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 American media representation of the war on Terrorism

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Join date : 2009-11-28

PostSubject: American media representation of the war on Terrorism   Thu Dec 17, 2009 8:54 am

It begins with Pearl Harbor. Pearl Harbor was the home of 15-year-old white American male Charles Bishop. Less than four months after hijacked commercial airliners crashed into and caused the collapse of the World Trade Center Twin Towers, Bishop stole a single-engine Cessna and flew it into the 42-story Bank of America tower in downtown Tampa. In a suicide note found at the scene Bishop expressed sympathy for Osama bin Laden and the September 11 hijackers.

The film is interesting because the idea of Pearl Harbor functions in an American imaginary as the moment when America’s legacy of sustained heroic global engagement began. Given the dramatic re-circulation of ideas, images, and emotions about Pearl Harbor, it is not surprising that Pearl Harbor itself became a material site of return for relatives and colleagues of the firefighters, police officers, and rescue workers killed or injured on September 11. As circulated in cinemas, editorials, and official policy statements, America’s narrative about Pearl Harbor unleashed some powerful ideas about the war on terrorism and about America itself. In addition to heroizing the global mission of America as the benevolent leader of the free world, loved, and admired within and beyond its shores, Pearl Harbor morally justified US “war on terrorism” by aligning this war if it is war with a time before America questioned its moral purity. Moreover, President Bush’s appeal to Pearl Harbor in the wake of 9/11 reactivated something the American mood longed for in the aftermath of its most recent tragedies.

Finally, Pearl Harbor marks America’s enemy as a racial and religious other who is primarily located outside of America and who, when located within America. For example, Arabs and Muslims become anticipated terrorist threats to American “homeland security”, while non-Arabs and non Muslims are marked as unanticipated threats to America. To make it worse, even when non- Arabs or non- Muslims act violently against the American homeland, they are rarely labeled as terrorists.


Daya Kishan Thussu & Des Freedman. War and the Media. London, Sage Publicaions, 2003.
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