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This
book is about power. Power, according to Altheide, can be defined as the
ability to define a situation for self and others. Altheide emphasizes this
point from the first line of this book. According to Altheide, social power and mass media play a key
role in constructing social life and work to construct what is known as the politics of fear. By the politics of fear, Altheide refers to the
decision makers use of the beliefs and assumptions of a group of people about
danger, risk and fear to achieve their own goals. Mass media is a key element of
information and social control because it works make fear a part of everyday
life, language and point of view. Altheide’s approach to this project is based
on symbolic interactionism and the social construction of reality and
illustrates how symbolic meanings about safety, danger, and fear can lead to
major institutional changes and even war. This book starts by emphasizing the
basic assumption that the most important thing someone can know about another
person is what they take for granted. Altheide explains how this furthers the
understanding of the careful consideration of culture and symbolic construction
of meaning that are produced by a few and shared by many. He also makes the
assumption that the meaning of these things drives people to action or inaction.
These meanings are resulting through a communication process that involves
symbols and images. Altheide also emphasizes that mass media and popular
culture, such as TV, radio, newspapers, movies, video games and conversations
with people who are informed by these, are the major sources of information for
most people about events when they do not have direct experience. The
experiences that are had through mass media produces a language and perspective
for viewing events within daily lives of individuals and many of the
experiences that take place in these daily lives are consistent with messages
from media.

Altheide’s
plan for the book focuses on the war on terrorism after the events of September
11, 2001. He focuses on how fear has become incorporated into political
decisions, language, and much of everyday life. In chapter one, Altheide offers
a summary how his book. In chapter two, he focuses on the social reality of
fear. In this chapter, he provides an overview of the rise of fear politics in
America and how it is experienced in daily life by force and social control and
the growing acceptance of both. In chapter three, he gives an explanation of
how social media forms the perspective of the knowledge and information that is
shared. Chapter four illustrates how news coverage of war and crime work to
create a sense of danger and risk in everyday life. Chapter five describes how
the coverage and mass communications of crime and terrorism work to create a
sense nationalism based on fear after the attacks of September 11. Chapter six
further argues how the terrorist attacks of 9/11 were socially constructed
through media to cement a feeling of fear and victimization within the
audience. In chapter seven, reflects that fear is used as a form of social
control and how despite the promise of Internet security, there still lies
heavy surveillance and monitorization. Chapter eight discusses that the social
control of fear and propaganda is used as a means to justify the American
invasion of Iraq. Chapter nine follows this discussion by highlighting how mass
media and propaganda constructed a hero to fight terrorism. Finally, chapter
ten summaries how viewing the politics of fear through the perspective of mass
media is created and how it is linked to the social construction of the Iraq
War.

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The concept, symbolic interactionism, is the study of how face-to-face interactions,
meanings, and symbols help people negotiate the meaning of
social life during their interactions with others (Rohall
et al. 2014, p. 13).
Altheide uses this concept as a means of finding information for his study. By using
symbolic interaction, Altheide explains that reality can begin to become
socially constructed. The symbolic meanings illustrate issues about safety,
danger and fear that highly impact the world at large, such as having movement
toward war. Altheide found that these symbols can be defined by how the mass
media promotes them to its audience. Through the use of propaganda, the mass
media utilizes the fear of its audience to create a narrative of victimhood and
nationalism which are used to justify the actions of American invasion of Iraq
following September 11.   

After reading this book, I have begun to realize how September 11 has reshaped our
nation. My generation has a unique perspective on how the attacks have
shaped America. I was five years old when 9/11 took place and I had just been
dropped off at school for the day and remember only an hour later being sent back
home. I grew up seeing us fight two wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and hearing news
reports about terrorist plots. I cannot remember a time when boarding an
airplane did not involve various scannings, searches, and limitations on what
we could pack. I even remember where I was and what I was doing when Osama bin
Laden was killed by American forces, even though I still did not know much of his
importance, just that he hated America. The events of September 11 and the fear
that followed it will always have an impact on my life even if I will never be
able to fully comprehend the emotions that gripped the nation in the aftermath.
This book helps to shed light on the sense of fear instilled in many American
who can remember a time before 9/11 and how that fear can be made by the decisions
of those in charge through the mass media.

Despite this book being
over ten years old, it still holds strong relevance to day’s situation. Since the
publication of this book, the use of fear politics in regard to terrorism in
the United States. Since the events of September 11 fear has overwhelmed America
and the beginning of the Trump administration has only made it worse. The increase
of the mass media plays a huge role in this. When this book was written, the
largest means of communication was through television. However, with the addition
of the Internet and phones that allow you to use the Internet in any place
time, the means of communication have only increased. This increase of
communication is beneficial to us as a society, however, it is also harmful as
it also allows an increase in fear politics. Through the Internet, people have
access to many forms of news, but with the growth of the Internet is has become
harder and harder to identify whether the news that is received is truthful or not. 

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