Time for the media to step up?

The western world was brought to a hault when the terrorist attack of 9/11 occured back in 2001 and the worlds media saw arguably it’s busiest day in history. Reading this week on race, ethnicity and the media, the media’s role in the aftermath of this event was explored particuarly the depiction of Muslims and Arabs. 

Evelyn Alsultany wrote an article, on project muse, which talked about the American media’s representation of Muslims and Arabs post 9/11 and to my surprise they were seen to show positive and sympathetic representations. She explains that the media attempted to create a balance and avoided enhancing negative stereotypes that were heightened post 9/11. I thought about why I was surprised and realised that while the media in America actively tries to promote a positive representation of the culture, western society as a whole may not share the same view.

Screen Shot 2014-05-23 at 6.02.45 PM

My question then became, what about the Australian media? Dr Shahram Akbarzadeh and Dr Bianca Smith asked the same question and found that “in Australia local and national representations of Muslims, are mutually reinforcing and predominately negative”. It should be mentioned that negativity towards Muslim or Arabic cultures existed pre 9/11 within Australia, however it was an event that saw an increase and a further deepening of distrust. 

It would appear that unlike the American media, the Australian media did not go out of it’s way to repair the damage that was caused. Akbarzadeh and Smith discuss the reasons why the language used in the media has come across negatively even if it was not the conscious intention of the journalists, “journalists are shaped by their social environment and are open to a range of political and ideological influences, some of which are openly hostile towards Islam”. 

This relates to the mirror versus shape argument about the media where the debate discuses whether the media shapes societal beliefs or whether it simply mirrors them. From the research I did it would appear that the Australian media could create a more positive representation of the Arabic cultures, and does have some responsibility in educating society on cultures that appear to be very misunderstood. 


Alsultany, E, 2013, ‘Arabs and Muslims in the Media after 9/11:Representational Strategies for a “Postrace” Era’, Project Muse, American Quarterly, vol. 65, no.1, last accessed 06/05/14, http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/american_quarterly/v065/65.1.alsultany.html

♦Akbarzadeh, S, Smith, B, 2005, ‘The Representation of Islam and Muslims in the Media(The Age and Herald Sun Newspapers)’, Islam in the Media, school of Political and Social Inquiry Monash University, last accessed 06/05/14, http://www.google.com.au/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&ved=0CCoQFjAA&url=http%3A%2F%2F14.139.43.151%3A8080%2Fget%2FPDF%2FShahram%2520Akbarzadeh%2520%2526%2520Bianca%2520Smith-The%2520Representation%2520of%2520Islam%2520and%2520Muslims%2520in%2520the%2520Media_%2520(The%2520Age%2520and%2520Herald%2520Sun%2520Newspapers)_1811.pdf&ei=AKZoU8WVOsGQkwX6xYCYDA&usg=AFQjCNHGZOr9jYueI3qnjmRjRmjirdPA2A&sig2=h9OQo14bxrAf-DRyCKNnrA&bvm=bv.66111022,d.dGI