Terrorism and the Media: The Effect of US Television Coverage on Al-Qaeda Attacks

50 Pages Posted: 1 May 2017

See all articles by Michael Jetter

Michael Jetter

University of Western Australia; IZA

Abstract

Can media coverage of a terrorist organization encourage their execution of further attacks? This paper analyzes the day-to-day news coverage of Al-Qaeda on US television since 9/11 and the group's terrorist strikes. To isolate causality, I use disaster deaths worldwide as an exogenous variation that crowds out Al-Qaeda coverage in an instrumental variable framework. The results suggest a positive and statistically powerful effect of CNN, NBC, CBS, and Fox News coverage on subsequent Al-Qaeda attacks. This result is robust to a battery of alternative estimations, extensions, and placebo regressions. One minute of Al-Qaeda coverage in a 30-minute news segment causes approximately one attack in the upcoming week, equivalent to 4.9 casualties, on average.

Keywords: Al-Qaeda, media attention, media effects, terrorism, 9/11

JEL Classification: C26, D74, F52, L82

Suggested Citation

Jetter, Michael, Terrorism and the Media: The Effect of US Television Coverage on Al-Qaeda Attacks. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2960517 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2960517

Michael Jetter (Contact Author)

University of Western Australia ( email )

35 Stirling Highway
Crawley, Western Australia 6009
AUSTRALIA

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