Terrorism Studies and Framing Concept Essay
How can the concept of “framing” be employed to understand terrorism? How can it be used to critically examine the study of terrorism?
Terrorism is a complex and multi-layered phenomenon. When it first started showing itself in the global arena, the public immediately felt the need to understand its roots, reasons, and motifs, this is when framing occurred. After the events of 9/11, the world’s society and the citizens of the USA namely underwent a heavy influence of multiple frames about terrorism. Framing is frequently used by the media and public speakers such as politicians.
This way the public ideas and understandings of global events are formed or framed according to certain ideas of the political leaders. The concept of “framing” can be employed to understand the influences and reactions of the news and knowledge about terrorism project in society. Abrahms (2011) writes about the Strategic Model, where the questions about terrorism claim to have answers today. Strategic Model rests on several presumptions that occurred after the events of 9/11 and that view terrorism as a political tactic, while war is positioned as the best measure to stop terrorism.
Besides, framing serves to heat the public moods putting the society on edge and making it experience constant fear of terrorism using employing abstract notions and turning terrorism into an all-penetrating and constantly present threat. The concept of framing can be used to critically examine the study of terrorism using analyzing the frames and the effect they produce, the purpose of their creation, and the meaning they employ. Framing needs to be examined to provide the scholars of the study of terrorism with the idea of what is behind the frames.
In modern society with its powerful and influential mass media, terrorism becomes a public action completely dependent on the level of media coverage. In other words, if the act of terrorism is not shown on television all around the world, it loses a significant deal of its power. The threat and danger of terrorism are broadcasted widely, but the mass media work both ways – they create publicity for the terrorism with the purpose of warning society about the threat, and at the same time, they create a massive panic reaction and feed the social fears and misconceptions. The way terrorism is presented through the mass media determines the reactions towards it and understanding of this phenomenon.
Besides, most terroristic acts are filmed by some kind of a third party; this indicated the importance of publicity for the whole practice of terrorism. Framing works using creating an unfinished story with certain kinds of meanings that can easily be found by the viewers. In other words, framing implies certain information but does not deliver it directly, instead, it makes the audience put the pieces of a puzzle together and form an opinion that was initially programmed into the frames.
In general, the term “framing” stands for the sets of understandings, concepts, and logical connections individuals, groups of people and societies use to comprehend the world around them and the events happening in it. In cases when the events are complicated and have multiple layers and sides framing can serve both as great assistance for the understanding of the reality and a powerful means of creating confusion. Framing also can manipulate people’s minds and public opinion making them focus on certain conceptions and directing them towards the points of view that may be convenient for the government or are unconsciously formed in the society and may serve as the sources of negativity and aggression.
Framing the phenomenon of terrorism today is a widely discussed issue. Since mass media and publicity are crucial attributes of the mechanism employed by terrorism, the way such actions are presented and commented on by the public speakers and mass media is very important because it plays the main role in the process of forming public opinion about various events. Mass media can serve as the means of propaganda against or in favor of terrorism, it also can transform and alter the actual meanings of various happenings. All of the alterations and changes are done using framing, which makes this concept a very serious social weapon possessing a big power.
In the contemporary world, framing is available to everyone and is used by the opposing sides in various armed conflicts shaping the public views and setting parameters for the political debates about the accuracy of various conceptions and ideas. Framing today is responsible for the perception of future threats and the measures that are viewed as the best ways to cope with terrorism (Haider-Markel et al. 2006). The language used by the mass media significantly impacts the public expectations of the actions employed by their governments to confront terrorism and reduce the risk of another attack.
The vocabulary used in the threat of terrorism today is very aggressive and based on resilience. Coaffee (2006) mentions in his work that it is common to call the contemporary era “the age of terror” and announce wars on terrorism as George Bush did after the events of 9/11. These battles against terrorism are normally as violent and dangerous for innocent people as the attacks of terrorists, but they are covered and masked with the help of framing. Just like the medieval wars were conducted to spread “the right religion”, the modern wars are known to “spread the right political regime”.
Nowadays, the confusion created around various armed conflicts and the thick levels of propaganda that often lasts for decades make it impossible even for the political experts and professionals to dig out the truth and the real course of events. Often, the conflicting sides during the wars surround themselves with a great deal of framed information that is designed to direct the supporters of these sides and heat their devotion.
This way most of the conflicts are artificially stimulated through the mass media. Today, we live in a world penetrated and controlled using technologies. Media such as the Internet and television have grown to have immense power and a very stable influence. Contemporary armed conflicts such as the one happening right now in Ukraine are initiated through the mass media, attracting public attention, gathering people, and broadcasting biased or altered information to achieve better reactions.
Statistically, after the events of 9/11 the levels of terrorism decreased, but, at the same time, the fear of the threat of a terroristic attack grew. This happened because of framing using abstract notions and statements about terrorism and hinting that it is almost omnipotent, it is constantly present and may show up anywhere and anytime. Framing that supports this opinion creates high levels of fear boarding with paranoia. As a result, the citizens are artificially put on edge and the fears of public places, long flights, and even people of certain ethnicity and culture are generated.
Frames mainly carry positive functions of clarifying various complicated notions and events for the societies. The scholars and experts today examine the frames used about terrorism to disclose the misconceptions they carry and replace the biased notions and terms with more suitable ones. However, in modern society framing of terrorism has created political response and various policies and decisions favoring the war and use of weapons.
As a result, the armed conflicts with the states of the Middle East have no end. The announcement of the “war on terror” created a political climate supporting the invasion of Iraq by the United States of America. This indicates the seriousness and the power of the contemporary framing that is significantly speeded up and stimulated by mass and social media. The research of frames, their identification, elimination, and replacement is crucial because this is the only way of providing unbiased knowledge for society and defeating misinformation.
Abrahms, M. (2011) Does Terrorism Really Work? Evolution in the Conventional Wisdom since 9/11. Defense and Peace Economics, 22(6), 583-594.
Coaffee, J. (2006) From Counterterrorism to Resilience. The European Legacy: Toward New Paradigms, 11(4), 389-403.
Haider-Markel, D. P., Joslyn, M. R. & Al-Baghal, M. T. (2006) Can We Frame the Terrorist Threat? Issue Frames, the Perception of Threat, and Opinions on Counterterrorism Policies. Terrorism and Political Violence, 18(4), 545-559.