The Representation of Terror and Moral Panics: The Media Frames of the European press

  • Emanuela Pece University of Salerno


People’s attitudes and behaviours are influenced by their perception of Others and expectations towards them, in connection with their social and cultural context. These dynamics are strongly influenced by the information transmitted by the mass media, in their dual role as both mediators of reality and opinion leaders. Sometimes, the information transmitted can be a “distorted reflection†of reality; for example, news about terrorist attacks by more or less organized groups or the murderous anger of a single individual (in our cases, a motor vehicle rammed into the crowd) often serve as a sounding board for certain social issues, such as crime and security for people and communities. This work aims at illustrating, through an analysis on media frames (both iconographic and textual), which types of representations the European press offers to its readers in the narration of certain events linked to terrorism and how such representations can affect (or not) the creation of generalized alarm phenomena (moral panics).


Bastiani, D. (2012). Terrorismo e media. La comunicazione del terrore. Informazioni della Difesa, 2, 36-43.

Boudon, R. (1977). Effects pervers et ordre social. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France.

Cosenza, G. (a cura di) (2007). Semiotica della comunicazione politica. Rome: Carocci.

Farci, M. (2006). Il nemico sotto la pelle. In V. Giordano &. S. Mizzella (eds.), Aspettando il nemico (pp. 218-241). Rome: Meltemi.

Glaser, B. & Strauss, A. (1967). The Discovery of Grounded Theory. Strategies for Qualitative Research. Chicago: Aldine.

Gerbner, G. & Gross, L. & Morgan, M. & Signorielli, N. (2002) Growing up with television: Cultivation processes. In J. Bryant & V.D. Zillmann, Media effects: Advances in theory and research (pp. 43-67). Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Gili, G. (2009). Modelli di interazione culturale. In F. Monceri & G. Gili (eds.), Comprendersi o no. Significati e pratiche della comunicazione interclturale (pp. 15-36). Rome: Aracne.

Hilgartner, S. & Bosk, C. (1988). The Rise and Fall of Social Problems: A Public Arenas Model. American Journal of Sociology, 94, 53-78.

Maneri, M. (2001). Il panico morale come dispositivo di trasformazione dell’insicurezza. Rassegna Italiana di Sociologia. 1, 5-40.

Mangone, E. (2015). La comunicazione del rischio, i rischi della comunicazione. In A.S.A. Barbieri & E. Mangone, Il rischio tra fascinazione e precauzione (pp. 137-151). Milan: FrancoAngeli

Mangone, E & Pece, E. (2017). I media e la traduzione degli eventi in moral panics: la comunicazione del terrore. Comunicazioni sociali, 2, 344-356

McCombs, M. & Shaw, D. (1972). The agenda-setting function of mass media. Public Opinion Quarterly, 36, 176-187.

Morcellini, M. (2015). Tra media e terrorismo manca la società . Comunicazione punto doc, 13, 9-17.

Papuzzi, A. (2010). Professione giornalista. Le tecniche, i media, le regole. Rome: Donzelli Editore.

Pece, E. (2018). The Representations of Migrants in the European Newspapers: A comparison of Words and Media frames. In G. Truda & J. Spurk (eds.), On Migrants Routes in the Mediterranean. Political and Juridical Strategies (pp. 163-177). Fisciano: ICSR Mediterranean Knowledge,

Reese, S.D. (2001). Prologue – Framing public life: a bridging model for media research. In S.D. Reese, O.H. Gandy & A.E. Grant (eds.), Framing public life: perspectives on media and our understanding of social world (pp. 7-31). Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Silverman, D. (2000). Doing Qualitative Research. A Pratical Guide. London: Sage.

Stephan, W. G. & Stephan, C.W. (1996). Predicting Prejudice. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 55, 729-743.

Tuchman, G. (1978). Making news: a study in the construction of reality. New York: The Free Press.

Žižek, S. (2005). Welcome to the desert of the America (sub)culture! An Essay on Abu Ghraib and Related Topics. New York: Verso.

Wolf, M. (2001). Teoria delle comunicazioni di massa. Rome: Bompiani.