John Drew, assistant professor of communications, shared his perspective.

Sunday will mark 15 years since the September 11 attacks. In those 15 years since, the media’s representation of 9/11 has shaped the way we remember and think about the event, and the evolving media landscape is changing the way we think about 9/11—and terrorism more broadly, says John Drew, assistant professor of communications.

“What stands out to me with respect to how media representation of 9/11 has changed over the last 15 years is the media landscape itself,” he says. “The emergence of social media has made the media landscape more diverse, dynamic and participatory on behalf of the citizenry and the news consumer and as such, more traditional media sources have lost some power and control over the public’s perception over what lead to the events of that horrible day and how we’ve handled its aftermath.”

Drew notes that the same social media tools that we use to commemorate and heal after a terrorist attack today are the same ones that give terrorist organizations the power to recruit soldiers and digitally perpetuate their violent ideologies. “The highest levels of government across the globe are still trying to figure out how to intercept and drown out this messaging with anti-terror messaging of their own,” he says.

“Think about it: people on planes today have the power to livestream video from their cellphones in real time to anyone on the planet with an internet connection,” he continues. “This new technological power and digital agency helped propel the Arab Spring and topple authoritarian governments that had been in power for decades but it has also allowed for the emergence of ISIS, which is arguably the most media savvy terror organization the world has ever witnessed. As Marshall McLuhan famously argued, we are best off considering the medium before we set out to evaluate the message.”

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