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Would Terrorist Acts Decline if News Media Paid Less Attention?


By Allison G.S. Knox
Contributor, EDM Digest

Recently, church bombings in Egypt killed 76 people and injured dozens of others. In Norway, authorities raised the nation’s threat level after they discovered and destroyed a device that resembled a bomb.

Terrorist attacks are designed to be horribly frightening because they often result in mass casualties. They also stoke fears that similar incidents will happen again in the not-so-distant future.

Terrorist attacks are also highly publicized events. The sheer act of brutal and indiscriminate killing compels millions of TV and other media viewers to watch and try to make sense of these barbarous acts. This is precisely the problem with reporting terrorist attacks; the coverage fuels terrorists groups to continue plotting and carrying out more carnage.

But would terrorist incidents decline if media coverage were minimal or non-existent?

Terrorist Attacks and Sensationalism

Terrorism thrives in the media spotlight. Ordinary citizens fear terrorist activity, which is precisely what those who carry out these attacks want. Of course, citizens need to know what is happening in the world. But perhaps at a certain point, news coverage becomes a vicious cycle of sensationalism fueling more terrorism.

Journalists say they are duty-bound to report the news; anything less than full coverage amounts to censorship, whether self-imposed or mandated by their employer or by their national leaders.

But terrorist attacks are political in nature and seek to garner as much media coverage as possible. But, from a security standpoint, perhaps reducing the media frenzy – or simply not reporting acts of terrorism at all – might prove beneficial, especially if news blackouts saved lives.

Allison G. S. Knox Passionate about the issues affecting ambulances and disaster management, Allison focuses on Emergency Management and Emergency Medical Services policy. Allison has taught at the undergraduate level since 2010. Prior to teaching, she worked in a level-one trauma center emergency department and for a member of Congress in Washington, D.C. She holds four master’s degrees in Emergency Management, National Security Studies, International Relations, and History; a Graduate Certificate in Homeland Security; and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science. Allison is an Emergency Medical Technician, Lifeguard, and Lifeguard Instructor, and is trained in Technical Large Animal Emergency Rescue. She serves on the Board of Trustees for Pi Gamma Mu International Honor Society as Chancellor of the Southeast Region, Vice Chair of the Tactical Emergency Medical Support Committee with the International Public Safety Association, and serves as the Advocacy Coordinator of Virginia with the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians. She is also a member of several committees including the Editorial Committee with APCO, the Rescue Task Force Committee with the International Public Safety Association, and the Advocacy Committee with the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians. She also serves as Chair of the Leadership Development Program for the 2020 Pi Gamma Mu Triennial Convention. Allison has published several book reviews and continues to write about issues affecting ambulances, emergency management, and homeland security.