Atran article, Black and White and Red All Over, featured in Foreign Policy magazine

April 22, 2013

An article by Scott Atran in Foreign Policy magazine discusses media coverage of the April 15 Boston Marathon bombing and how media journalism influences public response to terrorist attacks. In the article, Atran argues that sensational media coverage and outsized reactions from law enforcement have amplified the effect of individual terrorist acts.

"Not that the events weren't shocking and brutal," Atran writes of the April 15 Boston Marathon bombings. "But this law enforcement and media response, of course, is part of the overall U.S. reaction to terrorism since 9/11, when perhaps never in history have so few, armed with so few means, caused so much fear in so many. Indeed, as with the anarchists a century ago, last week's response is precisely the outsized reaction that sponsors of terrorism have always counted on in order to terrorize."

Atran goes on to argue that one important way to limit the impact of future terrorist acts is to curtail the political hype and media amplification that occasion them.

"Terrorists are directly responsible for violent acts, but only indirectly for the reaction that follows," Atran writes. "Objectively, terrorist acts on even a 9/11 scale could never seriously harm American society; only our reaction can."