Visualizing Terror: The Visual Construction of Terrorism in Newspaper Media.

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This thesis examines the complicated relationship between terrorism and the media. Specifically, it contains an analysis of the ways in which American newspaper media construct terrorism, with a focus on visual representations and the manner in which the imagery is framed through headlines and captions, and looks at how and why the media label something as terrorism. The case studies included in this research are the Boston bombing, and the Charleston church shooting. While both case studies can be regarded as domestic U.S. terrorism, only the former was labelled as such by the media. Based on an iconography of terror, a set of five categories (chaos, bombs/explosions, blood/bodies, heroization/victimization, and the Muslim “Other”), this thesis makes an analysis of the visual representations of these two case studies in four prominent U.S. newspapers. Grounding the analyses in W.J.T. Mitchell, Stuart Hall, and Udo Hebel’s theories on imagery, and Gabriel Weimann’s research on mass-mediated terrorism, it becomes clear that the Boston bombing was visually more reminiscent of other terrorist attacks, such as 9/11, than the Charleston shooting, while the attacks’ nature and media framing also played a large role in the label that they received.
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