On Western Media Coverage: How Media Orientalise Terrorism

The orientalism concept is often criticized for its stigmatised stereotype and its hegemonic colonial history. As Said believes, “the relationship between orient and occident is a relationship of power, of domination, of varying degree of a complex hegemony” (1978, p. 5). Unfortunately, instead of helping people to gain “richer truths about the world around us” (Akito, 2006, p. 20), media even make it worst by constructing the wrong perception about the orient, or in this case the Muslim people, through their orientalised media coverage.

In my opinion, media orientalise terrorism by covering this issue in a limited and a fragmented way. As a consequence, the audiences slip to be trapped in a fallacy. In other words, media reinforce the false understanding about terrorism through partial coverage and misleading news. They tend to create a fear that every “orient” is a terrorist. They claim that “every one who lacks in some essential trait or traits that the group has” (Staszak, 2008) is a terrorist. Therefore, people “choose” to believe that every Muslim is a terrorist.

As a proof, Edward Said states, “Orientalism can be found in current Western depictions of “Arab” cultures” (cited in Sered, 1996). He finds that when western people write about Muslims, they do it by definition, by training, by the mere fact of their Westernness. Said also believes that orientalism has become a doctrine that leads to a “blind” perspective. Blind perspective, here, means the over generalization about Muslim and terrorism.

Another example can be founded in an advertisement on a local community newspaper, Perth Voice (“Safer Streets,” 2011). On the front page, they advertise: “The streets are safer now. Osama bin Laden’s gone, so send the kids out delivering the Voice and breathe easy. We need people in Mt Lawley, North Perth, Dianella, Inglewood, Maylands, Mt Hawthorn, Yokine and West Perth so call Stephanie on 94307727”. This advertisement clearly shows how media orientalise and even personifies terrorism. In this case, media assumes as if people are so paranoid about terrorism until they never let their children out, and the streets are really safer now. In fact, people might be not paranoid, but after they have read the advertisement, they start to think that they need to be paranoid. In addition, there is no guarantee that terrorism will be no longer exist after Osama bin Laden’s gone, which means the streets are not safer or even the street are still dangerous because more people killed in the car accidents rather than in terrorism attacks (Australia Bureau of Statistics, 2009).

Moreover, media also orientalise terrorism through films. As Cicek (2008) says: “Hollywood has a new boogeyman: the Middle Eastern Muslim terrorist”. She believes that the mention of the Middle East and Islam in Hollywood films such as Sheik, Lawrence of Arabia and Indiana Jones,” simultaneously, conjures up fear toward Muslim and links terrorism to (only) Muslim.

To conclude, in a situation of terror, the audience needs toward the information are increasing and they are getting more dependent to the information from media. Having said that, it is important to know that news is not a neutral product (Potter, 2001), and neither is terrorism news. If Luyendijk (2010, p. 17) argues that “we need to recognize that journalism is not a one-methodology-fits-all-systems and media are complex bureaucratic structures so we had better accept them and analyse how individual and collective incentives influence reporting,” seems like there is no options for the audience other than increasing their self awareness, or at least questioning, to whom they can rely on, to get valid information about terrorism?

References

Akito, K. (2006). Orientalism and the Binary of Fact and Fiction. Memoirs of a Geisha Global Media Journal, 5(9), 1-22. Retrieved from http://lass.calumet.purdue.edu/cca/gmj/fa06/gmj_fa06_akita.htm

Australia Bureau of Statistics. (2009). 3303.0 – Causes of Death, Australia, 2009. Retrieved from http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Products/2BC6B190AFE618D2CA25788400127BBC

Cicek, F. (2008). Orientalism In Film And Television By Filiz Cicek. Muslim Voice. Retrieved from http://muslimvoices.org/filiz-cicek-orientalism-film-tv/

Luyendijk
, J. (2010). Beyond orientalism. International Communication Gazette, 72(1), 9–20. 2010 72: 9 .doi: 10.1177/1748048509350335

Potter, W., J. (2001). Media Literacy. London: Sage Publications.

Said, E. (1978). Introduction. In E. Said, Orientalism. (pp. 1-9). London: Routledge & Kegan Paul. (9 pages of 368)

Safer streets. (2011, May 7). Perth Voice, p. 1.

Serred, D. (1996). Orientalism. Retrieved from http://english.emory.edu/Bahri/Orientalism.html

Staszak, J-F. (2008). Other/otherness. International Encyclopaedia of Human Geography. Elsevier. Retrieved from http://www.unige.ch/ses/geo/collaborateurs/publicationsJFS/OtherOtherness.pdf

4 Comments Add yours

  1. Filiz Cicek says:

    Wonderful piece. One correction: Filiz Cicek is the author of “Orientalism In Film And Television” not Penington. Penington is the person who posted the article.

    1. Hayu Hamemayu says:

      Dear Filiz,

      Thank you for your comment and your correction. I thought it was a review on your article by Pennington. I apologize for that. It is now properly cited.

      Regards,
      Hayu

  2. Mike Journo says:

    Interesting piece. The Voice statement about Osama bin Laden is obviously ‘tongue in cheek’ ie a joke designed to attract interest in newspaper delivery (playing on the recent capture and assassination of OBL and not a serious statement.

    1. Hayu Hamemayu says:

      Hi Mike,

      Thanks for the comment. Yup, I think you’re right. It’s just a marketing strategy and the paper does not really mean it. I was just trying to see what “lies” behind the text and to read beyond the text itself🙂

      Cheers,
      Hayu

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