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Framing The Fight Against Terror: Order Versus Liberty in the Mainstream and Alternative Media
Unformatted Document Text:  ICA-6-10348 4 different degrees to that mission, and more truly than the mainstream media, in ways that are often amazing, given their exceptionally meager resources” (p. 43). Other scholars have noted the affinity between alternative media and contentious social movements – the same forces that the mainstream press finds such difficulty covering sympathetically. In their 1995 study of media coverage of anarchist protests in Minneapolis, for example, Hertog and McLeod find (to their surprise) that the most powerful predictor of content differences between stories was whether the source was a mainstream or a radical one. This, they admit, was “not part of our original set of concerns” (p. 39) – a symptom of the neglect of alternative media in much of communication research. The “war against terrorism” as fought in Malaysia provides a setting for testing the hypothesis that threats to the status quo will be covered as deviant and socially threatening by the mainstream press, and more sympathetically in alternative media. Qualitative, textual analysis of articles in The New Straits Times (NST) and Malaysiakini shows clearly that these publications framed the same events in markedly different ways, as predicted by the literature. The period covered was January to June, 2002. All articles containing the keyword “KMM” were analyzed. These amounted to 34 NST articles (from the Nexis database) and 74 Malaysiakini articles (from its own online archive). The framing of militancy in The New Straits Times The KMM story was told by NST through four dominant frames, which are described below. National security In its page one report of January 5, NST quoted the inspector-general of police in the sixth paragraph as saying that the men arrested “were believed to be and were engaged in actions which could threaten national security”. Their plan involved using violent means to create an Islamic nation that would cover not only Malaysia but also Indonesia and the southern Philippines. Police suggested that KMM had links with

Authors: George, Cherian.
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ICA-6-10348
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different degrees to that mission, and more truly than the mainstream media, in ways that
are often amazing, given their exceptionally meager resources” (p. 43).
Other scholars have noted the affinity between alternative media and contentious
social movements – the same forces that the mainstream press finds such difficulty
covering sympathetically. In their 1995 study of media coverage of anarchist protests in
Minneapolis, for example, Hertog and McLeod find (to their surprise) that the most
powerful predictor of content differences between stories was whether the source was a
mainstream or a radical one. This, they admit, was “not part of our original set of
concerns” (p. 39) – a symptom of the neglect of alternative media in much of
communication research.
The “war against terrorism” as fought in Malaysia provides a setting for testing
the hypothesis that threats to the status quo will be covered as deviant and socially
threatening by the mainstream press, and more sympathetically in alternative media.
Qualitative, textual analysis of articles in The New Straits Times (NST) and Malaysiakini
shows clearly that these publications framed the same events in markedly different ways,
as predicted by the literature. The period covered was January to June, 2002. All articles
containing the keyword “KMM” were analyzed. These amounted to 34 NST articles
(from the Nexis database) and 74 Malaysiakini articles (from its own online archive).
The framing of militancy in The New Straits Times
The KMM story was told by NST through four dominant frames, which are
described below.
National security
In its page one report of January 5, NST quoted the inspector-general of police in
the sixth paragraph as saying that the men arrested “were believed to be and were
engaged in actions which could threaten national security”. Their plan involved using
violent means to create an Islamic nation that would cover not only Malaysia but also
Indonesia and the southern Philippines. Police suggested that KMM had links with


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