Deni Elliott

The University of Montana


DRAFT revised 20 09 02



Terrorism, Global Journalism and the Myth of the Nation-State



            September 13, 2001, President George W. Bush said, “We have just seen the first war of the 21st Century.”

The term, “war” did not quite capture what we had seen. On September 11, the world had seen, not a war, but rather a far more massive suicide bombing than had been happening on the streets of Jerusalem for almost a year. What we had seen was an attack that has resulted in far fewer intentional civilian deaths than those caused during WW II or armed conflicts throughout the latter 20th Century. But, that such an attack had happened on the soil of the world’s Superpower underscored a slowly emerging understanding. Armed conflict had changed; the nature of combatants had changed; governments and news media were going to have to change as well.

What the U.S. government has labelled the “war on terrorism” is clearly not metaphorical as were the previous administrations’ “war on drugs” and “war on poverty,” but a war that targets terrorists world wide, as well as a U.S. proclaimed “axis of evil” is a significant departure from what used to be meant by the concept of war. For the first time in history, the U.S. is engaged in a pre-emptive rather than retaliatory strikes.

In this paper, I am not going to argue that military intervention in Afghanistan or Iraq is morally acceptable. Nor will I argue that it is not. However, I will argue that U.S. news media should not report these conflicts or conflicts of the future from a nationalistic perspective. While I explain the motivation for the U.S. governments, as well as other governments, to adopt nationalistic arguments and descriptors, I argue that news media are morally prohibited from doing so.  The job of government is to protect and promote national interests; the job of journalism is to provide citizens with a contextual understanding of their nation’s interest, as that is what is necessary for educated self-governance.

National governments have the unique job of protecting citizens from suffering some harms at the hands of citizen and alien others. Governments have the unique job of keeping the peace and of supporting the overall good by promoting moral and utilitarian ideals such as educational systems and medical research. Governments, because of their unique relationship with their citizens, may act in ways different from how individuals are morally permitted to act toward other individuals. Governments can, and should, deprive individuals of freedom through incarceration under certain circumstances and require citizens to pay taxes to support the government and its work.[1]

The job of news media, on the other hand, is to provide citizens with information that they can use to make educated decisions about self-governance, which includes being able to contribute to the decisions made on their behalf by their leaders.[2]  While the primary audience for a particular news organization may be a local audience, such as one in Missoula, Montana, or Sydney, New South Wales or Tehran, Iran, or the United States as a whole, the job of journalists,  regardless of their national base,  is to provide their citizen audiences with the global perspective needed to understand the political world of today.

The intellectual project described in this paper did not start with the attacks of 9/11. The changes in relationships between nations have been evolving so that our traditional notion of the nation-state is a dangerously outdated basis for decision making. Because the political world is in a period of transition in which national governments are attempting to apply old rules that are difficult to justify while attempting to find new models of collaboration, news media have a special obligation to step outside of nationalistic perspectives to help citizens develop a new way of understanding world conflicts and a new way of describing them.  An example from the coverage of 9/11/01 makes this point.           

Throughout the days following the attacks, U.S. officials and some U.S. journalists made comparisons between September 11, 2001 and those of December 7, 1941, when a U.S. military base was attacked by Japanese soldiers. The choice of this nationally-based comparison, highlights the point that both attacks were made on U.S. soil. However, there are important differences between them as well.

The attack on Pearl Harbor was an attack on a military base, ordered by the a legitimate government of a recognized nation. While the Pentagon was a military target on 9/11, the World Trade Center, where most of the victims died, was not.  Unlike the attack on Pearl Harbor, the attack on 9/11 was not one by state-sanctioned military personnel.

Instead of fighter jets and artillery, the weapons of the recent combatants were commercial airliners, credit cards and a willingness to act in a way completely alien to what is traditionally understood as hostile enemy action. 

While it is understandable why the U.S. government would use the similarity of attacks on its soil to make the comparison, news media could have used additional analogies and thus highlighted other aspects of the attacks, such as the intentional targeting of civilians. Here, comparisons with the recent suicide bombings in Israel by Palestinian militants would have provided context, as would the comparisons with the lives of 6 million civilians taken by Nazi Germany in World War II or the more than 300,000 civilian lives taken by U.S. action In Japan.

There are obviously important differences among these analogies as well. Far more lives were taken and far more property destroyed in the attack of 9/11 as compared with the suicide bombings in Jerusalem. Those killed by the Nazis were not random victims. And, the city bombings in Japan occurred during a declared war and were justified at the time by the probability that such acts might bring about an earlier end to that costly war.

However, despite the difference,  targeting of civilians would have provided a certain kind of context to the world-wide discussion of 9/11, because this aspect is one of the important ways that wars have changed. Throughout the 1900’s casualties among innocents increased during armed conflicts or attacks until, ultimately, by the end of the 20th Century, it was safer to be a soldier than a civilian. In 1900, the ratio of soldier to civilian casualties in armed conflict was 9-1; nine soldiers were killed for every one civilian who was killed. By the turn of the 21st Century, the ratio has switched to 1-9, that is, one soldier killed for every nine civilians.[3] The civilian designation extends to humanitarian workers and journalists as well as people who happen to be present in the wrong place at the wrong time. Wall Street Journal bureau chief, Daniel Pearl, was not the first, but the 10th, journalist to die covering the War on Terrorism.

The traditional definition of “war” breaks down when one seeks to include those who the U.S. governmental officials and journalists called “terrorists.”  Wars are traditionally acts of aggression or defence waged by recognized governments against other recognized governments, or factions within a territory fighting for recognition or geographical control. Wars traditionally use state-sanctioned or faction-sanctioned combatants.

Terrorism is aimed at inflicting indiscriminate violence and the fear of random violence on innocent civilians. Terrorism is waged by fighters who are not officially sanctioned by a recognized nation-state or by a faction seeking control of an identified nation-state. Instead, these fighters are fuelled by their allegiance to specific cultural, religious or ethnic distinctions that cross political borders. Terrorists follow no international agreements regarding just war declaration or procedures. They are often funded through multiple sources, including some recognized governments, private funding sources and renegade coalitions. Rather than seizing power or identified territory, their goal may be as amorphous as the destabilization of a particular culture or ruler. As even different governmental agencies in the U.S. disagree about what counts as the essential element of terrorism, it is probably true that, to some extent, terrorism is in the eye of the beholder. One nation’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter.


The Notion of Nation

What we call “Nations” are, in reality, legal fictions. They lack the characteristics of persons that we use in holding people responsible for their actions. Like corporations, nations are lacking in will and in reason.  The term is used metaphorically to stand for certain types of ruling bodies that have control over certain geographical areas. The concept of "nation" as we know it, has been defined since the 17th Century.  France and England, which served as home to some of the political theorists who constructed the notion, are not accidentally recognised as the oldest examples of national consciousness. What is called nation, state or nation-state is really no more than a general acceptance of a particular ruling body.[4] The state is “a system of animated institutions that govern the territory and its residents, and that administer and enforce the legal system and carry out the programs of government”[5] Nations have designated combatants to protect the nation’s interests from internal and external threat. Attacking citizens in retaliation for the actions of their government is equivalent to sending rank and file employees from Enron or World Com or Arthur Anderson Accounting to prison for the actions of their bosses.  Citizens have always been affected by wars, just as employees have felt the negative consequences of their managers’ actions. However, traditionally, designated combatants from one nation would seek to overpower the designative combatants from another nation. Citizen deaths were generally “collateral damage” – unfortunate, unintended consequences.

Traditionally, all that has been necessary for something to be able to function as the “state” is that the ruling group be recognized by powerful people within and by ruling bodies outside of the territory. Appeal to how the government came to be in power was traditionally not considered important in determining the legitimacy of a state. The boundaries of most modern states were created by laws, war, treaties and by the imposition of colonial boundaries. Many  “states were founded in a way that involved wrongful exercise of force and fraud.” [6] As the initial definition of “nation” came from intellectuals in nations that had taken land that they could seize, how land was acquired was not traditionally considered important in determining the legitimacy of a “nation.” What mattered was that the ruling body was recognized by powerful individuals and other nations as being legitimate.

A state that has “recognitional legitimacy”  has special powers that no other group wishing to speak for that particular territory can simultaneously have. These powers include:     

1. the right to territorial integrity;

2. the right to non-interference in internal affairs;

3. the power to make treaties, alliances, and trade agreements;

thereby altering juridical relations with other states;

                        4. the right to make just war; and

                        5. the right to promulgate, adjudicate, and enforce legal rules on

those within its territory.[7]

The primary function of government with recognitional legitimacy is to keep the peace by protecting citizens from one another and protecting the territory, its citizens, and its ruling body from outside aggressors. Through what has been called the Social Contract, citizens are expected to give up some of their freedom in return for the government's protection. British philosopher Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) argued that it was rational for individuals to give up their individual personal sovereignty only in exchange for the protection of a larger, stronger body – that is, the state. Citizens agree to obey the laws and government agrees to protect them from some harms and to promote to general welfare. [8]

However, Hobbes' companion theory of how nations can best co-exist is not nearly as symbiotic as the citizen-state relationship. Nations, in Hobbes' view, stand in relation to one another in a state of nature, just as individuals would stand in regard to one another if not for the government’s control. There is not social contract possible between states in this view, only uneasy and temporary alliances developed with mutual suspicion. In the 17th Century, there was no body larger than a nation, like our current United Nations, to protect nations from one another or to seek to create another notion of sovereign superior to any individual nation. 

The obligation then, was for each state to protect itself from all of the others.  All nations were seen as potentially threats to every other nation. Escalating and demonstrating military force is significant to this idea of how one state should protect its citizens from the potential aggression of another. The more fearsome one could look to potential intruders, the less fear one has of actual intrusion.

While Hobbes sought to describe and justify the the relationships between individuals and nations and between nations, Hugo Grotius, a Dutch natural law theorist, was arguing that conflicts between states needed to be regulated. Complementary to national consciousness, each government was obliged to avoid a state of war between nations, if possible. Nations were under moral obligation to first attempt to settle disputes peacefully. If battle was necessary, it had to be just in conditions in which to enter war (jus ad bellum) and just in the manner in which war was waged (jus in bello).[9] 

Legitimate governments making war on other nations were said to be acting justly if the war was waged in self-defense, if the purpose of the war was to take back what was rightfully theirs, if the nation had a reasonable chance of succeeding and if the amount of force used was proportionate to the goal. Only combatants were to be targets.

A little more than a hundred years later, Immanuel Kant agreed that while it is “the desire of every state (or its ruler) to ... dominat[e] the whole world, if it all possible,” he argued that there were more positive reasons than fear of war to keep states from fighting one another.

“Nature,” he says, “also unites nations...and does so by means of their mutual self-interest. For the spirit of commerce sooner or later takes hold of every people, and it cannot exist side by side with war. And of all the powers (or means) at the disposal of the power of the state, financial power can probably be relied on most. Thus states find themselves compelled to promote the noble cause of peace, though not exactly from motives of morality.” [10]

For three hundred years or so, this reliance on hard boundaries between states seemed to work out reasonably well, with fear of aggression and the mutually compatible desire for financial stability working to generally sustain the peace. During that time, the internal affairs of a nation was considered to be a private matter. If one state acted aggressively toward another, then the aggrieved party had a recognized right to protect itself and its citizens. Otherwise, sovereign nations were to be free from interference from another. That perception has been affirmed at every peace conference since Westphalia in 1648.[11]. As philosopher Alan Goldman notes, “Observance of a rule against all foreign intervention limits internal struggles that might otherwise escalate into great power confrontations.” [12]

Violence within a state is not a matter of global relevance or concern. Within the traditional understanding of relationships among sovereign states, it was morally required, that the world stand by while factions fought for legitimate leadership within a country or while a government brutalized the people within its territory. Each state was a sovereign on to itself, with its citizens subject to the sovereign.  An essential of the hard boundary theory is that state borders are defensible, that the only one who has the power and resources to wage war with other states is the legitimate ruling body. 


The World Has Changed

From 1500 to 1900, 500 political entities devolved into the 25 that now rank among the world's most viable modern states.[13] The Hobbesian idea of hard boundaries worked in that, for a time, nations stayed out of one another’s way regarding internal affairs, and also allowed only the fittest to survive. But, the tide turned in 1900.

The number of newly sovereign entities rose rather than the declined in the last century. In addition, an understanding has evolved over the past century that the legitimacy of states should be based on something other than the fact that some strong or rich nation was able to claim other territory as their own. The period of colonisation had ended. Global configurations multiplied. Through decolonisation in the 1960s, 140 new states were accorded formal recognition within the United Nations. Thirty new states were admitted in the 1990’s alone. From a start of 51 original state members of the UN in 1949, the list has grown to 189.[14]

No longer do disagreements or conflicts occur mostly between recognized nations or legitimate governments. In 1995, 49 of the 50 armed conflicts in the world were wars of secession or conflicts among ethnic rivals who did not want to be controlled by a centralized or culturally different political ruling body. In the period between 1989-1996, there were 96 armed conflicts—only five were between nations.

David Hume could be reflecting on the events of today when he said, in the late 1700’s, “The face of the earth is continually changing, by the increase of small kingdoms into great empires, by the dissolution of great empires into smaller kingdoms, by the planting of colonies, by the migration of tribes.” [15] While Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau and Kant saw the world growing toward greater structure and stability, Hume’s view of constant flux seems more accurate today.

Non-nation sanctioned fighters who have the power to create terror throughout the world has created an essential question for how it is reasonable to think about state-to-state relations. Self-declared sovereign agents threaten a return for the world from a state of society to a state of nature. First, those who are called terrorists are taking for their own the role-related responsibilities and privileges traditionally granted only to states – the ability to be an aggressor in a foreign state’s territory. Next, and far more frightening, the fighters of today are showing that no state is capable of defending its citizens. The primary justification for the Social Contract is that individuals give up their power to a greater, protective power.

Hobbes tells us, “If there be no power erected, or not great enough for our security, every man will, and may, rely on his own strength and act for caution against all other men.”[16]

Locke says, “Whoever uses force without right, as every one does in society who does it without law, puts himself into a state of war with those against whom he so uses it, and in that state all former ties are cancelled, all other rights cease, and every one has a right to defend himself, and to resist the aggressor.”[17] Terrorism provides the ultimate contradiction to the argument for a sovereign state.

However, national governments had lost their power to protect their citizens from external aggressors and accidents long before 9/11. For decades, we have lived in a world in which political borders are increasingly meaningless in the ability of one state to impact another.

Degradation of the water, land and atmosphere happened without respect for national boundaries. A nuclear accident in one country causes death and destruction in another.

No nation is a financial isolationist. The markets of all depend on the markets of each. Popular culture from fast food to music, television and film are consumed globally. Economic or cultural aggression is viewed as equivalent to military aggression by some of the world’s citizens.

States have the ability, albeit unequally shared, to access information about one’s neighbors, with some of us having access through satellites that allow us to peer in one another's backyard. Global communication no longer allows citizens to remain ignorant of the plight and strife of innocents  anywhere in the world.

And, of course, every nation and most terrorist groups, no matter how rich or poor, have the ability to use nuclear and chemical and biological agents to destroy not only other governments but the very world that allows for geopolitical boundaries to exist.

Accompanying these changes is a change in the global perception of the conditions under which it is morally permitted or required for a state to tolerate intervention from others. World War II dramatically illustrated the horrific results of non-intervention.

In response to the atrocities of that war, the United Nations committed all of its members to uphold a set of fundamental principles that includes "promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all without distinction to race, sex, language or religion.”[18]  The Declaration of Human Rights, in a short preamble and 30 articles, articulates the following human rights: "the right to life, liberty and property, the right to remain free from torture, the right to a fair and public hearing, the right to remain free from slavery."[19]

The fact that some people in the world have not realized even the most basic of these rights does not change the humanitarian realization that all people are due these rights. People who have not achieved these rights are deprived world citizens. They are not getting what we realize everyone is entitled to have. But, whether or not the government that rules the territory in which they live is morally blameworthy, however, for the individual’s deprivation depends on how that person’s life is in regard to others in the territory. At a minimal level, the state’s responsibility is to make sure only that no person or identifiable group has substantially less than others in the territory. But, it was quite a while before the UN held any state accountable for failing to meet even this minimal level of human rights claim.

The UN’s Declaration of the universality of human rights was initially little more than declaration. “Only two years after the Charter was adopted, the UN Commission on Human Rights formally declared that it could not act on any reported complaints about violations of human rights. The commission refused to compromise the absolute sovereign authority of states.”[20] 

However, over the next 40 years, the UN and NGOs (Non-governmental Organizations) began to work together to formally and informally put pressure on nations that violated human rights. Human rights have begun to be recognized, slowly, ever so slowly, as a legitimate standard for intervention in another nation’s affairs. A new global understanding is emerging that governments are required to be just toward their subjects. The list of UN sanctioned humanitarian interventions in the late 20th Century show has the absolute sovereignty of the hard borders era has dissolved.

The recognition of internal justice as a basic responsibility of a recognized ruling body, means that a state can forfeit its legitimacy through violations of human rights. In the philosopher Allen Buchanan’s words, “To be legitimate, a political order must exemplify a common good conception of justice according to which every individual’s good is to count...Therefore, a legitimate political order must respect the basic human rights.”[21]

The legitimacy of a state can be measured by the citizens’ ability to make changes within it. Within what Buchanan calls “minimal democracy,” state legitimacy is based on the following criteria: “(1) there are representative, majoritarian institutions for making the most general laws, such that no competent adult is excluded from participation, (2) the highest government officials are accountable, that is, subject to being removed from office through the workings of these representative institutions, and (3) at least a minimal amount of freedom of speech and association are secured  for reasonable deliberation about democratic decisions.” [22]

Within an understanding of statehood based on justice, states must include in their documents of formation methods for changing the government itself. It must be possible for citizens within a legitimate state to strip the current leadership of its right to govern. If citizens have this power, then it is automatically illegitimate for a state to have its right to govern extinguished by any other means. Otherwise, external intervention on behalf of a people or a government is sometimes morally acceptable.

What we have seen since 9/11 is an even greater softening of national boundaries to yield the harboring of terrorists as yet another U.N. justification for violating state sovereignty and for nation’s suppression of individual human rights.

Not surprisingly, terrorism unites U.N. member states as no other issue has. In October, 2001, an overwhelming number of states joined in a five day discussion on the problem of terrorism. “It is unprecedented in the history of the United Nations for 167 Member States and 4 Observers to participate in the debate on a single agenda item,” said Assembly President Han Seung-soo of the Republic of Korea. He added that all participants had “wholeheartedly condemned the 11 September attacks against the United States.”[23] While unprecedented, global agreement on this issue is not surprising. It would be irrational for legitimate governments not to agree on the threat of terrorism. Armed attack by non-nation-sanctioned zealot combatants threatens the legitimacy of all nations.

Despite the dissolving of hard borders between nations and the growing strength of the U.N., U.S. governmental rhetoric in response to the attacks of 9/11 continue to be strongly nationalistic. It is in the interest of recognized governments have its citizens continue to believe in the myth of nations with hard borders and the ability of individual national governments to protect their citizens against any threat. It is the obligation of news media to reject that myth.


The Role of the Press in Reporting State Actions

I’ll start the concluding section of my argument with the assertion that journalism is a global enterprise in that it penetrates beyond national boundaries and that it is an intentional or unintentional player in conflict situations. CNN and Al-Jazeera are at least as much a part of the global politics as is the U.N. Among other things, networks are used to provide platforms for significant parties to conflict.

According to journalist Nic Gowing, “Technology has facilitated the globalisation of the news business. In TV, international news channels like CNN, BBC World, and NBC Superchannel are lined up for battle on what this author has labelled the new Wild West broadcasting frontier via satellite and cable. In theory, this situation should allow comprehensive coverage of global issues. Again, in theory, this coverage should include early warning of conflicts that have erupted in defiance of all diplomatic efforts...”[24]

Says journalism scholar Robert Picard, “ The importance of the press in the democratic process has been recognized since the seventeenth century. The need to permit individuals to freely exchange ideas and information in order to promote the public interest was regularly posited by democratic theorists.”[25]

While McDonalds and CNN are both worldwide U.S. exports, the corporations have different social responsibilities. News organizations have and obligation to offer, at a minimum, information that can be used by citizens for self-governance. To fulfil this purpose, the information must be balanced, accurate, relevant and complete. As I’ve written elsewhere, the journalistic knowledge that comes from the observing, mediating, and producing process is different, in kind, from scientific knowledge.[26] Presentations of journalistic knowledge are more like slide shows to science’s landscape paintings. What counts at the moment as balanced, accurate, relevant and complete coverage is not likely to be the same at the end of a 24 hour news cycle.

In order to do their special job of educating citizens during conflict, news organizations should provide citizens with a global rather than a nationalistic perspective. Reporting from a global perspective includes providing historical and cultural context for the views expressed by governmental leaders. It includes providing the perspective of our enemies as clearly as possible, as that is the only way that citizens can truly understand the motives of those who would attack us. Reporting from a global perspective also includes the requirement that news media seek language that provides citizens alternatives to and context for governmental rhetoric. It includes the need for journalists to refrain from being the nation’s cheerleaders. I’ll conclude by examining these last two aspects in turn. 

News organizations should not adopt governmental rhetoric or perspective as the sole way of understanding the conflict. News organizations have the responsibility to provide their audiences with messages that are alternative to governmental views. The purpose of providing alternatives is not to harm the impact of governmental messages, but to open those messages to broad examination and understanding. Support for governmental perspective, if warranted, will be stronger when citizens can understand that view against opposing alternatives. 

If news media build an independent rhetoric, news coverage could avoid the reflective strategy response that mirrors the terrorists. The U.S. government has created and “us vs. them, good vs. evil”  way of describing the crisis.

An alternative, non-reflective democratic rhetoric includes respect for the other, the goal of full information and intellectual honesty. Non-reflective rhetoric provides a way for news media to raise appropriate questions for governmental speakers by leading a conversation on how to judge the legitimacy of response rather than simply repeating governmental explanations for why a particular response is justified.  Doing so, according to scholar Richard Leeman, “would enact democracy, a valued process that, intrinsically, terrorism cannot embody. Democratic rhetoric would thus model the process of democracy, re-creating the values of democracy at the same time that it perhaps lessened the incidence of terrorism.”[27]

An example of non-reflective media coverage includes an article from November, 2001 in the New York Times. Here, the writer Barbara Crossette provided context for examination of U.S. strategy by quoting an authority who argued that excluding enemy voices breeds more terrorism.

In the article, a former undersecretary general of the U.N., Sir Brian Urquhart, who worked on early peace keeping missions in the Congo and Middle East, claimed that the U.S. was making a mistake in insisting that anyone associated with the Taliban be excluded from the process of rebuilding Afghanistan and that the U.N. was wrong in giving in to U.S. demands for this.

Urquhart called this exclusion reminiscent of early Mideast policy errors involving the PLO because the Taliban represents the Pashtun, Afghanistan’s largest ethnic group. “You can’t have a Middle East peace conference without including the PLO,” he said, “but that’s what we tried to do for 40 years and got into a hell of a mess. It’s an old old story. We don’t deal with somebody for supposedly moral gounds and then we get something infinitely worse. We wouldn’t deal with the PLO and now we’ve got Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Some element of the Taliban should be in these talks. They were the previous government, after all.”[28]

Reporting from a global perspective requires that journalists and news organizations refrain from being the nation’s cheerleaders. The mainstream coverage that followed 9/11 found the news industry in full patriotic garb. Newspapers carried flags. Television news anchors lapels sprouted ribbons and banners. Television news graphics rippled with red, white and blue and gave greater legitimacy to the administration’s pet phrases, “Attack on America,” and “War on Terrorism.”

As was the case with the 1991 Gulf War, journalistic rhetoric became more vehement as public approval rating for military intervention soared, which resulted in higher public approval both for the action and the media.  “On the Fox News Channel Tuesday (a week after the aerial attacks), the anchor Jon Scott told Wolfgang Ischinger, the German ambassador to the United States,” We look forward to working with your country in wiping out these terrorists.” On “Late Show with David Letterman,” the same day, CBS anchor Dan Rather said, “George Bush is the president, he makes the decisions, and, you know, as just one American, he wants me to line up, just tell me where.” [29] Steve Dunleavy from the New York Post wrote, “The response to this unimaginable 21st Century Pearl Harbor should be as simple as it is swift – kill the bastards......As for cities or countries that host these worms, bomb them into basketball courts.” Dave Kopel from the National Review wrote, “To prevent future attacks, the perpetrators of Tuesday’s infamies must be utterly destroyed, even if that means infringing the territorial sovereignty of nations which harbor these war criminals.” Charles Krauthammer from the Washington Post wrote, “War was long ago declared on us. Until we declare war in return, we will have thousands of more innocent victims.” [30] And, in a November 5 column, Newsweek columnist Jonathan Adler suggested that a way to deal with terrorists was to use legal forms of psychological torture at home and then transfer “some suspects to our less squeamish allies” for a taste of the real thing.[31]

Journalists, like people and nations everywhere, should be outraged by violent attacks on innocent civilians, no matter where they occur or who the attackers might be. But, for self-governance, citizens, of this country and all others, need news media to play a role different from that of outraged citizen or from national government trying to figure out its role in a changing world.  The appropriate role for news media in reporting 21st Century conflict necessitates distancing from a narrow, nationalistic perspective. The difference between who news media label “terrorists” and who they call “militants” should be a difference larger than the number and nationality of civilians killed in the World Trade Center and those killed on the streets of Jerusalem.







[1] Gert, B. (1998). Morality, Its Nature and Justification, pp. 362-371. New York: Oxford University Press.


[2] Elliott, D. (1986). “Foundations of Press Responsibility,” in Deni Elliott, (ed), Responsible Journalism. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Press.


[3] Stremlau, J. (1998) People in Peril, Human Rights, Humanitarian Action, and Preventing Deadly Conflict. A Report to the Carnegie Commission on Preventing Deadly Conflict. (New York: The Carnegie Corporation), p.25.


[4] Nation, nation-state, and state are used as synonymous terms in this paper.


[5] Copp, D. (1998). “The Idea of a Legitimate State.” Philosophy & Public Affairs. V. 28, N. 1, pp. 3-45; p. 3.


[6] Copp, p. 45.


[7] Buchanan, A. (1998). “Recognitional Legitimacy and the State System.” Philosophy & Public Affairs. V. 28, N. 1, pp. 46-78; p.  49.


[8] Hobbes, Thomas.(1651) Leviathan.


[9] Grotius, Hugo (1625) On the Law of War and Peace.


[10] Kant, Immanuel. (1795). Perpetual Peace


[11] Stremlau, p. 8

[12] Goldman, Al. (1982). “The Moral Significance of National Boundaries,” pp. 437-543 in Peter A. French, Theordore E. Uehling, Jr., and Howard K. Wettstein, eds., Midwest Studies in Philosophy VII. (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press), p. 441


[13] Stremlau, p. 14.


[15] Hume, David (1758). Of the Original Contract. Essays, Moral, Political and Literary


[16] Hobbes, ibid.


[17] Locke, John. (1690). Two Treatises of Government.


[18] Universal Declaration of Human Rights.


[19] Hutchins, 1998.


[20] Korey, W. (1996). Human Rights and NGO’s: The Power of Persuasion. A Report to the Carnegie Commission on Preventing Deadly Conflict. (New York: The Carnegie Corporation), p. 153.


[21] Buchanan, p. 53


[22] Buchanan, p. 60


[24] Gowing, N. (1997) Media Coverage, Help or Hinderance in Conflict Prevention? A Report to the Carnegie Commission on Preventing Deadly Conflict. (New York: The Carnegie Corporation), p. 25. 


[25] Picard, R. (1985). The Press and the Decline of Democracy. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press., p. 12


[26] Elliott, D. (1996). “Journalistic Research,” Accountability in Research Journal. Vol 4, pp. 103-114.


[27] Leeman, R. (1991). The Rhetoric of Terrorism and Counterterrorism. New York: Greenwood Press, p. 115.


[28] Crossette, B. (2001). “How To Put a Nation Back Together Again,” The New York Times, 11/25.


[29] Rutenberg, J. and Bill Carter (2001). “Draping Newscasts With the Flag”. The New York Times, September 20, p. C8.


[30] Kurtz, Howard. (2001) “Commentators Are Quick to Beat Their Pens into Swords”. The Washington Post. 9/13.