Cyber terrorism seems to be a rampant threat for society today. It is almost dripping from newspapers, television news and radio news stations. Yet this begged me to ask the question – is the threat real, or is it being imagined? Luckily for me, Jarvis, Macdonald and Whiting did the research, focusing on how the Western international news media may have influenced the perceived threat. They researched a whopping 535 articles between 2008 and 2013 – pretty impressive stuff.
According to the authors, the aims of their research project was “…to add empirical depth to conceptual accounts of the importance of media reportage within cyberterrorism discourse…and to explore the processes by which the term cyberterrorism is constructed and given meaning within the mainstream news media” (2014 Jarvis, Macdonald & Whiting p. 60).
The authors of this research are in my opinion what gives the article such credibility. Lee Jarvis is a senior lecturer in international security. Stuart Macondald is an associate professor in law and Deputy Director of the Centre for Criminal Justice and Criminology. Andrew Whiting Lectures in the Department of Criminology at Swansea University. All three authors have also written or edited books previously with a similar theme or research focus.
Not gonna lie, this research is pretty specific and dense. It’s one of those things you have to read a few times to understand – because of this, I feel, the target audience would most likely be journalists students interested in media’s impact on forming social and political ideas.
The authors present their findings through a mixture of objective and subjective findings. While most research items were objectively identified, for example ‘Number of News Items, by Month of Publication’, some had subjective components such as ‘Concerned, Sceptical, Balanced, or Neither [about cyberterrorism], by News Outlet’. The authors did retain credibility in the subjective areas, however, due to their expertise and experience in the area. All other sources cited are very recent, only one of them is older than 5 years.
The evidence used to support conclusions is in-depth analysis of media articles from a wide range of newspapers/news companies in a five year period. I would say this evidence is valid because it was extensive and categorised numerous ways to reach the conclusion. I personally could not fault this type of method and agree it was the best method to employ for their research focus.
The text is ordered coherently and chronologically. Reasons for specific analyses of the 535 news items are explained, followed by the resulting data displayed in tables. This enables the reader a clear understanding through visual representations. Stylistically it is easy to follow and well communicated, and the ordered sections aids understanding as the article is quite dense and this helps in breaking up the content matter.
The authors concluded that ”there is a considerable amount of international media content that focuses on cyberterrorism: a phenomenon that some (although not all) academic researchers argue has yet to occur” (2015) p. 73. This is pretty telling as media definitely plays a role in forming people’s ideas about fear and threat. Especially when looking at recent reporting on terrorism and cyberterrorism it’s definitely something that need to be considered when evaluating how big a threat is actually being posed, and how is staged.
Jarvis, L, Macdonald, S, Whiting, A 2015, ‘Constructing cyberterrorism as a security threat: a study of international news media coverage’, Perspectives on Terrorism, vol. 9, no. 1, pp. 60-73