore, the relationship between terrorist activity and the media is symbiotic. Media depends on terrorist groups for dramatic and major content while terrorist groups depend on the media to pass their message to the rest of the world.

The role played by media in intensifying the negative effects and image of terrorism is influential in raising its perceived threat levels compared to other global risks. For instance, when the World Trade Center was attacked by terrorists all the events leading to and following the attack were closely covered by the media particularly on national television. Several scholars have suggested that while the risks created by terrorism are very real, the public’s understanding of the threats is highly inconsistent to the real threat. These studies point towards media as a key factor linked to the heightened perceptions of terrorism threats. The learning theory can be applied to explain this phenomenon. The school of thought argues that stimuli have a significant effect on people’s awareness and behavior. Media has a massive effect on the public by leading them to experience higher levels of fear when it comes to matters dealing with terrorism. Therefore, while studies have proved that the threat of terrorism is evident and that it is relatively low, the media work to expand these ideas into bigger ones and this creates a sense of fear among the public.

By concentrating on terrorist activities andallocating them an outrageous amountofairtime, several subconscious changes take place that foster the fear of terrorism. One, the mediastimulates the sentiment in the public that these terrorists attacks are very rampant and,consequently, more riskythan they really are. The television is a major mediumthat gives the perpetrator a sense of authenticity and power for a short duration,and with insignificant input on their part, on a wide scope. In the Western Europe context, the cotemporary deadly terrorist isa creation of the media. It is responsible for empowering and extending the terroristand his scope beyond his actual truepowers. In effect,the media exposes the violent details of the scene to the publicthat are powerless to make any change, provoking feelings of nervousnessand fearthe terrorist’s tools of intimidation. The fact that the world can experiencethe power of one terrorist enhances the perceived power of violence in the eyes of the public. All of these actors and events work to foster a state of fear in the differentterrorist activities as well as the perpetrators.

Putting Terrorism into Perspective

            There is an authentic concern in many sections of the world about the number of deaths caused by other threats such as accidents and crime. What is missing is the consequent political commotion about these causes of death. There is an equally high reluctance to address effectively the chaos annually caused by owning firearms. However, there is a significant amount of uproar and fear among the leadership over terrorism. It is necessary to place the threat of terrorism into a sensible perspective. Before America was attacked by Al-Qaeda, the rest of the world was not afraid neither was fear a guiding principle. However, the Bush administration prioritized fear as the main strategy for America. Terrorism and the gloom of fear surrounding it was the main topic in his State of the Union address. However, since 2011, the United States has not been attacked while white people have experienced limited attacks overseas. Instead, fear has transformed most states into the aggressors. The leadership, media, and several organizations have capitalized on the terrorism craze to market their goods and services. In effect, fear has been transformed into an effective tool for pushing various agendas by the state, pressure groups and other agencies.

            The fear generators are largely influenced by government attitudes and directives. The most terrifying aspect is that the most governments are willing to invest extensively in a global war against small factions in several countries. The collective number of global terrorists is very small compared to the populations of most states. In effect, the United States declared a war on a very small group. Most of these terrorist groups create major problems for their host countries but this is not a sufficient reason for them to go to war. This high opposition to the terrorist groups is mostly because they attack Americans and Europeans in overseas locations. One of the most invasive fear devices is the national terrorism alert program conducted by Homeland Security. Their system of color alerts is responsible for creating different levels of fear among the public. Across the holidays, the United States placed the orange alert status. This alert was based on insignificant elements such as speculations and rumors about the extent to which an attack would affect a particular town. There was a similar orange alert during the anniversary of the September 11 attacks.

Misconceptions about Terrorism and Its Role in Perpetuating Fear

            The issue of Muslim fundamentalism is a major aspect that inspires terrorist activities among extremist groups in the Middle East. While the Muslims are closely attached to their religion, the actual percentage of terrorists is about a quarter. Al Qaeda is responsible for expounding the grievances of these small insurgency groups into massive international attacks that have negative effects such as death, destruction of property and disruption of schedules. This effect is achieved by unifying the different resistance groups within Iraq and parts of Pakistan to chase away the British and American partners. In their quest to push away European foreigners, terror groups end up perpetrating violent crimes that are broadcasted across the world. Another significant pervasive fear terrorist mechanism is the terrorist’s behavior of occasionallydelivering a video thatis used by state officials deliberatelyor unconsciously use to reinforce the security threat. The interaction between terroristsand official governmentacts to televise thatterrorists are still active and that these groups are a valid threat. The fear machineis effective. A deeply insidious fear mechanism is the unwillingness of honest skeptics and opponents of the war in both parties to speak out against it. Because they are afraid that either the public or their political opponents or both will punish them politically for taking a stand against a useless war, that war endures and even gains life as the Republican leadership around Bush cynically uses that fear of criticism to silence and undercut opposition to the War on Terrorism.

Works Cited

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Ghetti, M.W. “The Terrorist Is a Star: Regulating Media Coverage of Publicity-Seeking Crimes.” Federal Communications Law Journal. 60.3 (2008): 481-534. Print.Bottom of Form

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