Communication Technology’s Impact On Global Terrorism

Chapter 32 of the “The Handbook of Risk and Crisis Communication” assesses how the communicative networks of the information age contribute to contemporary global terrorism. This risk system ideologically and tactically webbed decentralized players through the newest information technologies (Bruce and O’Hair 634). After discussing some potential actors and grievances connected with decentralized terrorist groups, the chapter considers the role of mass communication in public opinion formation. The chapter explores the rising influence of non-state actors and the increasingly sophisticated media strategies used by those with Middle Eastern interests. Additionally, it shows the attempts by the U.S government to employ media to counter the impacts of terrorist organizations. The chapter also uncovers some significant implications for future research concerning the relations between the magnified risk of violence and terrorism and communication technology due to contemporary global terrorism.

The Major Question and Key Concepts that are Examined

While recent international terrorists have discovered the usefulness of the internet for communicating with both external and internal audiences, they have also realized its significance for tactical operations. Computer-mediated communication greatly facilitates the expansion of contemporary global terrorism as a risk system. The main question in this chapter is the role of communication technology in modern international terrorism, and to what extent may vigilance and science mitigate adverse outcomes. The main concepts in the chapter are as follows:

Terrorism and Communication

In the concept of terrorism and communication, analysts concur that a unifying characteristic of the new breed of decentralized terrorist groups of the 21st century is their pervasive use of information and communication technologies. Recent history illustrates how grievances and tactics are shared among a broad set of dispersed organizations with varying demographic profiles and divergent interests (Bruce and O’Hair 635). It is through communication that reality is developed, perceived, and understood. On the flip side, terrorism is an effort to produce certain truths, aiming to impact symbolic construction by intentionally exacting suffering, pain, and death on civilians to achieve specific goals with no regard for human rights.

Public Opinion and Rise of Non-State Actors

The media change opinion formation and decision-making by making certain information more easily accessible through media portrayals’ recency, frequency, and distinctiveness. The consensus is that media plays a pivotal part in influencing public opinion and changing individuals’ conceptions of reality. Greenpeace, a non-governmental organization, represents how media can transform organizations into a network-based social movement from a structured hierarchy. NGOs usually are organizations with a singular focus, issue, or cause, which work locally to gain greater international relevance as they harness the power of media (Bruce and O’Hair 640). Other actors include al Qaeda and the contemporary terrorists operating as networked social movements rather than traditional insurgent organizations of standing militants. These terrorist movements heavily rely on and manipulate international media and information and communication technologies. The technological advances of the information revolution are increasingly characterized as ubiquitous inexpensive, and international terrorists recognize asynchronous weapons of equal importance to explosives and guns.

Increasingly Sophisticated Media Strategies

Many Westerners perceive Arab satellite TV to exercise influence over those who commit terrorist acts. A good example is the Al Jazeera Television Network, continually denounced by the U.S. government officials as a source of worldwide anti-Americanism and, occasionally, as a direct mouthpiece for terrorists. Similarly, Al-Zawraa TV broadcasts the viewpoint of Sunni Guerrillas in Iraq (Bruce and O’Hair 642). The station features videos of insurgents training in camps, operations against American troops and Shia targets, and appeals for violence against Shia Iraqis and the Iraq government. Due to the attractiveness and accessibility of this technology, bandits have turned to satellite and cell phones for much of their internal and external communication functions. They utilize the technology to set up mobile command and control centers.

Computer-Mediated Communication

An example of how computer-mediated communication can contribute to violence is how Filipinos protesting the Estrada Government could quickly mobilize demonstrators through text messages. The internet provides a robust communication system for creating social movements, regardless of the geographic locations of its members (Bruce and O’Hair 646). For instance, terrorist organizations have become increasingly successful at propagating themselves as a movement through online ICTs, including the Islamic-based terror groups that draw members of disaffected Muslim youth, many from the United States and Europe.

The Theoretical Approach Used by the Scholars

The Handbook provides a broad approach to studying risks and crises as common concerns. The scholars use a deductive approach to analyze the magnification of risk and crisis, define and examine the key constructs and parse the contexts of these critical sections. The volume presents a comprehensive array of studies that highlight the standard principles and theories on all topics serving as the vast efforts to data focused on engaging risk communication discussions in a thorough manner (Bruce and O’Hair 648). With perspectives from sociology, political science, psychology, economics, anthropology, and communication, Bruce and O’Hair enlarge the approach to defining and recognizing risks and ways of managing them. They offer vital insights for all the disciplines studying risks, such as communication and public relations. They employ strategic and conceptual viewpoints to help the readers recognize that risk is a central feature in their daily lives; it is found in relationships, governments, organizations, and the environment.

The Crisis as Situated in Its Historical Moment

The Cold War ended in the 1990s when most Westerners praised what they viewed as a new era of peace and prosperity being ushered in worldwide. Following the downfall of the Berlin Wall, the United States of America appeared to stand as the only remaining superpower across the globe (Bruce and O’Hair 634). With the death of the mainstream Westerners in the Soviet Union, their perspectives shaped decades of anti-Soviet popular and political rhetoric, suddenly deemed the world less scary. Thus, the prevalent notion of reduced security threat was correlated to a simultaneous opening of media systems and means of information access. Additionally, the thawing of the cold war and subsequent increase in press freedoms in the 1990s was marked by a celebration of the coming of the information age.

Mobile phones, satellite television, the internet, and 24-hour news channels were widely endorsed for their potential to bring about widespread cultural, social, and political change. The coming together of media technologies including fiber-optic, telephony, and computers that allow real-time, asynchronous sorting and retrieval of video, audio, data, and communication came to be a media industry buzzword. Acknowledging that new decentralized technologies would allow anyone with access to such technologies to produce and distribute mediated communication, most people hailed digital technologies for the potential to free communication. Media and communication scholars recognized the potential influence of new information technologies on global societies.

Throughout history, the new communication technologies have undermined the old bases of social power, for better or worse and depending on one’s position and perspective. Each technology is a burden and a blessing, and the media, in general, do not cause culture but are tools of culture, and their implications rest in the way they are being utilized. The 21st century heralded a more fragmented set of conflicts and actors than formerly known in modern history. With September 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington D.C, the metaphors of a superpower were rapidly replaced by an awareness of non-centralized, non-state actors with long lists of grievances, particularly in the United States (Bruce and O’Hair 636). That new realization led to an immediate acknowledgment among pundits, analysts, and scholars that the invented communication technologies had played a central role in increasing the risk of terrorism and violence against civilians and state targets.

Crisis Communication and Management Insights

Crisis communication refers to the gathering, processing, and disseminating information required to address terrorism. The initial step in managing a crisis is understanding the threats of media use in facilitating acts of terrorism (Bruce and O’Hair 646). Once the nation establishes the potential threats, it is vital to go through a crisis scenario and map out to correct them. In addition to preparedness, it is crucial to stress the importance of swift, quick and accurate response. It involves committing to investigate and mean it, commitment to transparency, recognizing impacts and victims, and sharing corrective action plans. The next step is to reassure residents that one is still worthy of their support and trust. The final phase involves short-term recovery, which entails the immediate response and actions following a crisis and a long-term one being ready to change and adapt to be better based on this experience.

Work Cited

Bruce, Michael D., and H. Dan O’Hair. “Magnifying Risk and Crisis: The Influence of Communication Technology on Contemporary Global Terrorism.” Handbook of Risk and Crisis Communication, edited by Michael D. Bruce and H. Dan O’Hair. Routledge, 2020. Pp. 629-648.