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Essay on Terrorism

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What do terrorists really want? Money? Power? Publicity? Many researchers have concluded that a free media helps perpetuate terrorism in a society; without publicity, the actions of terrorist groups may ineffective and counterproductive in achieving their end goals (threatening national security). Thus, there is a relationship between the free media and the reporting of terrorist attacks.

While there are many reasons why terrorist acts are executed in contemporary society, this sample essay focuses specifically on the causation between terrorism and the free media, and acknowledges the most prudent steps that can be taken to limit these attacks from occurring in the future. If you like what you read and want a 100% original, custom essay sample on terrorism or any other specific topic, feel free to give us a call today!

U.S. Security Spending Since 9/11 PDF Download
See how much the U.S. has spent on defense since the 2011 World Trade Center attack.
U.S. security spending since 9/11 infographic

Terrorist Intentions

Acts of terrorism are significantly higher in countries with a free media that report and publicize terrorism regardless of the trauma inflicted on victims compared to the prevalence of such attacks in countries with a state-controlled media (Gause, 2005). Therefore, a free press will almost always assure maximum returns for terrorism and in turn will overestimate the relationship between democracy and terrorist activities. Terrorists want to spark fear within an existing population and generate publicity for their actions. This can be accomplished by large and rare dramatic attacks such as 9/11, but also smaller attacks in countries even where the media is not so prevalent, creating uncomfortable conditions for the target group.

The Price of Terrorism

With the continuing expansion of the free media, it is imperative for contemporary governments to address what can be done to decrease terrorist acts. In the ten years following the 9/11 attacks on the U.S. there was an increase in domestic expenditures of over a trillion dollars aimed terrorism prevention (National Priorities Project, 2011). The number of people in the world killed following the 9/11 attacks outside of war zones by Muslim terrorists is estimated to be 200 to 300 people per year (2011). No one would argue that the loss of these human lives is a write-off or is trivial, but this number does not suggest that the capability of terrorists to wreck havoc has been significant. Reports during the same time period indicated more people drowned in their bathtubs in the United States (Stossel, 2004). With respect to heightened airport security, the added expenses at U.S. airports as result of the new security measures have resulted in many potential passengers driving to their destination as opposed to flying, leading to potential increases in car accidents and related deaths.

Stopping Terrorism Through the Intrusion of Privacy?

The press terrorists receive from heightened security along with the increased inconvenience and costs has helped keep terrorism fresh in the American mindset. Depending on who one believes anywhere from 30 to 50 terrorist plots have been foiled since the increase in security following 9/11, but it is a pretty sure bet that most readers cannot name more than three or four of them (Carafano, Bucci, & Zuckerman, 2012). Even though good number of these foiled terrorist attacks involved attacks on airplanes or airlines few if any were rooted out as a result of airport security. There are several reasons why increased airport security such as the use of full body scanners, intrusive searches, etc. is not effective against terrorism; however, there is no doubt that the United States has improved its domestic security since the early 2000s. The Patriot Act also played a big role in making sure that the government knew who was moving money and flying while under suspicion.

Regardless, a small number of airports actually utilize full body scanners and their effectiveness in deterring terrorists is questionable. Related to this is the notion that airport security measures typically follow what previous terrorists have attempted. For instance, somebody sneaks on to an airplane with liquid explosives in their shoes and many airports begin checking shoes. By that time the damage is done and the next plot is different. Airport security is not progressive. Second, as stated above the real progress in detecting terrorist plots has come from intelligence work and not from airport screening. Finally, the number of terrorist attacks foiled since 9/11 and the number of deaths due to terrorism outside of war zones indicates that an American citizen is more likely to die from heart disease or cancer than from a terrorist attack. This is not to say that airport security should be lax; however, airport security could be effective with very simple measures such as the ones used in Europe. There is no need to spend millions or billions of dollars on full body scanners, increased TSA agents, etc. 

Final Thoughts on Fighting Terror

Good intelligence work roots out serious terrorist threats. Simple, solid airport security measures can be taken without significant increases in spending. The focus of terrorist prevention should remain with solid intelligence work aimed at exposing plots before they can be implemented. Lastly, free anti-terrorism measures such as allowing hacktivist groups like anonymous to hunt them down has been growing in popularity since 2014.


Blalock, G., Virinda Kadiyali, and Daniel H. Simon. (2007). The impact of post 9/11 airport security measures on the demand for air travel. Journal of Law and Economics 50(4), 731-755. http://blalock.dyson.cornell.edu/wp/JLE_6301.pdf.

Carafano, James J., Steven P. Bucci, and Jessica Zuckerman. (2012, Apr 25). Fifty Terror Plots Foiled Since 9/11: The Homegrown Threat and the Long War on Terrorism. Backgrounder #2682 on Terrorism. Retrieved from The Heritage Foundation https://www.heritage.org/terrorism/report/fifty-terror-plots-foiled-911-the-homegrown-threat-and-the-long-war-terrorism

Gause, G. F. (2005). Can democracy stop terrorism? Foreign Affairs 84(5), 62-76. https://msbeenen.wikispaces.com/file/view/Can+Democracy+stop+terrorism.pdf.

National Priorities Project. (2011). U.S. Security Spending Since 9/11. https://www.nationalpriorities.org/analysis/2011/us-security-spending-since-911/.

Ranstorp, M. (2006, Oct). Mapping Terrorism Research. London: Routledge. https://medarbetarwebben.fhs.se/Documents/Externwebben/forskning/centrumbildningar/CATS/2007/mapping-terrorism-research.pdf.

Shurkin, James. N. (2007). “Terrorism and the media.” As cited in Psychology of Terrorism, ed. by Bongar B. 81-86. New York: Oxford University Press.

Stossel, John. (2004). Give Me a Break. New York: Harper Collins.

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