The Terrorist in Us All… and Public Sphere

pope-francisThere has been lengthy discussion this week about the inherent nature of digital media being politicized, gendered, and a faulted platform on which individuals can attack one another. So, religion. (That is the best segue I could devise…)

This week, Pope Francis said that journalism can be a form of terrorism if used inappropriately, specifically when used to relay gossip, rumors, and stereotypes. Spreading rumors is an example of “terrorism, of how you can kill a person with your tongue,” he said. “This is even more true for journalists because their voice can reach everyone and this is a very powerful weapon.” My first thought was fear. Fear to ever step in Old Main again. I mean, first the Campus Carry and now our undergraduates are being tactically trained to be future terrorists?!?! But I digress…

If we take what Pope Francis is suggesting as fact, this illustrates the Public Sphere in a dramatic fashion. The ability to reach a global audience at a moment’s notice is both a blessing and a curse. Terrorism or not, there are negatives that are associated with online media, and taking power away from the elites has not alleviated the political nature of media. Habermas and Pope Francis may have disagreed on one aspect, however. While Pope Francis suggests that the primary digital terrorists are journalists, Haberman may have proposed the general public may cause greater damage based on their right to express and publish their opinions. But if opinions are a directly related to terrorists, I am going to prison.

Perhaps a more accurate analysis would be digital media users and journalists alike have the potential to publish potentially hurtful content. Though this definition is rather obvious and dull, I feel that “terrorist” is an aggressive, unfitting term to describe creating content based on opinion and rumors. While it might be unfair and/or dicey at times, I agree with Haberman; it is our public right. I feel that Pope Francis may have been on the right track this week, but he may have missed the overarching issue at hand. Journalists are no more terrorists than you or I, or any digital media content creator for that matter. What do you think?

This has been Michael Coker, and I am proud to be a terrorist? There must be a better way to say that…

Check out the article about Pope Francis here.

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