Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Bin Laden Story

As I'm sure we all know, as of May 1st, 2011, almost 10 years after the tragedy that was 9/11 took place, Osama Bin Laden had been killed. This story, whether good or bad, has taken the media world by storm. Headlines, news shows, and journalism specials galore have devoted much coverage to this revolutionary event. But in this climate of questions, where the media is our only source of information, how can we know who to trust? Each news story has a carefully selected vocabulary of words, painting a different picture of what really happened that day in Pakistan, and what this controversial death means for both the United States and other countries. Here, I'm going to take a look at two very contrasting news sources, the Fox News and Al Jazeera, to compare what they have to say on this hot topic in current events.

Fox News - American Source
Chairman & CEO: Rupert Murdoch

Although this article is very short, as it was published the night of Bin Laden's death for the purpose of providing basic information, I chose it because the language used in it really stood out to me. The article has a very basic message in terms of its story, saying that Bin Laden was confirmed dead by President Obama, and giving simple details on the attack itself, the crowds outside the White House, and the other attacks Al-Qaeda is responsible for. The article is clearly told from the American point of view, not even mentioning Pakistan once, either as the location of the killing or as an accomplice in the attack. Though this article is trying to be informative, it doesn't do a great job because the author made sure to put in his or her opinions, and left out some very important facts in the story.

The article constructs Bin Laden in an extremely negative way, which would be expected, as he is allegedly responsible for the deaths of many Americans - but that's just the thing, Osama Bin Laden has never been fully proven as the face behind 9/11. Sure there has been speculation, and Bin Laden has openly admitted to being at war with the United States, but Fox News is incorrect as they refer to Bin Laden as "the glowering mastermind" behind Sept. 11. They continue this negative characterization by listing previous attacks Al-Qaeda is alleged to be involved in, which serve no other purpose in the article except to make Bin Laden seem much worse of person, and falsely link him to other tragedies. In contrast, this article constructs Obama as a national and global hero, noting him as the leader of the operation that killed Bin Laden and quoting his words that, "justice has been done."

One very striking thing about this article from Fox News is how they describe and construct events. They over-dramatize everything, calling the president's speech a "dramatic late-night statement," and citing 9/11 as the event that led to "America's entire intelligence apparatus [being] overhauled to counter...terror attacks at home." They bring in irrelevant information about other American terror attacks, and blame the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq directly on 9/11, when this is a topic that has received much skepticism. This article's message disadvantages Pakistan, never crediting them for any help in the attacks, and also disadvantages Americans, in the sense the they are being fed half-truths. If this message is accepted, it will further boost the American pride in believing they have saved the world and it will lead citizens to feel as though the war on terror is over, when in reality, it may only just be beginning.

Al Jazeera - International Source
Owned by: Oatar Media Corporation
Chairman: Sheikh Hamad bin Thamer Al Thani; Editor-in-Chief: Ahmed Sheikh

This article is one we looked at in class, and I chose it since it stood out for its almost positive Osama Bin Laden construction. This is not just an article, as it is entitled, "Obituary," implying that Bin Laden lived a life worth being looked back on and commemorated. The tag line sets the tone for what is to come, reading "With his long beard and wistful expression, Bin Laden was one of the most instantly recognisable people on earth." The article continues on to explain Osama's life story, and features information on his family life and becoming a radical. This article provides a huge contrast to the one from Fox News, as it is told from the perspective of Bin Laden supporters, and paints an image of a man fighting for his beliefs.

Al Jazeera, in this particular article, constructs Bin Laden as just a normal guy who decided to become a leader to rebel against the evils of the world. By going into detail about Bin Laden's family life (i.e. losing his father at a young age, his wives and children), the author does a great job of making Osama seem more human, and provides a way for people to sympathize with a man who is really a terrorist. The article also gives a neutral/bordering on positive characterization of Al-Qaeda. They never refer to them as a terrorist group, and only ever say they were blamed for certain attacks, making them out as always the victim and never the bully.

If this article's message is accepted, both Al-Qaeda and Osama supporters will gain backing, as this is basically an advertisement for Middle East terrorism. It chooses its language so carefully because it never directly says "Osama is awesome," but words like "leader," "champion," and "wistful" have strong connations of supporting what Bin Laden stands for. This article does not show all sides of the story, which is a common fault in media, and therefore disadavantages readers from receiving the truth about what is going on in the world. When articles are so biased as this one, it is hard to know who we can believe and where to turn to for answers.

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