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Theater of Terror: Mass Media and International Terrorism

NCJ Number
G Weimann; C Winn
Date Published
300 pages
This book uses an empirical approach to investigate the relationship between international terrorism and the mass media and to document the emergence of media-oriented terrorism within the conceptual framework of symbolic communication.
The authors explore terrorist incidents as symbolic events, staged to attract international media attention in an attempt to affect agendas, attitudes, and perceptions of audiences worldwide. They compile statistical and anecdotal information to demonstrate the symbiotic relationship between terrorist organizations and the mass media in various countries. The statistical analysis is based on data from the Rand Corporation that characterize international terrorist incidents between 1968 and 1986 in terms of operational mode, incident location and timing, victim occupation and nationality, and target type. The book concentrates on international acts of violence by nonstate terrorists and the influence of mass communications. The analysis reflects growing public and scholarly concern about the behavior of the mass media and about issues related to freedom of the press. The authors suggest that the media need to become as sensitive in their international reporting as they sometimes are in their coverage of local and national affairs. Consideration is given to the emergence of modern terrorism, patterns in media coverage of terrorism, conceptual aspects of terrorism as communication, factors affecting media coverage of terrorism, and impact of mass-mediated terrorism on public opinion. Database codes used by Rand in compiling information on terrorist incidents are appended. Footnotes, tables, and figures