Counterterrorism, the Media, and Public Opinion
While we’ve long known that the strategies of terrorism rely heavily on media coverage of attacks, Selling Fear is the first detailed look at the role played by media in counterterrorism—and the ways that, in the wake of 9/11, the Bush administration manipulated coverage to maintain a climate of fear.
Drawing on in-depth analysis of counterterrorism in the years after 9/11—including the issuance of terror alerts and the decision to invade Iraq—the authors present a compelling case that the Bush administration hyped fear, while obscuring civil liberties abuses and concrete issues of preparedness. The media, meanwhile, largely abdicated its watchdog role, choosing to amplify the administration’s message while downplaying issues that might have called the administration’s statements and strategies into question. The book extends through Hurricane Katrina, and the more skeptical coverage that followed, then the first year of the Obama administration, when an increasingly partisan political environment presented the media, and the public, with new problems of reporting and interpretation.
Selling Fear is a hard-hitting analysis of the intertwined failures of government and media—and their costs to our nation.
Carl Couch Center: Bruce E. Gronbeck Political Research Award
Choice Magazine: CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title Awards
“Still seen as a foundational document for US journalism, the American Society of Newspaper Editors’ ‘Statement of Principles’ declares that a free press exists to inform citizens, serve as a forum for debate on important public issues, and bring independent scrutiny on government and other centers of power in society. Using an impressive mix of theory, quantitative and qualitative content analysis, and public opinion data, Brigitte L. Nacos, Yaeli Bloch-Elkon and Robert Y. Shapiro convincingly demonstrate that in the crucial years following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the news media did none of these things. Aptly titled, Selling Fear is an important and sobering book, documenting a press that was ‘more lap dog than watchdog’ and that only ‘rediscovered its bite’ after the nation was deeply mired in the Iraq War, civil liberties and human rights had been violated at home and abroad, and opportunities to improve our ability to deter terrorism and increase our disaster preparedness were lost.”
“Selling Fear is destined to be the source for media coverage and polling trends during the Bush-Iraq era.”
Chapter 1. The News as Commodity, Public Good, and Political Manipulator
Postscript. President Obama: Underselling Fear?