This bonkers move from the tabloid press proves they’ve totally lost the plot over ISIS (IMAGE)

Support us and go ad-free

The household tabloid the Daily Star has forecast a zombie apocalypse at the hands of ISIS (Daesh), highlighting the ridiculous fearmongering by the media:

isis zombies


In a laughable attempt to substantiate their story, they cite Dr Arnold T. Blumberg:

The spread of a virus that could depersonalise human beings into rabid killers is conceivable.

In the epitome of blowing Daesh out of proportion, the Daily Star presents the argument that because such an idea is “conceivable” it is worth reporting on. By that logic, we could write the story: ‘ISIS could be farming cows that produce toxic milk to poison your cheddar’. That is conceivable, too.

Blumberg teaches pop culture college courses and is known as the ‘Doctor of the Dead’. The distinction between Blumberg’s fiction and the non-fiction of Daesh is apparently irrelevant to the article.

Read on...

Support us and go ad-free

The Daily Star’s piece is a more striking example of the mainstream media, in the west, losing the plot over Daesh. However, what seems to be irrelevant to the general coverage on Daesh that we consume daily, is the wider context and the facts that are obscured in the process. While Daesh does commit unspeakable atrocities that we condemned, the surrounding context is vital. For example, the UK’s ally, Saudi Arabia, beheaded 47 people in one day last month.

According to a poll by YouGov late last year, 14% of Britons think there is:

a very or fairly high chance of a family member or friend being killed or wounded in a terrorist attack.

While, a series of polls in the US in December found that many people consider terrorism their highest concern, trumping issues like the economy or health.

However, this chart produced by The Intercept puts the threat of terrorism into perspective:

intercept terrorismPerhaps the most staggering comparison here is that, in the US, more people are crushed by their own furniture every single year, than have been killed by Muslim extremists in the past 14 years. That new table set from Ikea is literally more of a threat to you than terrorists.

In America, only 26 people have been killed by Islamic extremists since 9/11. This is fewer than the amount of people who die every year from lightning. For additional perspective, the chance of being struck by lightning in the US is a whopping 1 in 960,000.

While this chart concerns America, it shows that the threat from terrorism is in fact incredibly low in Western countries. It cannot be overstated how low it really is. This reality is distant from the beliefs of people in the UK. The YouGov poll found that only 13% of people in the UK thought the threat from terrorism is “almost non-existent”.

The psychology of negative news

Why do humans seem more susceptible to negative news, like stories about Daesh? A common notion in psychology is that of ‘negativity bias’. It’s the idea that humans have a natural tendency to be struck more by negative, rather than positive information. So, when two equally emotional news stories are presented, the negative one is more likely to leap out at the reader, as shown by this experiment.

This can be explained as a modern manifestation of our need for self-preservation. Threats are always negative, so monitoring negative information is more likely to keep you alive. As psychologist Tom Stafford said:

Bad news could be a signal that we need to change what we’re doing to avoid danger.

Despite Daesh and other negative news often not being a threat to us, our brains still initially interpret the information from the perspective of survival and therefore it has more of an impact on us.

Hence, negative news tends to sell better than positive news, meaning that profit-seeking outlets are more likely to report on it. This is part of the reason threats, like the threat posed by Daesh, are blown out of proportion.

How the government instrumentalises fear

‘Terrorism’ has become a hot-button issue that the government instrumentalises at will in order to pass through legislation the public would usually object to. For example, Theresa May’s planned authoritarian ‘investigatory powers bill’ would make mass surveillance of citizens legal, in a huge invasion of our privacy. May uses terrorism to justify this bill:

The ability to intercept the contents of communications in order to acquire sensitive intelligence to tackle terrorist plots and serious and organised crimes.

Yet, the reality of the terrorist threat is minuscule: you are much more likely to be killed by bees, wasps or hornets. It does not warrant such draconian domestic measures. This leads us to the conclusion that terrorism is merely a convenient pretext, allowing the government to legally erode the right to privacy for law-abiding British citizens.

The government knows fear can subvert mindful analysis; a person worried about dangers to their family will more readily give up their liberties if promised it will ensure their safety.

In short, while the Daily Star article is ridiculous, it is incremental to a wider climate of out of proportion media coverage. The government and media both gain from our tendency to be struck by negative news: The media outlets sell more publications while the government uses the fear- spread by themselves, and the media, to gain more control over the citizens, like with the ‘investigatory powers bill’.

The media has turned Daesh into a greater mythical entity than it really is, capable of embodying any fear, even that of a zombie apocalypse. This is despite the less well-known terrorist group, Boko Haram, actually murdering more people.

In a world where we are bombarded by stories about Daesh every day, we must uphold rationale over our visceral reactions, or we will end up giving up our civil liberties for nothing.

Get involved!

Support the Canary so we can deliver the context that matters.

Write to your MP, asking why the threat of terrorism is overstated.

Pledge to take direct action!

Featured image via Google commercial images.

Support us and go ad-free

We need your help to keep speaking the truth

Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.

Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.

We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.

In return, you get:

* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop

Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.

With your help we can continue:

* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do

We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?

The Canary Support us

Comments are closed