Mass media as an Effective Tool for Prevention of Socio-psychological Factors in the Development of Terrorism

Mass media as an Effective Tool for Prevention of Socio-psychological Factors in the Development of Terrorism

DOI: 10.11621/pir.2009.0023

Zinchenko, Yu. P. Lomonosov Moscow State University, Moscow, RussiaRussian Academy of Education, Moscow, Russia


Recently mass media play crucial role in social counterterrorism activity. The article is devoted to analysis of possibilities of mass media in prevention of the development of terrorism. Socio-psychological factors of development of terrorism, including concept of “contributing events” as well as hypothesis “frustration-aggression” are studied. The psychological component of terrorism in three major attitudes is considered in the article: psychology of terrorism, psychology of counteraction to terrorism, and using mass media for prevention the development of terrorism. Specific features and the external factors promoting involving into terrorism are analysed. Role of mass media in covering the information about terrorism events is analysed from point of view related to prevention of development of terrorism. Some key recommendations on counterterrorism activity using mass media means are formulated.

Themes: Media and cyber psychology; Security psychology


Pages: 459-476

DOI: 10.11621/pir.2009.0023

Keywords: psychology of terrorism, prevention of terrorism, socio-psychological factors of terrorism, psychology of mass media.

Development of Terrorism: Main Socio-Psychological Factors[1]

Despite the problem of terrorism is complex and multidisciplinary there are many certainly socio-psychological factors that may influence the terrorism. The specific transformations in the personality and the world view of a person involved in terrorism are the subject of research for a number of socio-humanitarian sciences, including psychology. Within this field of psychology, the personality dynamics of individual terrorists, including the causes and motivations behind the decision to join a terrorist group and to commit violent acts, have also received attention. Other small-group dynamics that have been of particular interest to researchers include the terrorists’ decision-making patterns, problems of leadership and authority, target selection, and group mindset as a pressure tool on the individual.

One of the approaches in psychology where key methodological principles of human behavior as a socially dependent are understood is psychology of activity (A.N. Leontiev). The formation, structuring and functioning of the complex psychological structure, referred to as “the world view” in A.N. Leontiev’s School of Psychology, of a person involved in terrorist organizations are very similar to the world view of a controlled person who is characterized by either single dependency traits or the dependency in the psychopathological sense of the word. The way (technology) of making a terrorist is not unique, being one of the modern technologies that structure the world view and self-identification of a controlled person, which may be used as the basis for the construction of theoretical models and practical procedures of diagnosing “the risk-group” members, for effective preventive work as well as for the correction, rehabilitation and formation of the system of psychologically-oriented monitoring of antiterrorist activity.

The working out of socio-psychological models and methods of increasing the effectiveness of antiterrorist activities implies two levels of work:

1) prevention: the analysis of conditions favouring the proliferation of terrorist “ideology” and terrorist attacks;

2) optimization of the leverage in the course of a concrete antiterrorist action.

Among the main socio-psychological problems that form the basis for the development and manifestation of terrorism, researchers name the following ones: general social instability at the time of social changes, which causes a number of new social phenomena (previously uncommon), like changeable public opinion that expresses the positions of different social groups; a large number of mass social movements with the radical vector, the rise inside these movements of “risk-groups” with tendencies to extremism.

Therefore, studies that put forward the scientifically-based recommendations for the development of methods of correction of such ide ology are highly urgent. These recommendations may concern different aspects of social reality:

  • making explicit the risks of the tendency to look for “the enemy figure”, especially in the groups of the young and groups with high risk tendencies;
  • providing the adequate interpretation of the correlation between such factors as globalization and terrorism;
  • transparent discussion of the present-day social problems, for instance, the employment of the young, material inequality in the modern society (causes, solutions, etc.);
  • preventive work with marginal groups (talking about understanding the criteria for social values, the correlation between freedom and law);
  • attention to the general problems of political culture (for instance, the possibility of resolving social conflicts in a nonviolent way) in educational system and the mass media;
  • purposive formation of positive models of behaviour;
  • formation of positive image of the country and while own citizenship identity.

Individuals who become terrorists often are unemployed, socially alienated individuals who have dropped out of society. Those with little education may try to join a terrorist group out of boredom and a desire to have an action-packed adventure in pursuit of a cause they regard as just. Some individuals may be motivated mainly by a desire to use their special skills, such as bomb-making. The more educated youths may be motivated more by genuine political or religious convictions. In search of the scientifically-based psychological criteria for diagnosing and classifying the ways of construction of “the world view”, self-identification, motivation and formation of the pathological forms of social and psychological adaptation, typical of the “risk-group” members, let us refer to the following personality traits, revealed through theoretic analysis, characterizing a person who is or may be involved in terrorist activity:

  1. Preference for the illusive and compensatory way of fulfilling personal needs, rather than the active and constructive one.
  2. Tendency to find quick and “final” solutions to complicated problems.
  3. The primitive mythologization and symbolization of the objective activity with the accent on a “list of enemies”.
  4. The utmost, terminal and feigned dramatization of the situation.
  5. A low, or purposively-lowered by means of psycho-technologies threshold of aggressive behaviour.
  6. High impulsiveness and inclination to prompt actions.
  7. The heroization of terrorist activity with the compulsory element of sacrifice.
  8. Primitivism and rigidity of the world view and cognitive styles.
  9. High suggestibility.
  10. The specific state of mass consciousness and mentality:
    • the “undeveloped” tolerance and lack of standards of conducting productive negotiations;
    • conviction of the effectiveness of acts of violence and in one’s right to perform them;
    • the “metamorphoses” in the historical memory of different ethnic groups, political parties, etc.;
    • lack of adequate ideas about democracy, in particular, of human rights;
    •  the binary and archaic world view.

These problems require careful consideration so that the role of each factor in the formation of terrorist ideology should be revealed. The analysis of the existing researches reveals that terrorism is a multi-disciplinary problem and psychological as well. Involvement in terrorism is based on the manipulation of the dramatically actualized needs for identification of the considerable part of the population, which must be a subject of a relevant research. The inner subjective conviction of the necessity of service to some absolute, supreme and unique truth, and, as a result, fanaticism and readiness to establish the truth by all means, is the motivational, value and ideological basis of terrorism. As the terrorist absorbs the ideology of the organization s/he belongs to, s/he adopts the absolutist rhetoric. The outward things are viewed though the prism of simple and unambiguous characteristics: one’s own people and the aliens, the right and the wrong. Doubts are neglected. One of the possible sources of formation of a terrorist organization is radicalism. Not all radicals become terrorists, but many terrorists tarted out with radicalism. Revealing the psychological conditions under which radicalism transforms into extremism is the priority task.

Radicalism is usually connected with the ideas and concepts of the fundamental and radical changes in the existing socio-political relations in a society. The existing social relations are negated and substituted with the alternative ones, presented as the most right and unique way out of the current unjust and unacceptable socio-political situation.

Researchers distinguish the following primary functions of radicalism:

  1. informative (evidence of the unstable social processes);
  2. reducing social tensions;
  3. pressure upon political institutions;
  4. correction of social and political ideas;
  5. stimulation of social changes;
  6. achieving goals often different from the declared ones.

The psychologically-correct answer to the question why some people wish to get involved in terrorist activities may partly contain the answer to another question – what they do (or are allowed to do) as terrorists, and how they get and retain motivation for the involvement in terrorist attacks and other activities.

People who become members of terrorist groups come from different strata of society. And so the motivations that determine their radical spirits are different. At the same time, they all undergo the personality transformation and acquire certain dominating traits. First of all, they have aggressiveness, which develops in part as a reaction to frustration – the situation of being prevented from satisfying one’s needs and wants. They are prone to externalization – making the external factors responsible for their failures and inadequate behaviour. The need for affiliation (involvement into a particular group) is one of the basic. Due to the need for affiliation a person acquires a sense of sameness and a feeling of socialization. This explains the fact why a lot of members of terrorist organizations are people who come from broken families or used to have problems adapting to the existing social institutions (for instance, lost their jobs or didn’t have any). A sense of isolation that often arises in such situations results in the marginalization of the person’s values and concepts, which leads to the transformation of the original need for affiliation and search for another kindred group. Thus all terrorists have a strong desire to be involved in a group of identical people and to acquire a sense of sameness. People don’t become terrorists right away. This is often preceded by the loss of life values, apathy and depression, caused by social disadaptation.

Researchers name the following key factors as the ground for the formation of the personality of a terrorist:

  1. early socialization;
  2. disorders of narcissism type;
  3. conflict situations;
  4. personal contacts with the members of terrorist organizations.

As a rule, the formation of the personality of a terrorist starts with “a catalyst event” – an accident in which the terrorist-to-be suffers from or sees an outrage, injustice or unpunished villainy. This early stage of the personality transformation into a terrorist proceeds as psychologically-unnoticeable, but has a huge impact on the personality of the future terrorist. Over and over again, the accident recurs to the person’s memory. Like a chemical catalyst, it stimulates the formation of terrorist personality traits through the process of personal identification with the victims – the fellow countryman, members of the same social group or relatives (that sparks blood feud) and even with oneself as the victim of “the villains”. The autobiographies, written by terrorist, show that the more the person gets involved in terror, the more vivid, horrible and dramatic, artistically and mystically detailed “the catalyst event” becomes (as compared with the first recurrences).

However, terrorists seldom articulate, that is express in words, the same answers to the question, what attractions and self-profits they see in the involvement in a terrorist group. The analysis of the answers they give reveals that they are motivated by such things as:

  1. Power and might.
  2. High status.
  3. The feeling of fellowship and strong self-identification.
  4. Excitement, delight and nearly narcotic ecstasy from assuming anew role and a new life.
  5. Increasing admiration and reverence for the activity of the supporting community after joining it.
    (Sometimes) the absence of need to care about money.

Predisposing Events Conception

It is highly probable that the further elaboration of the conception of “predisposing events” which is based on the individual experience and specificity of the cognitive sphere of the personality will be very resulting. As the subject of research this conception has the following:

  1. Personal experience, character and level of influence of the antecedent events relevant to the context of the process of involvement in terrorism (for example, throwing stones at the police (or other security forces) officers may set up a base for the formation of the emotional gist of the condition of protest and the accumulation of relevant feelings, including those at the emotional level (through fear and pleasant excitement, etc.), the level of knowledge and understanding of conflict situations and their underlying reasons preceding the energetic actions, the level of susceptibility to the attractions of one’s possible active involvement in terrorism.
  2. The specificity of one’s early experience relevant to the process (personal experience of being a victim of the security service officers’ actions, or self-perception as a victim through self-identification with a tormented and victimized group or community).
  3. The structure and ascendancy of public opinion inside the relevant group, including opinion about the consequences of joining a terrorist organization. Involvement in terrorism is regarded by a person in correlation with the system of values shared within the community. For example, people who carry and fire weapons may be treated with high respect in the community.
  4. The specificity of socialization in mature age that may either impel or impede the person’s involvement in terrorism. For example, many of suicide-terrorists are single men between the ages of 17 to 22. They have neither obligations, nor responsibility, nor grief over parting their families. So they are easier targets for the enlisters.
  5. Dissatisfaction, loss of illusions, the rejection of self or of the actual system of activity. This trait is often construed by the analysts as the consequence of some personal defect, vulnerability and proneness to being easily emotionally hurt. In the context of our discourse, it is relevant to speak about the feeling of strong dissatisfaction that makes a person vulnerable to external influences which may lead him/her away from the current state of dissatisfaction. As a result, the person may find himself gradually and more and more involved in terrorism.
  6. The influence on the psyche of the antagonistic alternatives and prospects of being more or less intensely involved in the terrorist organization activities. For instance, the duties of membership of an individual involved are always determined by the leader who distributes the roles and creates the psychological climate which may happen to be unbearably tough or unpredictably changeable. Besides, the individual may have a fear of punishment and public prosecution that may impede and at some stage put an end to his/her involvement in illegal activities. All in all, there may be found different factors, including the individual’s previous experience and the peculiarities of socialization that may be naturally transmitted to the fear of losing a job, a family and the seizure of the source of revenue, etc.

The majority of experts agree in opinion that it would be quite wrong to look for any kind of universal archetypes of “catalyst events”, even for the members of the same terrorist group. It’s all individual. People acquire the universal traits of terrorist personality at a later stage.

The problem of safety traditionally implies two main aspects related to terrorism: the criminal aspect and the aspect of security threats, including national, local and international security. However, the present day reality calls for the global approach to the problem of safety on the planet scale. For terrorists, all people are divided into two groups: “Us” and “Others”, the rest of the world. Terrorists’ violence is maximized against all “Others”, who are The Enemy. Terrorist believe that neither of the groups is supposed to justify themselves.

To provide adequate responses to terrorism, it is absolutely necessary to have the right understanding of the motives of terrorist organizations. In practice, it turns out to be a rather difficult task, as the goals of all nationalistic and terrorist groups are rather ideal in the beginning and not always supposed to be realized by applying force.

It is important take account of the fact that struggle against terrorism cannot be measured by the traditional success criteria. Short-term successes may appear to have negative consequences in the long term. Some terrorist groups have long-term strategic goals and they assume that some temporary failures may happen. That is why difficulties in preventing terrorist attacks should not be perceived as failures in the context of the long-term struggle.

Frustration-Aggression Hypothesis

The frustration-aggression hypothesis of terrorist’s behavior is prominent in the literature. This hypothesis is based mostly on the relative-deprivation hypothesis and include a gap between rising expectations and need satisfaction. The multiple-factor nature of terrorism requires putting forward a comprehensive model that would take account of the impact of each factor on the origin and development of this social phenomenon. The working out of such a model is the sine qua non of achieving success in the field of antiterrorist activities and requires that different existing approaches to this problem be taken into account since altogether they reveal the driving forces behind terrorism. The frustration-aggression hypothesis takes the utmost account of the interaction between external (political and social) and internal (psychological) factors in explaining the essence of terrorism. According to the frustration-aggression hypothesis, a terrorist’s behavior is his/her answer to the frustration of different political, economic, and personal needs/goals. The hypothesis can play a fundamental role in creating the aforesaid model inasmuch as it can reveal the interference of external and internal factors. This hypothesis is relevant because it points out the external factors as triggers and makes it possible to understand how risk groups arise. Other psychological theories emphasize extra features which, when influenced by the external factors, form a personality that can be involved into the sphere of influence of different terrorist and extremist organizations as well as point out the personality traits that get transformed into aggression when frustration occurs.

Some individual characteristics as a predispositions of terrorism

  • Physiological parameters. If one accepts that the neurophysiological model of aggression is realistic, there is no basis for the argument that terrorism could be eliminated if its social causes were eliminated. One cannot deny the existence of individual terrorists whose behavior is determined mostly by their physiology. Counteraction against this kind of terrorists is more rational if based on revealing and controlling their behavior, rather than controlling their ideology and social factors.
  • Machiavellism. The desire to manipulate their victims, the press, the public, and the authorities is typical of terrorists. Researchers note that it’s enough for the potential terrorist to only see that terrorism has worked for others in order to become aggressively aroused.
  • Narcissism. Terrorism is a specific manifestation of narcissistic rage in the context of narcissistic injury. Basically, if primary narcissism in the form of the “grandiose self ” is not neutralized by reality testing, the grandiose self produces individuals who are sociopathic, arrogant, and lacking in regard for others. Similarly, if the psychological form of the “idealized parental ego” is not neutralized by reality testing, it can produce a condition of helpless defeatism, and narcissistic defeat can lead to reactions of rage and a wish to destroy the source of narcissistic injury. Narcissistic rage manifests itself in repeated attempts to acquire or maintain power or control by intimidation. Narcissism can also manifest itself through the desire to protect one social group from others, be they real or perceived enemies. It should be noticed that this desire can be reinforced by inadequate governmental measures taken in response to terrorist groups’ activities and is one of the fundamental motives that can draw a large number of people to such groups.
  • Idealism. Well-educated young people may join terrorist groups out of their genuine political or religious convictions. People who have idealistic views on life are more inclined to experience disappointment and, consequently, frustration than those who are down-to-earth.
  • Fragmented personal identity. It is typical of terrorist group members to have no complete personal identity and be guided by contradictory values, views, and purposes. Such an individual would go to extremes to achieve his/her goals and is likely to respond even more violently to the police’s or other security forces’ counteraction. Negative identity involves a vindictive rejection of the role regarded as desirable and proper by an individual’s family and community. Terrorists engage in terrorism as a result of feelings of rage and helplessness over the lack of alternatives.

Methodic techniques for the effective revealing of risk groups are aimed at revealing the aforementioned individual characteristics. Some of them (e.g. narcissistic injuries) can be discovered through studying biographical data, whereas others can only be revealed through the external observation of terrorists’ behavior.

Circumstances (external) factors of development of terrorism

  • Social conditions. Terrorism rarely occurs on the basis of political or religious feud alone. One can always find more deep causes of the terrorist threat. The causes are social inequality, discrimination, political weakness, poverty and deprivation, and the feeling of injustice resulting in despair. All these create external conditions which favor the appearance or revivification of terrorist groups. In-depth study of the process of recruitment to IRA shows that the main causes of today’s civil unrests are social and economic conditions. Political causes are the basis for recruitment into the lower echelons of terrorist organizations.
  • Traditions. Family and cultural traditions of violent protests serve as the ground for radicalization of the young towards social problems. Schools, religious groups, and other social institutions, where people may encourage extremism, contribute to the appearance of terrorist groups and the process of recruitment. The most potent form of terrorism stems from those individuals who are bred to hate, from generation to generation, as in Northern Ireland and the Basque country.
  • Accelerating factors. Besides the main social and economic factors, there are extra ones that catalyze the transition to violence, such as inadequate governmental measures taken in response to civil unrests and terrorist attacks. For example, the war of the Spanish government against ETA has had a negative impact not only on the Basque territory but on terrorists’ activities all around the world as well. The Israeli pressure on Palestine has had a similar negative effect resulting in the intensification of terrorist activity. In the case of IRA, the catalyst was the transformation of orderly protest demonstrations for civil rights into sanguinary riots. IRA declared itself to be the only protector of the Republicans’ rights. It is obvious that terrorists will always look for ways and means to provoke the government into taking inadequate measures. Dissatisfaction with such measures becomes the basis for recruiting new members to terrorist groups. Potential terrorist group members often start out as sympathizers of the group. From sympathizer, one moves to passive supporter. Often those who are at odds with the law also join terrorists. The individual, often with the help of a family member or friend with terrorist contacts, gradually turns to terrorism. Membership in a terrorist group, however, is highly selective.
  • Fundamentalism. This factor is much more complex than just a simple explanation of terrorist aspirations as the exercise of the sharia law. Ideological extremism, be it religious or national, is very appealing since on the one hand it enables one to pour out his/her anger, frustration and despair, while on the other hand it promises a utopian future in this life or after it. Even if the ideology of a terrorist group is not based on religion, the group, nevertheless, is prone to the influence of terrorist extremists. Terrorists are motivated by both ideology and the human element. But in no circumstances should double standards be demonstrated. It means that antiterrorist activities must be carried out in conformity with the existing law. Even if a terrorist group is not founded on religion, it, nevertheless, is prone to the influence of extremists who claim to be the divine authority and justify and forgive any violent acts against innocent people.

Preventing risk groups from getting transformed into potential terrorist organizations: counteraction measures

Schooling and Upbringing

There must be high emphasis placed on developing national and cultural tolerance at schools and institutions. For instance, in Northern Ireland, the abolition of the system that had divided schools into protestant and catholic ones played a crucial role in demolishing terrorists’ connections with the public.

Control of Ideology

Usually ideology is considered as a belief or a set of values and principles through which a group of people identifies themselves as well as their goals and objectives. Ideology is classified into several types: separatist, religious, liberal, anarchic, communist, conservative, fascist, and organized crime.

Terrorists do not perceive the world as members of governments or civil society do. Their belief systems help to determine their strategies and how they react to government policies. The actions of terrorist organizations are based on a subjective interpretation of the world rather than objective reality. The variables from which their belief systems are formed include their political and social environments, cultural traditions, and the internal dynamics of their clandestine groups. Their convictions may seem irrational or delusional to society in general, but the terrorists may nevertheless act rationally in their commitment to acting on their convictions.

Some types of ideology – especially separatist – may include some elements of history coupled with half-mythic and supernatural beliefs. What is important to ideology is that it has a motivational power and sets out the framework of activity. It should be noticed that the group’s ideology and its members’ personal beliefs may differ. For instance, if the leaders of a political group usually have a concrete ideology with clear political goals, other members of the group may join it out of group solidarity or dislike of a “common enemy”. Understanding the motivation and ideology of a terrorist group would make it possible to organize an effective ideological struggle against it. One of the top priorities of that struggle is to persuade the population not to help terrorists, to refuse armed conflicts, and to persuade the terrorists to substitute alternative nonviolent methods of achieving their goals for violence.

In case of ideological victory, terrorists may count on extensive support from the population, risk groups essentially. Terrorists and their sympathizers share common values and views. An intensive work with sympathizers at the ideological level is needed so as to weaken the sympathizers’ financial aid and reduce the number of recruitment sources.

The Mass Media Intervention

While the terrorist’s attack numerous publications may polarize the public, create polar opinions, and provoke risk groups into protest and violence. Terrorists seek the opportunity to use the media to achieve their own goals. Only through control of the media in this field can negative consequences be prevented and an innovative strategy, that would make it impossible for extremists to take an informational initiative, be implemented.

What can media do to prevent the terrorism?

Any study of the relationship between the media and terrorism would be incomplete if it did not mention the peculiarities of the principal and most influential medium of mass communication. One of the key issues in the context of media-coverage the terrorism events is how media cover the events. Prejudice of the reporters, inadequate attitudes, incorrect interpretation of the situation may be a result of word selected while preparing the material covering the situation. Naming the group that made an act of political violence as a rebels the media create an image that is absolutely different then image of terrorist. On behalf of terrorists there are continual attempts to manipulate the media through the thrust on specific terminology to journalists. It is important not to underestimate their abilities to incorporate illusions into people, politicians and other groups. And the journalists are not the exception among people who are under the influence of illusions.

All these confirm the fact that journalist has necessary resources for influence on perception and attitudes of audience. One of the first rules, which should be acquired by beginning journalist – to avoid standard formulations and own quick judgements. It is necessary to give only facts, not trying to embellish reality with colourful adjectives. Besides the information, journalist gives analysis of arising position, or revealing of reasons, or forecast for the future, he renders certain influence on audience. This can be methods of influence – facts, figures, citations of persons authoritative for audience. To number of emotional methods author’s estimation of occurring, reference of journalist to theme of universal values will concern. In professional journalistic environment it is known as expression, good argument should to be imperceptible, but is greatly effective. Covering the materials about terrorism by some ways with imperceptible argument can play on hand of terrorists, that they want to achieve.

It is very important for journalist to choose correct kind of evidence or emotional influence on audience depending on purpose of the material. Media can frequently explain motives of cruelty and violence, directed against innocent victims. So presenting sociopolitical aspects in the past of terrorism, media frequently rationalizes terrorism. Knowing that terrorists are guided by political, social, and cultural traditions, such rationalization by journalists or by terrorists themselves during the interview can facilitate identity at the audience and occurrence of sympathy to terrorists.

Modern technical development of means in media requires from the authorities to change their approaches of interaction with media. Old method of restriction of information access can negatively affect on relation to government, especially in countries, proclaiming democratic rules. Unevident ways of deprivation of information access, such as de creasing of access of representatives from media to places of events and transferring them controlled portions of information, that cannot be supported from other sources, also lead to lose the efficiency. It seems to be more modern the way when media are attracted on the right side. At requests about removal some information it should be made with accent on patriotic feelings of journalists.

There are no doubts that it is necessary to cover in media acts of terrorism and violence, since people should have representation about true values and intentions of terrorists. Only perceiving them as real danger, population can refuse from sympathy to terrorists and to help government and special services to struggle against terrorism. This help can be expressed as actively as passively, for example, if some president's decree brings temporary limit in expression of free will of citizens sometimes they will consider with understanding to these restrictions in name of struggle with terrorists.

Covering of events by media requires from heads of medium in modern conditions much more responsibility, that early. This responsibility is expressed when material, that is broadcasted live, should be necessarily presented in adequate context. Material can be wrong interpreted out of context, or even interpreted in opposite manner.

Covering political terrorism by media includes processes of gathering of information, processing and distribution. Researches show an abundance of distortions at the time of processing and dissemination of information. Result of these distortions is formation of unfaithful representations about occurring events at audience. Information transfer by means of media looks like information transfer from one person to others: all lacks and discrepancies of human communication take place in media covering. Being expressed simply, recipient receives information already interpreted, that can correspond to the facts or no, and reflects values and attitudes of communicator himself.

Journalistic ideal means maintenance in audience an opportunity of wide access to information in order reader was able to analyse by himself, what information is truthful and useful, and to use it for development of own opinion and decision making. It is important here to note, that it is undesirable that media or some certain journalists undertook powers to struggle for one or another “Right issue” or to act in the role of umpire. There are set of ways, when media put damage to terrorist purposes. Showing violence of acts of terrorism, cruelty, with which terrorists are turned with innocent victims, media scatter this myth of fighters for validity. It is quite easy to show by photos this cruelty, and terrorists do not keep any laws of war and kill children, women. It is necessary to show that for terrorists there are not concept of innocent or neutral; all are equal in front of their damage purposes.

What else mass media can do positive in combating of terrorism? There are set of variants of whole positive effects. Responsible and exact covering of incidents and events will help to strengthen vigilance of citizens to suspicious packages on streets and in public places and to people with suspicious behaviour. From practical point, media can transfer prevention to citizens from special services and instruction how to behave in emergencies.

Following important factor touches opportunity of media as a platform for discussions and forums about social and politicals consequences of terrorism and about development of adequate counterterrorist policy and measures. Also, media reminds to be held about borders, which government should have in the counterterrorist activity and about laws, about base rights and social justice.


  1. Covering in media the terrorism and acts of violence and cruelty arise no questions, because people should have adequate representation about true values and intentions of terrorists. Only perceiving them as a real danger, population can refuse from sympathy to terrorists and to help government and special services to struggle against terrorism.
  2. Abundance of distortions influences at the time of processing and dissemination of information on formation of unfaithful representations about occurring events at audience.
  3. Reader receives information interpreted by journalist, that can correspond to the facts or no, and reflects values and attitudes of journalist himself.
  4. Introduction of requirements to reportings is necessary to avoid standard formulations and own judgements about terrorist events, adhering only facts and not trying to embellish reality with colourful adjectives.
  5. Media are effective tool in counterterrorism activity. Showing the violence in terrorist attacks and cruelty with innocent victims media can disperse a myth about terrorists as a fighters for justice.


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[1] This section has been written together with R. S. Shilko, PhD in Psychology (Candidate of Science), assistant professor at the Faculty of Psychology of Lomonosov Moscow State University.


To cite this article: Zinchenko Yu. P. (2009). Mass media as an Effective Tool for Prevention of Socio-psychological Factors in the Development of Terrorism. Psychology in Russia: State of the Art, 2, 459-476

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