Representations of Terrorists in Media

The article “Terrorist Transgressions: Exploring the Gendered Representations of the Terrorist” discusses the shift in modern warfare towards being “cultural.” The author argues that visual images, like photos of Saddam Hussein, were used to legitimize military intervention during the War on Terror and that this increased use of media was part of what made it cultural. It makes sense that media was so influential in the war because many were unsure about the War on Terror and in Iraq since the relations between the U.S. and the Middle East have been so complicated the last ten years. Since it’s hard to follow every event that happens, it is important for the media to widely advertise certain large events like the death of Osama Bin Laden for example, to keep support up. Similarly, the videos and images of the planes hitting the twin towers were circulated everywhere around 9/11. The shocking footage enraged people across the U.S. and helped to fuel the War on Terror. Malvern also mentions, however, that we need to step back and realize what we’re looking at, when we see propagandized war images. Images are a tool of terrorism, so it’s important to look at “the means of their production and circulation.” What also comes with the increasing use of war images and footage is the increased representation of “the terrorist” in film and television. This portrayal of the stereotypical “other” also functions to increase support for the war. As Malvern writes, “The terrorist has been constructed as the epitome of transgression against economic resources and moral, physical and political boundaries.” This is partly due to the war footage and photographs and partly due to the representation of Arabs and Muslims in film and television. In either case, we need to be aware of what we’re seeing and potential motivations in order to have an informed stance on the War on Terror.  

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One thought on “Representations of Terrorists in Media

  1. I really enjoyed this critique of western mass media in promoting political violence as a means of uprooting terrorists but I felt that it lacked on example which would work really well. We tend to use images and videos of terrorist activities as a means of inciting society to support the ongoing “war on terror” because we point out the transgressions the videos display against human dignity. However, we simultaneously use footage from our own violent transgressions in the opposite manner. Where videos of 9/11 are meant to make us sympathize with the American military’s mission in the Middle East, eerily similar footage of bombed out cities or “successful” drone strikes are supposed to convince us that our cause is just and victory is possible. I am just somewhat confounded as to how western visual tropes are interpreted in such a two-faced manner.

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