News reporting of terrorism, in the form of security journalism, faces a set of challenges to the functions it serves as a result of both its own practices and the changing practices of news consumers. Security journalism performs some predictable functions, namely the regular delivery of representations of terrorist threats to a presumed national (and international) audience through coverage of Al-Qaeda leaders’ speeches, bomb attempts, criminal trials, and ‘radical’ protests in Britain, among others. Security journalism offers a consistent repackaging of jihadist media productions from one context and language to another. For example, in reducing jihadist texts to short clips of an angry gesticulating man security journalism is prohibiting public understanding of their persuasive potential by cutting any political, religious or sensual appeals. This article presents original data from interviews with British Muslims familiar with jihadist materials that suggest mainstream media reporting may contribute to radicalization in ways not sufficiently appreciated by journalists, policy-makers and the public. Interviewees report that any news depicting Muslim suffering activates and reinforces frustrations and grievances, whether the source is a mainstream media outlet or Al-Qaeda's media wing. Mainstream media may unintentionally contribute to a more enduring but diffused resentment a priori to the existence of jihadist media; as one participant says, ‘I am already convinced’.
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Document Type: Research Article
Professor of Cultural Studies at the University of Nottingham.
Reader in International Relations and co-Director of the New Political Communication Unit at Royal Holloway, University of London.
July 1, 2010