Non-monolithic analysis of Islam and terrorism in Australian press (1990-2015)
thesisposted on 29.03.2022, 01:55 authored by Mirko Pavlovic
Since 9/11, the mass media space in Western countries, including Australia, is heavily populated with news on terrorism that is linked to the Middle East, Islam, and Muslims. While research on Western media reporting on Islam and terrorism—providing negative representations of Islam—is not uncommon, studies examined in the process are qualitative in nature, relying on interviews and select newspaper content; and inadvertently their findings support Edward Said’s Orientalism theory. Mindful of Orientalism, this study sets out to establish whether there is quantitative evidence supporting the qualitative studies on reporting on Islam and terrorism.This thesis undertakes post-positivist quantitative content analysis of newspaper articles published in Australian newspapers from 1990 to 2015, using the largest national daily (The Australian), the largest daily metropolitan/state broadsheet (The Sydney Morning Herald), and the largest daily tabloid (Herald Sun). In this regard, article frequency containing specified keywords were contrasted between the periods 1990–2000 and 2001–2015; and article frequencies were benchmarked against frequencies of actual recorded terrorist activities (via the Global Terrorist Database), as measured through the number of attacks and the number of killed and wounded in the attacks. The data presented in the thesis indicates that most terrorist groups do not adhere to an Islamist ideology, and most terrorist attacks between 1990 and 2015 were undertaken by non-Islamist terrorist groups. It also indicates that Jihadi-Takfiri Neo-Salafism (often broadly referred to as Salafism/Wahhabism), the minority Islamic ideology that has been espoused by al-Qaeda and ISIS, is linked to the majority of Islamist terrorist organisations and their attacks. The data also suggests significant changes in reporting levels on Islam and terrorism since 2001. The conclusions drawn from the post-positivist quantitative analysis suggest there is resonance between this nomothetic approach and ideographic approaches represented in prior qualitative studies on representation of Islam and terrorism in the Western press. In this regard, findings support Orientalist theory. Due to the nature of circulation of international news in the West, it is likely that similar results would be obtained in other Western countries, however this needs testing -- abstract.