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Ethical and Cultural Issues Arising from the Psychology of Terrorism

Section 6
Relationship Between Terrorism and Media

Question 6 | Test | Table of Contents

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We found, for some clients, media coverage proves to be a mixed blessing regarding their grief reaction. Have you found this? As you know, the media plays a major role in portraying the ethical and cultural issues arising from terrorism. Ask yourself, does the media amplify or merely report the news?

In fact, especially in the case of September 11th and the anthrax scare that followed, the media were in an uncomfortable position. If they censor the terrorist news, they are infringing on the public’s right to know. If they give extensive coverage, they might terrorize the public and become allies of the terrorists. Through the way the media presents news of terrorist actions, through the selection of some facts out of the multitude of potentially relevant facts, through the associations they lay between the terrorist act and the social context, the media can have a profound influence that can create panic for an Anxiety Disordered client.

Objectivity in media reporting is, in such situations, difficult. The media might attempt to be as factual in their reporting as some of the British media try to be in regard to terrorism in Northern Ireland, but such a seeming detachedness is also not very objective since the lack of contextualization is also a form of distortion.

♦ Symbiotic Relationship
After September 11th, there was a flood of news coverage on the tragedy ranging from talk shows to fundraisers and expanded special news reports. For some clients, they felt a comfort in the fact that something was being done and they were being kept up to date with the latest happenings. However for other clients, as you may have found, they reacted to the extensive media coverage by increasing their symptoms of grief, anxiety, and/or depression.

As with PTSD, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, some clients relived the traumatic events. With each news story, one client experienced physiological hyperarousal by an exaggerated startle response when he would hear a siren, even though it was in the distance.

In the case of the September 11th New York attacks and the ensuing anthrax scare, what is your opinion about the role the media played and its effect on the clients you were treating at the time?

Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Ben-Zur, H., Gil, S., & Shamshins, Y. (2012). The relationship between exposure to terror through the media, coping strategies and resources, and distress and secondary traumatization. International Journal of Stress Management, 19(2), 132–150.

Kristensen, P., Dyregrov, K., Dyregrov, A., & Heir, T. (2016). Media exposure and prolonged grief: A study of bereaved parents and siblings after the 2011 Utøya Island terror attack. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy, 8(6), 661–667.

Salman, N. L., & Gill, P. (2020). A survey of risk and threat assessors: Processes, skills, and characteristics in terrorism risk assessment. Journal of Threat Assessment and Management, 7(1-2), 122–129.

Slone, M., & Shoshani, A. (2006). Evaluation of preparatory measures for coping with anxiety raised by media coverage of terrorism. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 53(4), 535–542.

Tschantret, J. (2021). The psychology of right-wing terrorism: A text-based personality analysis. Psychology of Violence, 11(2), 113–122.

Van Der Vegt, I., Marchment, Z., Clemmow, C., & Gill, P. (2019). Learning from the parallel field of terrorism studies. Journal of Threat Assessment and Management, 6(3-4), 202–209.

For some clients media coverage proves to be a mixed blessing regarding their what? To select and enter your answer go to Test.

Section 7
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