Terrorism and the Politics of Fear

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In this powerful new book, sociologist David L. Altheide demonstrates how the mass media constructs a politics of fear in America. He argues that politicians and decision-makers bear much of the blame for the promotion of fear among citizens, resulting in the loss of civil liberties in return for greater protection. From a social interactionist perspective, Altheide presents his thesis that fear-as-entertainment informs the production of popular culture and news, generates profits, enables political decision-makers to cynically manipulate citizens, and can lead to major institutional changes, even war. The author dissects in turn: a modern propaganda campaign in the justification of the invasion of Iraq to the American people; the expansion of control and surveillance on the Internet; and the construction of a 'hero fighting terrorism' to promote patriotism, in the story of a promising young Arizona sports hero, Pat Tillman, who joined the Army and was killed by his fellow Rangers in Afghanistan. This thoughtful treatment of a timely subject will be indispensable to teachers and students of sociology, media, politics, and criminology studies.

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Editorial Reviews

Professor Raymond Surrette
Terrorism and the Politics of Fear is a response to the political use of "fear symbols" that has reached unmatched levels in the twenty-first century. In this highly recommended book, David Altheide explores the military-media complex and continues his study of the social construction of 'fear' and its use to steer public and foreign policy. In this exploration, he compellingly argues that crime prevention projects and anti-terrorism efforts pushed through on a wave of manipulated social fear have become broad social control systems that don't necessarily make us safer but invariable make us less free. His detailing of how surveillance systems of varied ilk monitor citizens more but prevent crime less, demonstrates the danger of crime prevention morphing into citizen micro-management and social regulation that is divorced from real security concerns. He deftly tracks how inordinate fear in a society translates into a glib surrendering of civil liberties and privacy. This book should be read by anyone who is concerned for both their security and their liberty.
Professor Frank Furedi
Terrorism and the Politics of Fear is the most important study of this issue written so far. David Altheide takes apart the rhetoric to show us how the politics of fear is constructed. If you want to understand the construction of fear- this is the place to start.
Lance Bennett
Be afraid. Be very afraid...of our own leaders and media. David Altheide presents a chilling account of ways in which fear has been used to change the American political landscape. This book brings new meaning to the idea that we have nothing to fear but fear itself.
Richard V. Ericson
This important book demonstrates how politicians and other decision-makers are using fear of terrorism to extend and intensify social control well beyond the threat of terrorism. It shows brilliantly that mass media formats and logics of fear fundamentally shape how people think about security, and lead them to engage in new forms of self-regulation. We are all now governed through fear.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780759109186
  • Publisher: AltaMira Press
  • Publication date: 4/24/2006
  • Pages: 264
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.27 (h) x 0.96 (d)

Meet the Author

David L. Altheide is Regents' Professor in the School of Justice and Social Inquiry at Arizona State University, where has taught for 31 years. A sociologist, who uses qualitative methods, his work has focused on the role of mass media and information technology for social control. His theoretical and methodological statements on the relevance of the mass media for sociological analysis include An Ecology of Communication: Cultural Formats of Control (Aldine de Gruyter, 1995) and Qualitative Media Analysis (Sage, 1996). Another recent book, Creating Fear: News and the Construction of Crisis (Aldine de Gruyter, 2002), focuses on the news media's constructions of a discourse of fear and the social consequences of this. This book received the 2004 Cooley Award, as the best book for the year in the tradition of symbolic interaction, from the Society for the Study of Symbolic Interaction. Dr. Altheide also won this award in 1986 for his book, Media Power. He has also applied qualitative research designs to investigate the nature and process of educational reform, with particular emphasis on school context and culture.

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Table of Contents

Chapter 1 Preface and Acknowledgements Chapter 2 Introduction Chapter 3 The Social Reality of Fear Chapter 4 The Mass Media as a Social Institution Chapter 5 Crime and Terrorism Chapter 6 Consuming Terrorism Chapter 7 Terrorism and the Politics of Fear Chapter 8 The Control Narrative of the Internet Chapter 9 The Propaganda Project and the Iraq War Chapter 10 Constructing Pat Tillman Chapter 11 Conclusion: Beyond the Politics of Fear Chapter 12 References Chapter 13 Index Chapter 14 About the Author

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