Word Use and Placement Associating Arabs and Arab-Americans with Terrorism in the American Media
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Terrorism and conflict is ongoing, and in today’s world it appears to be increasing, however, numerous people have blamed the swell in violence on specific sources. In regards to September 11 and similar terrorist incidents, for example, it is quite easy for the media, as well as other sources, to place responsibility in the hands of a specific group or religion. In this case, Islam, Arabs or the Middle East region seems to be connected to these violent incidents. The reality of the situation may place responsibility in some sources within this region, however, an overgeneralization in regards to a diverse religion and culture may be occurring due to “overall, ideological judgments” by various entities including the news media. According to numerous perspectives, it has become possible for a few carefully chosen words within the media to trigger racially-driven prejudices and actions by agencies, institutions, and the public. Our language seems to be powerful enough to let a single phrase spin a news story into a national warning against a certain group. In other words, the power of association, in particular here between words and perceptions, allows the public to believe in their mind something that may or may not be true. In this case, various studies have shown the tendency for the public to associate Arabs with violence, particularly terrorism. The combination of negative media framing and common ethnic schemas of Arabs and Muslims have resulted in a long history of socialization and activation in the American and perhaps, wider culture. Therefore, this study will mainly focus on an assumed semantic implication of word associations in the media based on shared ideological and socially shared knowledge, rather than measure any explicit statements of racial and ethnic schemas.
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