According to the American Department of Defense, terrorism is « the calculated use of unlawful violence or threat of unlawful violence to inculcate fear; intended to coerce or to intimidate governments or societies in the pursuit of goals that are generally political, religious, or ideological. »
Therefore, all that would participate to « inculcate fear » would be playing into the hands of terrorists. A lot of people have thus accused media to promote the emergence of a climate of terror. First, we think about the special editions on the Paris attacks, broadcasted endlessly on most TV channels. This climate would be caused by continuous broadcast of moving testimonies describing terror scenes, by relentless comments from more or less legitimate experts and the ever stronger reactions of political leaders, whatever party they belong to. It’s certain that talking about attacks is playing the game of terrorists, simply because we are talking about them but also because it contributes to the climate of fear that they want to set up. These risks are undeniable.
However, by stopping there, we couldn’t understand the dimension of November 13
When François Hollande addressed the French Congress in Versailles on November 16, about this “unprecedented terrorist attack”, he didn’t stop there. Indeed, he began his speech with striking words « France is in war. Terrorist actions committed last Friday night in Paris and next to the Stade de France are acts of war». The facts speak for themselves. The reinforcement of military set up put in place in the capital a few months ago seems to show it every day.
Communion in mourning and citizen debate are the essence of our democracy
It’s normal, and even healthy, that in this context, French people speak out. The violence of attacks is such, the shock in the population too, that is impossible not to react and it is essential to mobilize as broadly as possible, to federate emotions in a movement of collective communion, to give them the possibility to express themselves and to say with strength the will of the French people to resist to barbarism. It is also important to understand and for that, to analyze, to debate, to determine the right words to put on a terrible situation. It’s the only way to fight the chaos and it’s the role played, rather well, let’s face it, by most journalists and political leaders.
It has nothing to do with the untoward fascination of some media for sensationalism – which only reinforce the rhetoric of chaos of the Islamic State. It’s this that we must fight in order to not be « the communication agency » of terrorism.