TERRORISM AS A COMMUNICATION PHENOMENON
Arthur Atanesian, Ph.D. (Political Science), associate professor and head of the Chair of Sociology, Erevan State University (Erevan, Armenia)
Some of the contemporary theories of the mass media and political communications teach their audiences and mold public ideas about events or phenomena which political forces exploit for their own ends. The media do not merely cover events or describe phenomena—they cover them with “outgrowths” that disfigure them to the extent that the public gradually shifts from discussing the real phenomenon to its virtual likeness, which might well be a product of media skills. This explains why from time to time the public concentrates on phantoms at the expense of real and even urgent issues, which remain uncovered and therefore ignored.
The agenda-setting theory postulates: “We judge as important what the media judge as important.” Significantly, according to the agenda-setting theory the media determines not merely what the public would think but also the objects of its deliberations: “The press may not be successful much of the time in telling people what to think, but it is stunningly successful in telling its readers what to think about.” This is true when applied to the press; the electronic media—TV and the Internet—have gone even further. They not merely suggest what people should think about—they tell them what they should think, how to treat the events, and what terms should be applied.
This creates a gap between the objective meanings of any social-political phenomenon and its subjective treatment in the media and public consciousness. The range of instruments the media use to manipulate public opinion and mobilize human resources in the interests of national and global policies are few: shifted accents, substitution of one phenomenon for another, overstatements, building up public tension to fix public attention on a certain side of the described phenomenon, emotional descriptions of the phenomenon, and overstating some of its sides at the expense of others.
“Terrorism” in the System of Media Communications
Recently “terrorism” has become the media’s most impressive pet term. The problem of terrorism treated as a priority is discussed on a par with other phenomena that, from the point of view of the media, deserve priority treatment. Terrorism along with conflicts, crises, wars, and mass actions with critical results invariably occupy the front pages of newspapers and open all the news programs. The contemporary media malaise, civic malaise, violence cultivation theories, and partly the agenda theory offer their explanations of this phenomenon.
Today, when the uproar caused by another wave of terror has subsided and has been replaced, at least temporally, with the uproar caused by the financial crisis, we can discuss terrorism as a communication phenomenon much more soberly and impartially. Both Western and Russian language academic writings are………..