Elliot’s book is crucial to highlighting how the media propagates stereotypes through the constant portrayal of negative images of disempowered groups in society. In this chapter, she draws a distinct relationship between the power of the news media, popular culture and government and how it profoundly drives the association of the Middle Eastern look and dress code as an icon for ‘evil’ and ‘terrorism’. Fundamentally, she argues that U.S. citizens need to be exposed to images that do not serve the government’s agenda, in order to facilitate better democracy.
Though Elliot mentioned that she would use the images related to the September 11 attacks and the Israeli/Palestinian conflict to illustrate her argument, the chapter seems to skew more in-depth towards the September 11 attacks. She mentions the conflict in brief, citing the implications of Israel using a picture of a child terrorist donned in Hamas military wear as the only example, thus making her argument about it not only weak, but also out of context and place. Instead she should have concentrated on the plethora of images available between the US media and their depiction of terrorists to further strengthen her American centric argument.
Elliot puts turbans, women in veils and Middle Eastern features as the centre of where the negative cultural symbols lie in the media. Osama bin Laden who dons a turban getting massive coverage, women in veils celebrating the crash and generic mug shot images of the suicide bombers became a symbol of terrorism for the Anglo American dominant society. Unfortunately, this symbolic connection between turban and terrorism also crossed geographical locations, making Sikh men, who were uninvolved in the September 11 attacks, victims.
Linguistics also plays a big role in defining a terrorist which subsequently makes a big impact on how the audience are told to feel. Using word play such as “freedom fighters”, “rebels”, or the “opposition army” casts a more positive light as compared to “terrorist”. Elliot argues that the use of these labels in the media are mostly politically motivated, to serve the interest of the US government, making it difficult for the ordinary citizen to fully comprehend the cause behind the actions.
Elliott, D, 2003, Terrorists We Like and Terrorists We Don’t Like. Ch 7 in Images that Injure: Pictorial Stereotypes in the Media. Lester, P.M. & Dennis, E.E. (eds). London: Praeger. 51-55. Via RL