Analysis of news coverage of extremist terror attacks between 2016 and 2017
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Since September 11, Islamist terrorism has been widely represented by news broadcasters around the world. News coverage has consistently conflated Islam and Muslims with terrorism, focusing intrinsically on ‘War on Terror’ news frames. However, research has shown that transnational white nationalist terrorism is a recent and emerging threat to society. The point of departure is that news framings have typically victimised white supremacist terrorists in their news representations. Previously, scholars have examined news framings of terrorism, but research on this topic, the representation of white nationalist terrorism, remains scarce. This gap is addressed by assessing MailOnline, a bona fide right-wing British newspaper, and its representation of Islamist and white supremacist terror attacks in UK. Using discourse analysis, this thesis investigates news framings of the Jo Cox murder in 2016 and the Westminster Bridge attack in 2017, perpetrated by a white supremacist and Islamist respectively. Analysis was guided by four distinct categories; Self and Other, representations of ideology, representations of motivations of terrorists and identity of perpetrators. The findings show that MailOnline framed white supremacist terrorists in humanising terms, which was anticipated, but it was unexpected to see MailOnline portraying an Islamist terrorist in a similar, humanising and personalising way. It represents both terrorists as in need of help; MailOnline adopts a hybrid position to frame terrorists empathetically while maintaining labels of terrorist only for the Westminster Bridge attacker, even though both cases were legally defined as terrorism. These unexpected findings suggest that right-wing papers are moving away from the traditional ‘War on Terror’ frames established since September 11. Right- wing newspapers such as MailOnline are subtly shifting styles of reporting to be mindful of conflating Islam with terrorism. That being said, scholars need to place further emphasis on prominent threats within topics dealing with media representations of terrorism. A good place to start would be temporal comparisons of news framings of white nationalist terrorism.