International Terrorism in the Contemporary World

By Marius H. Livingston; Lee Bruce Kress et al. | Go to book overview

HILDE L.MOSSE, M.D.

The Media and Terrorism

One cannot understand terrorism without being aware of the role played by the mass media in violence conditioning. Although it is a background role, it is still of far-reaching and sometimes crucial importance. The mass media are television, movies, newspapers, magazines, and comic books directed to children and adolescents.

The basis for terrorism is human violence. An act of terror consists of killing people or threatening to kill them. The threat of killing, however, is very close to actual killing for two reasons: (1) Criminological and historical experience shows that the threat is very often translated into fact; and (2) even more important is that the position in which the terrorized person is put makes killing very easy and very likely. For example, when a robber enters your home, he has you at his mercy. The same is true for customers in a bank during a holdup, and for peaceful demonstrators such as the Kent State students. Terrorist tactics have been used against all these victims. The temptation to use the gun and not just threaten with it is very great indeed.

How thrilling it is to have power over a helpless creature, to sneer at him or her, to humiliate, to torture, to rape, and in the end, to kill, has been shown to more than a generation of children in the United States, first in comic books, and then on television and in the movies. Violence has entered their homes, glorified and in profusion, via the mass media. This has contributed mightily to the implicit acceptance of violence as a means of getting things done. It has distorted the natural attitudes of children, their openness to ideas and experiences, their curiosity, their spontaneous and unbiased interest in other people, and has moved them in the direction of cynicism, greed, hostility, callousness, and insensitivity. 1

There are endless examples of this when one analyzes television shows, movies, comic books, and the many monster and other sadistic magazines young people raised on this violent intellectual diet buy. In one comic book story alone, I counted thirty-seven murders and fifteen pools of blood. One single television station showed 334 completed or attempted killings in one week. Children spend more time in front of the television screen than in school. They absorb a fantastic dose of pictorial violence. Fortunately, there are also wonderfully constructive shows interspersed among the violent ones. However, shows with a truly antiviolence tendency are by far in the minority.

Millions of children knew about kidnapping and the use of terror tactics

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