Framing Terrorism
Pippa Norris Books



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Framing Terrorism:

The News Media, the Government and the Public.

Ed. Pippa Norris, Montague Kern and Marion Just

Book published 2003 Routledge 0415947197  336 pages $24.95


The events of 9/11 had a dramatic impact upon US foreign and security policy, international relations, and public opinion. An important issue arising from these events is the effects of news coverage of terrorism.  This book theorizes that the events of 9/11 can best be understood as precipitating a critical culture shift in the predominant ‘news frame’ used by the US mass media for understanding issues of national security, thereby altering perceptions of risk at home and threats abroad.  We argue that American perceptions of the threat of world terrorism changed with 9/11, more than the actual reality.  The heart of our explanation lies in the idea of ‘news frames’, representing persistent patterns of selection, emphasis, and exclusion that provide a coherent interpretation and evaluation of events.

To consider the framing process and its impact, Part I considers the interaction of governments, dissident groups, and journalists in the battle to shape American and international news coverage of terrorism. Part II then compares cases of one-sided conflict, characterized by a broad consensus among most leaders within a community and uncontroversial news, with two-sided conflicts, where perceptions and evaluations of terrorist events differ sharply among leaders and journalists.  As well as examining how US news media and the international press framed the story of 9/11, we compare cases as diverse as the Belfast peace process, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the battle over Desert Storm, the war in Afghanistan, and the US embassy bombings in Nairobi and Dar-es-Salaam.  Part III considers how the public responds to news in its understanding of terrorist events, its support for governmental authority, and its fears about future security threats. The book concludes that news frames influence how we interpret and evaluate terrorism, shaping public reactions and the policy agenda, particularly when there is a consensual interpretation of events shared among leaders and journalists within a community.

The book raises important theoretical issues suitable for courses in the mass media and political communications, journalism, political behavior, social psychology, international relations, foreign policy, communication studies, public opinion, and political sociology.

Pippa Norris is the McGuire Lecturer in Comparative Politics at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University.  Montague Kern is Associate Professor of Journalism and Media Studies at Rutgers University.  Marion Just is Professor of Political Science at Wellesley College and a Research Associate at the Joan Shorenstein Center on Press, Politics, and Public Policy at the Kennedy School of Government.


"What we think we know about terrorism depends in part on how the issue is framed. This book provides a fascinating combination of theory and cases about what the press tells us. Read it to find out what you really know!."
–Joseph S. Nye, author of The Paradox of American Power

"This is an extremely timely and important book that brings together some extremely important research about the news media and terrorism. The international perspective is especially welcome and I am sure that this will become an important resource for both scholars and students.."
–Gadi Wolfsfeld, Professor of Political Science, Hebrew University

"At a time when terrorism has redefined US foreign policy and the balance between civil liberties and security, one cannot think of a more important subject than the media's portrayal of terrorism. Framing Terrorism is a major contribution toward developing a thoughtful response to the threat of terrorism.."
–Steven Livingston, Senior Research Fellow, Center for American Politics and Public Policy, University of Washington




List of contributors

List of Tables

List of Figures

  1. Pippa Norris, Montague Kern, and Marion Just Introduction: Understanding crisis coverage

I: Government and Journalists in Time of Crisis

  1. Doris A. Graber Terrorism, the 1st Amendment, and Censorship
  2. Robin Brown Clausewitz in the Age of Al Jazeera
  3. Tamar Liebes and Anat First Framing the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
  4. Tim Cooke Paramilitaries and the Press in Northern Ireland

II: Media and Terrorism

  1. Todd M. Schaefer Framing the US Embassy bombings in African and US newspapers
  2. Amy Jasperson and Mansour El-Kikhia Framing the Afghanistan War by CNN and Al Jazeera
  3. Brigitte L. Nacos and Oscar Torres-Reyna Framing Muslim-Americans before and after 9/11
  4. Frank Rusciano Framing World Opinion in the elite press

III: The Public’s Response

  1. Michael Traugott and Ted Brader Explaining 9/11
  2. Pippa Norris and Ronald Inglehart Public Opinion among Muslims and the West
  3. Paul Brewer, Sean Aday and Kim Gross Rally around the flag: The Dynamics of System Support
  4. Leonie Huddy, Stanley Feldman, Charles Taber and Gallay Lahav Fear and Terrorism: Psychological reactions to 9/11
  5. Montague Kern, Marion Just and Pippa Norris Conclusions: The lessons of framing terrorism   Power point summary of conclusion

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Copyright 2004 Pippa Norris, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, Cambridge MA 02138.

Last updated 12/06/2009