Terrorism and the Media Amplifying the Terrorists' Impact: The Media as Unwilling Allies to the Terrorists’ Agenda Michael A. Bozarth, Ph.D. Department of Psychology University at Buffalo www.PsychologyofTerrorism.com Terrorist Acts are Often Well Calculated Terrorists seek change through the use of fear and intimidation Terrorists always ‘play’ to an audience Specific terrorist tactics are often employed to maximize the impact of their activities Copyright 2005 Michael A. Bozarth, Ph.D. Terrorism is a Type of Psychological Warfare Conventional warfare makes extensive use of psychological ‘warfare’ to amplify its impact Terrorism relies almost exclusively on psychological ‘warfare’ for its intended impact It’s all in the perception of danger Copyright 2005 Michael A. Bozarth, Ph.D. Terrorism is Directed to a Larger Audience Terrorism is intended to instill terror in a larger target audience Terrorism can also be intended to recruit more supporters The media are critically important to achieving both of these goals Copyright 2005 Michael A. Bozarth, Ph.D. Role of the Media in the Genesis of Terror Victims of the terrorists’ physical attack provide the ‘signal’ Media amplify and disseminate the ‘signal’ or message Target audience responds with terror, providing the impetus for capitulating to the terrorists’ demands for change Copyright 2005 Michael A. Bozarth, Ph.D. The Media Magnifier World-Wide Publicity Limited Physical Attack Media Copyright 2005 Michael A. Bozarth, Ph.D. Perception of Threat • 9/11 attack killed less than 3,500 people • Flu kills around 36,000 annually Are you afraid of the flu? Copyright 2005 Michael A. Bozarth, Ph.D. The Media as Terrorist ‘Recruiters’ Terrorist groups sometimes attempt to gain popular support for their agenda (e.g., publicize their cause), not just impart terror in the ‘suppressive’ population or regime The tactics necessary for this objective are somewhat different than the other tactics commonly used by terrorist organizations Copyright 2005 Michael A. Bozarth, Ph.D. Terrorists Playing the Media for Gaining Popular Support Identify the social, political, economic, or religious injustice Identify the responsible target Demonstrate the ability to strike and do harm to the target Demonstrate a commitment and the resolve to continue the fight until the goal is achieved Copyright 2005 Michael A. Bozarth, Ph.D. A Terrorist Recruiter Emerge with the perception of being unrelenting freedom fighters for a just and noble cause supported by the oppressed masses rising-up against a cruel and brutal regime Copyright 2005 Michael A. Bozarth, Ph.D. Terrorism Support Base Actual terrorists Active supporters Passive supporters Sympathizers Copyright 2005 Michael A. Bozarth, Ph.D. Media Coverage and the Terrorist Agenda The media are (mostly unwilling) allies of the terrorists • media want the ‘story’ • terrorists want their ‘message’ spread Media have a lot of control over the impact of terrorist activity Copyright 2005 Michael A. Bozarth, Ph.D. The Terrorists’ Impact Facilitated by the Media Terrorist strive to amplify the impact of their actions Media play an important role • perspective of media coverage including descriptive language • prevalence of media coverage • number of media sources • duration of coverage • detail ofCopyright coverage 2005 Michael A. Bozarth, Ph.D. Importance of Language Selection of specific words has an important impact on the perception of events • cognitive • emotional Language can either favorably or unfavorably portray the same event Copyright 2005 Michael A. Bozarth, Ph.D. What’s in a Word? Consider the following words • freedom fighter • insurgent • terrorist (positive connotation) (neutral connotation) (negative connotation) Copyright 2005 Michael A. Bozarth, Ph.D. Words to Soften the Impact near miss casualties collateral damage detainee near crash killed or seriously injured civilians killed or injured (civilian casualties) prisoner Copyright 2005 Michael A. Bozarth, Ph.D. Similar Denotations— Different Conations Positive • freedom fighter • liberator • peacekeeper • terrorist • invader • occupier More Neutral • insurgent • kill Negative Less Neutral • rebel • murder Descriptive Label Propaganda Label • antiabortion • ProLife • reproductive Copyright choice • ProChoice 2005 Michael A. Bozarth, Ph.D. Subtle but Important Liberator—good Invader—bad Foreign Invader—worse “foreign” invader has a special connotation in the Middle East; it unites otherwise belligerent Arabic factions to fight the “common enemy” and may form the basis for a Jihad andCopyright martyrdom 2005 Michael A. Bozarth, Ph.D. Other Important Choices in Word Selection • Crusader • Infidel • Jihad Anti-Western Rhetoric These terms are commonly used in the Arabic media and the last term is sometimes used worldwide.The terms have different implications for Arabic and Western cultures. Copyright 2005 Michael A. Bozarth, Ph.D. Different Portrayals of the Same Event Terrorists detonated an improvised explosive device near the hospital of the peacekeeping forces. There were numerous U.S. military and Iraqi casualties from the explosion. The insurgents continue their indiscriminant attack of U.S. facilities without regard for strategic value. (American media version) Freedom fighters detonated a bomb near the base of the crusaders. The tremendous blast killed several of the foreign occupiers and severely injured many more of their collaborators. The resistance fighters continue to carry the Jihad to the camps of the foreign invaders leaving the infidels no safe haven. (Arabic media version) Copyright 2005 Michael A. Bozarth, Ph.D. Stupid Blunder or Deliberate Setup? US-picked Iraqi leaders declare a new flag that breaks with Hussein -- and the rest of Arab world. By Lee Keath, Associated Press | April 26, 2004 [excerpts] In Arabic nations, the colors of flags have widely recognized meanings. Green, white and black denote Islam -- harkening back to the battle banners of the medieval Islamic dynasties of the Fatimids, Ummayads and Abbasids. Green is said to have been the prophet Muhammad's favorite color; the Saudi, Libyan, Algerian and Mauritanean flags are completely or largely green. The only Arab League members to have any blue in their flag are the African nations of Djibouti and Somalia. Copyright 2005 Michael A. Bozarth, Ph.D. How to Lose the Propaganda War Cultural insensitivity often aids the terrorists • Re-design of the Iraqi flag using the color of the Israeli flag (blue) feeds the perception of Zionist conquest • President Bush’s use of the term “crusade” inflamed the Moslem world • Western world--noble, righteous cause • Islamic world--invasion by infidels • Osama bin Laden had already referred to the “Zionists/Crusaders in his 1998 fatwa and elsewhere Copyright 2005 Michael A. Bozarth, Ph.D. U.S. PsyOps and Intell No-Brainers “Surrender or die” in Afghanistan Air strike called in by Afghan warlord on wedding party “Crusade” to liberate Iraq “He’s a terrorist!” accusation by other Iraqi prisoners “We are here to kill you. Come out and fight” (Falluja offensive)? Copyright 2005 Michael A. Bozarth, Ph.D. More Choice Terms Detention center vs. prison Enemy combatant vs. POW (also has legal distinction) Intensive interrogation vs. torture Execution vs. murder Copyright 2005 Michael A. Bozarth, Ph.D. “Bad” Language from Lazy Mouths Terrorism vs. terror Suicide bomber vs. homicide bomber Poor word choices, but probably don’t change the meaning. (Both from Fox News?) Copyright 2005 Michael A. Bozarth, Ph.D. Language Economy can Change the Emphasis Beheading—method of execution formerly used in France and some Middle Eastern countries • quick & painless Cutting off the head [of a live victim]—gruesome method of killing someone • much slower & much more painful Copyright 2005 Michael A. Bozarth, Ph.D. The Language “Battleground” Terrorism is ‘fought’ in the psychological realm —perception is everything Word choice and narrative have an important influence on the psychological impact Don’t concede the language ‘war’ —fight on all fronts Copyright 2005 Michael A. Bozarth, Ph.D. Media Wars & Pandering to an Audience Left-wing, right-wing slant • Some “news” presentations are obviously biased, pandering to an existing audience • Other “news” presentations may appear neural but attempt to persuade by subtle propaganda • “Fair and balanced” or fairly balancing? (the Fox spins too) Copyright 2005 Michael A. Bozarth, Ph.D. Tacit Support of the Terrorist Organization Graphic portrayal of the injustice Personification of the terrorists’ target as evil and inhumane Presentation of the terrorists as • • • • representing the suppressed a rational, goal-directed organization minimizing harm to innocent people (and on the side of God, if possible) Copyright 2005 Michael A. Bozarth, Ph.D. Information Sources News Media Government Sources Internet First-hand accounts Personal experience Copyright 2005 Michael A. Bozarth, Ph.D. News Sources Broadcast Media • television • radio • Internet Printed Media • newspapers • magazines Copyright 2005 Michael A. Bozarth, Ph.D. American-Based Television Networks Broadcast • • • • • ABC CBS Fox NBC PBS Cable • CNN/CNN Headline News • CSPAN • Fox News • MSNBC/CNBC Copyright 2005 Michael A. Bozarth, Ph.D. Non-American Satellite Networks English Language • British Arabic Language • Qatar • BBC/BBC World • Granada • Sky News • Canadian (regional broadcast/cable) • Al Jazeera • United Arab Emirates • Al Arabiya • CBC • CTV Copyright 2005 Michael A. Bozarth, Ph.D. Newspapers American (National Distribution) • Christian Science Monitor • LA Times • New York Times • U.S.A. Today • Wall Street Journal • Washington Post Non-American Arabic (with English (English Language) • International Herald Tribune • The Times (London) versions online) • Cairo • Lebanon Copyright 2005 Michael A. Bozarth, Ph.D. News Wire Services Associated Press (AP) Reuters Copyright 2005 Michael A. Bozarth, Ph.D. Government Information Sources White House, Pentagon & related press offices Senate & House committees Government web sites Government reports Individual government officials Copyright 2005 Michael A. Bozarth, Ph.D. Internet Information Sources Media linked Government (e.g., ABC, BBC, CBS, CNN) • United States (e.g., FBI, State Department) • Foreign (e.g., British Home Office, MI-5) Non-government • organizations (FAS, Rand Corporation) • companies (e.g., Black Hawk Security) • individuals (www.PsychologyofTerrorism.com) Copyright 2005 Michael A. Bozarth, Ph.D. Information Bias All information sources direct their presentations to an intended audience • Some risk losing their intended audiences if they present inaccurate information • Others pander to the bias of their intended audience and risk losing their audience if they present unbiased reports Some media ‘sell’ sensationalism All media want the ‘big story’ Copyright 2005 Michael A. Bozarth, Ph.D. Evaluating Sources of Information Use a variety of information sources Note how the same information is presented differently by different sources Recognize that even biased information sources have some ‘grain of truth’ in their reporting Copyright 2005 Michael A. Bozarth, Ph.D. Evaluating Sources of Information, continued Recognize the motivation of the reporting agency and examine its possible bias • nobody does it for “free” • mass media may be ‘selling newspapers’ or pushing their own social-political agenda • government and other sources may be amplifying, blunting, or filtering the information for propaganda purposes Copyright 2005 Michael A. Bozarth, Ph.D. Analyzing Information Use common sense and logic Remember that bias is present both in the information source AND in the recipient of the information • avoid prejudice and stereotypes • try to negate psychological processes that distort information processing • seek feedback for reality testing Copyright 2005 Michael A. Bozarth, Ph.D. Media Censorship of ‘Sensitive’ Stories Media self-censorship • verifying story & factual information • considering impact of story • softening impact • omitting story Government censorship • limiting media access • ‘clearing’ news stories Copyright 2005 Michael A. Bozarth, Ph.D. Open Source Information During World War II, German spies often used public sources for acquiring intelligence During the Cold War, Soviet spies often used public sources for acquiring intelligence; the same information was classified in the Soviet Union Copyright 2005 Michael A. Bozarth, Ph.D. Compromising Information from the Media? 5,000 U.S. troops are taking part in the Mosel offensive U.S. estimates there are 7,000 insurgents in Mosel U.S. troops had to be moved from protecting Basara Offensive uses many Humvees vulnerable to low angle IEDs Copyright 2005 Michael A. Bozarth, Ph.D. Terrorist Setup? One surrendering resistance fighter innocently killed is worth scores of enemy dead One ‘innocent’ woman and child killed at a roadside checkpoint ‘buys’ hundreds of new terrorist supporters Copyright 2005 Michael A. Bozarth, Ph.D. The Media as the Terrorists’ Ally Terrorism is all about perception • perception of the ‘just cause’ the terrorists are fighting for • perception that the “ends justify the means” (and there is no alternative) • perception of popular support for the terrorists’ ‘cause’ • perception of the severity of the terrorist threat Copyright 2005 Michael A. Bozarth, Ph.D. The Media “Battleground” Media have a profound influence on the perception of events • much of the ‘war’ is fought in the media • propaganda is a primary weapon • everybody spins the story • a successful “war on terrorism” requires controlling the spin and winning the propaganda ‘war’ Copyright 2005 Michael A. Bozarth, Ph.D.