Terrorist choice and the media

PhD Thesis


Pohl, Gabriela. 2017. Terrorist choice and the media. PhD Thesis Doctor of Philosophy. University of Southern Queensland. https://doi.org/10.26192/5c0608ca8a829
Title

Terrorist choice and the media

TypePhD Thesis
Authors
AuthorPohl, Gabriela
SupervisorPhillips, Peter J.
Dewhirst, Catherine
Institution of OriginUniversity of Southern Queensland
Qualification NameDoctor of Philosophy
Number of Pages279
Year2017
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.26192/5c0608ca8a829
Abstract

Studies in ‘terrorism and the media’ begin with the proposition that terrorists view media attention as important and desirable. These studies usually proceed by examining the characteristics of this media attention, especially volume. To the extent that they touch on terrorist behaviour at all, these studies tend to deal with terrorists’ media strategies which are strongly tied to the terrorists’ desire for media attention and predominantly assume that terrorists simple choose the action that has had the highest media attention accorded to it. This approach is disconnected from the study of underlying terrorist behaviour, especially terrorists’ choice of action, and obscures the most important elements of this behaviour behind the general proposition of the desirability of media attention.

By contrast, this thesis recognises that terrorist choice is shaped by the media attention that is accorded to each type of terrorist action. Viewed in this way, terrorism is not simply a generic means by which terrorists obtain media attention. This new approach allows us to account for observed terrorist behaviour that cannot be incorporated into an analytical framework that simply depicts terrorists as choosing the single action that maximises media attention. Among its contributions, the analysis presented in this thesis accounts for: (a) choices of actions that are not expected to yield maximum media attention, (b) combinations of more than one action and (c) situations in which terrorists choose their action with reference to the media attention accorded to the actions of rival groups.

The analytical work is supported by significant independent archival research that collected the media coverage accorded to every act of terrorism perpetrated in West-Germany during the 1970s, a period when groups such as the Red Army Faction, 2nd June Movement and the Revolutionary Cells vied for their position in the terrorism context and demonstrated a sophisticated understanding of the media. By measuring the media attention accorded to individual actions, this thesis overcomes certain analytical weaknesses that emerge when broader, more general, data is used. Only when the media attention that has been accorded to each type of action is collected and measured can a study of terrorist choice of action be effectively undertaken.

Keywordsterrorism; media; media attention
ANZSRC Field of Research 2020360599. Screen and digital media not elsewhere classified
440804. Defence studies
440201. Causes and prevention of crime
360299. Creative and professional writing not elsewhere classified
Byline AffiliationsSchool of Arts and Communication
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