Monday, November 9, 2009

September 12, 2001

This week we have another interesting set of readings that focus on the role of media during conflict and peace. Specifically, the readings detail the role media and technology play in influencing political leaders and setting the foreign policy agenda. Robin Brown’s article, “Spinning the War,” focuses on the presentation of international events, in particular, ‘The War Against Terror.’ In the article, Brown discusses “the difficulty in trying to craft and communicate a message in an increasingly complex and competitive trans national media environment.”

This immediately reminded me of a great exhibit at the Newseum in D.C. called the 9/11 Gallery. The Gallery features front pages from newspapers around the globe on September 12, 2001. In Brown’s article, she describes how in the wake of 11 September 2001, the US could have portrayed the 9/11 attacks as either a “criminal or terrorist action,” or “it could [have used] the language of war.” However, without a definitive approach from the Administration in how to frame the attacks in President Bush’s evening speech on September 11th, each newspaper had the liberty to frame the events of September 11th in any manner they liked.

Being a former member of my collegiate newspaper, I’m sure newspapers carefully considered how they would word their headlines for their September 12th editions. As you can see from the Newseum exhibit, some of the papers chose to key in on specific war language from President Bush’s speech. The use of phrases such as “act of war,” perpetuated the portrayal of the attacks as war as opposed to criminal or terrorist attacks. However, ultimately due to the Bush Administration leaving the portrayal of the attacks open to interpretation, the media was able to frame the war in its early stages.


  1. It's funny to me how much my classes seem to overlap. This week in Tourism and Globalization with Prof. Chin we discussed tourism and terrorism. One of her major points in her lecture was that with globalization terrorist and criminal have become one and the same. Even for me it is hard to separate these two labels. What terrorists do is criminal (ex. killing people through setting a bomb or even if it's destroying a building without actually hurting anyone), it seems to be the nature of the act. However I suppose with terrorism there is that element of war as terrorists tend to attack a country, a government, or a larger group, whereas general criminal acts tend to target a specific people or smaller groups. However there can also be a lot of overlap between terrorists and say rebel forces in a country who would likely not consider themselves criminals, but perhaps freedom fighters or something similar. I guess this just goes back to the fact that everyone's reality and perception of reality is different.

  2. I also thought of the Newseum exhibit while doing this week's readings, and your post makes me consider it yet again in the "framing" context. I think the exhibit shows the diversity of framing responses by newspapers worldwide. The fact that the Bush administration didn't give a specific directive to media outlets on how to "frame" their coverage contributed to this diversity, and that was really important. I think this shows that the media is not always a "plaything" of the executive, as Hafez suggests in his article (can you tell I didn't really like it? Ha). In any event, it's really interesting and moving to compare all of the newspapers in the exhibit, and I might need to stop by and see them again soon.