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A definition is a statement of the exact meaning of a word or a term, and it is also the act of labeling. For instance, a person may want to know who label the al Qaeda, a terrorist organization. Power, identity, and definition often interact in journalism. The power usually defines identity and definition. For example, in the incidence of the 9/11 President Bush used his power to label the al Qaeda as a terrorist group. Furthermore, he defined identity by using the words such as “us” and “them” in his speech.
A hijacked United Airlines flight crashed into the south tower of the World Trade Center (Image: Getty)
The media sets the agenda of the day by dictating the perspective and best interpretation of events and phenomena around us. It is responsible for some societal clustering that leaves rifts socially. Power, identity, and definition interact with media, and their effects on society are examined. Some argument in media believes in the brutality of truth while reporting while a differing thought urges the taking of caution while handling the truth. This explains the differences we have from the media sources. The media attention the twin attack in the USA received and its effects, raises a question sheds light on responsible journalism. A closer look will be the definition as a tool and an investigation of whether definition was used for asserting power and identity after the September attack (Klaehn 2002, p. 153). Can the media be a dangerous tool to society?
A definition is a statement of the exact meaning of a word or a term, and it is also the act of labeling. For instance, a person may want to know who labeled the al Qaeda, a terrorist organization. It is not clear, and one may want to establish that answer. According to Moosavinia, Niazi and Ghaforian (2011), Orientalism theory postulates the binary opposition in society, the concept of self and other. People with similar qualities relate while differences between people will only leave them repelled more. Orientalism ideally draws a line between the pro-West and anti- West dimension. It is a form of bias. The twin tower attack in the USA rendered ‘Al-Qaeda,’ and ‘terrorist’ labels famous. President Bush was commenting on the incident, labeled the al Qaeda as a terrorist group. These titles used after the attacks branded Al Qaeda as terrorists and indirectly anyone with similar qualities would be assumed Islamic or a terrorist. Media uses labeling to determine identity ( Moosavinia, Niazi, and Ghaforian, 2011, p. 105).
In addition to creating an identity, definition heightens tension in the society. Orientalism theory adds the ‘us’ and ‘them’ narrative which is a culture of only aligning ourselves to what is familiar. The unfamiliar is labeled, objectively, them or that. The labels are a means to reprimand differences or appreciate similarities between people. In (Glăveanu, 2007), stereotyping is described as the sense of reality is based on pictures in our heads by the media. Media clusters people based on their identity. The stereotypes we hold are a result of the different media forms that feature in our lives. Stereotypes and these clustering only create tension. The current labeling of Isis as a terrorist group in the news today proves that the binary opposition still exists. After the September attack, Islam communities are now stereotyped as terrorists. Even after the attack, many arrests were made under the assumption that somebody has linked to Al Qaeda something which the authorities could not substantiate. This labeling gives these countries identity on superiority basis.
The media has been seen a tool to exercise homogeny in global politics. Homogeny is the domination of society by manipulating its lifestyle and culture. Whoever gets to label or manipulate others assumes authority. Before the September attacks, American was the superpower of the planet. After the attack, the world was in fear seeing its superpower shaken. (Bonner, 2011) asks whether the media erred by exaggerating the threat of Osama and Al Qaeda leading to a world crippled with fear. The psychological impact of the media on the attacks is irreversible. The impression of this fear can never go away. Media shows how limitless it could be regarding influence or manipulation. It has contributed to shaping the gap that divides global power between the east and west dichotomy of the world. The east refers to Asian and Islam nations while the west includes Australia, Europe, New Zealand and America. Media was able to categorize nations economically after the twin tower attack.
(Sessions – WordCamp US 2017WordCamp US 2017)
With the advent of social media yellow journalism is being practiced today. Yellow journalism refers to the styles and methods of reporting used in the 1890s. They were scary headlines in huge print, use of faked interviews and lavish use of pictures or imaginary drawings. In the current world, the termed is used to refer to unethical or unprofessional journalism. Social media platforms are notorious for this. (Jackson, 2014) Reminds that yellow journalism was mainly for entertainment as opposed to educational purposes.With mainstream media trying to keep up with new mediums, the integrity and credibility of reporting are likely to go down. The media has become more commercialized. With current trends of the media having all the yellow journalism we might end up with a meaningless press. Speculation and inaccuracies in reporting only create a speculative media in turn. This speculative audience as are the same to spread inaccurate data on social media. As American media reported on the attack, images of the incident were accompanied by Islamic extremists burning American flags. Psychologically this drew parallels between the words terrorism and Islam. Immediately after the war as American launched attacks in Afghanistan, the media linked the September attack to Iraq. This form of labeling again proves the yellow journalism that was practiced. Some of these assertions are not justifiable.
Media objectivity has been a long-discussed issue in media studies. Reuters after the incident came under pressure to refer to Al Qaeda as the terrorist, but they evaded from this issue. This brought to the use of emotive terms in their reporting. Reuters in response emphasized that they do not characterize individuals rather report about events about or affecting them. There factors that could lead to the media being easily vulnerable but none of it justifies the enmity bred through media. Media reforms resulted after the attack. A sensitivity policy was arrived at for graphic content from violent incidences. Secondly, the competition against the ever-active social media especially on live reporting. Media objectivity remains a goal to be achieved. In better ways to report; journalists must take account of influences upon themselves that affect their work. Secondly, in their practice, they would choose to work on their very own bias held within. Freedom of the media is healthy, but it must be monitored (Klaehn 2002, p. 161).
Bonner, R. (2011). The Media and 9/11: How We Did. The Atlantic.
Glăveanu, V. (2007). Stereotypes Revised – Theoretical Models, Taxonomy and the Role of Stereotypes. Europe's Journal of Psychology, 3(3).
Jackson, J. (2014). Sensationalism in the Newsroom: Its Yellow Beginnings, the Nineteenth Century Legal Transformation, and the Current Seizure of the American Press. Notre Dame Journal of Law, Ethics & Public Policy, 19(2).
Klaehn, J. (2002). A Critical Review and Assessment of Herman and Chomsky's `propaganda model'. SAGE Journals, 17(2), pp.147-182.
Moosavinia, S., Niazi, N. and Ghaforian, A. (2011). Edward Said’s Orientalism and the Study of the Self and the Other in Orwell’s Burmese Days. Studies in Literature and Language, 2(1), pp.103-113.
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