War Journalism 101: 

Have you ever wondered why wars and terrorism are mentioned so heavily in the nightly news and morning papers? Sometimes I get so tired of seeing such negative headlines, it is really unsettling. There is a reason as to why it is often of negative context and there is a purpose to such reporting. An influencing factor as to why this is the case, can be referred to as the Military Industrial Complex or MIC for short. This blog piece will describe MIC, the relevance of the term today and finally, I will provide five “hot tips” for future journalists as to how they can ensure the longevity of war and terrorist reporting, as ‘correspondence of war news is critical and relied upon’ (Tuosto, 2008). So who exactly benefits from such communications?

Screen Shot 2016-06-08 at 9.41.09 AM

Source: (Terrorism headline, 2015)

Firstly, let me start by saying I don’t blame you if you haven’t heard this term before, as it is a concept that is not addressed in the media as it would be bringing up the functions behind major corporations, politics and the economy moreover. Military Industrial Complex can be defined as the “powerful alliance of the military, government agencies, and corporations involved in the defence industry. Each sector has an interest, either financial or strategic, in expanding the government’s arms budget” (McLean & McMillian, 2009).

MIC is the system that surrounds wars in relation to strategic money being spent on relevant companies. For example the government give the military money, to spend on defence technology, that is purchased off corporations, that people in the government may have part ownership of. It is a cycle of spending that creates a mutual relationship, in which all of the major players including government, corporations and military all benefit. So how do they get away with this without society blinking? One influencing factor is the media. Media keeps society busy through the use of fear.

Moreover, Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria are just a few of the wars that I can recall from my media consumption over the past 15 years and I am sure this goes for many other Australians or ‘Westerners’. These topics in the media, ramp up societal fears, which then allows for justification and reasoning with governmental purchases and participation in wars and protection against the ‘terrorist’. Furthermore it could be said that through manipulating our sense of fear via the media, players in MIC are getting the results they want from the system.

In continuation, the costs of war project conducted by Brown University updated in 2015, found that ‘the war in Iraq, cost the U.S. government $4.4 trillion dollars’ (Brown, 2015). Most of this money is spent on inventions and military technology, purchased from private companies such as ‘Hewlett Packard and Boeing’ (Lee & Johnson, 2012). In 2015, the Australian Government noted “$31 billion dollars” (McPhedran, 2015) in the Federal Budget for military expenses. How do government’s convince the public that this kind of spending is justifiable? Journalist, Matt Carr discusses “how Military futurists are providing a justification for endless global war against enemies that may never exist. In doing so, they are laying the foundations for a militarised and weaponised future, even as they shape the wars and conflicts of the present” (Carr, 2016). Terrorism is the war of today and provides a very convenient enemy to talk about in the media.

Similarly, stepping away from the major players in MIC, we need to consider our own actions as the consumers of media. I can only speak for myself however it may align to you also. I am subject to only reading about wars as decided by the media. The wars and terror threats I know about are the ones I may become a victim in, even though that chance of that is one in millions. Are the media manipulating our sense of fear, therefore getting results governments and corporations want from the MIC system? It is obvious that the fear effect in journalism works as a simple Google search of trends with terms such as terrorist (blue) and terrorism (red) in English language texts portray a serious spike over recent years.


Source: (Google Trends, 2016)

There is no denying that war and terrorist attacks are very serious issues, many people die from these horrific events and they need to be taken seriously by governments and military. Major terrorist attacks in the West such as 9/11 in the US, the London bombings, the Madrid train bombings or the Sydney Siege has evoked fear in society. The constant discussions around terrorism and war frighten society.

Screen Shot 2016-06-08 at 9.48.48 AM

Source: (SBS, Sydney Seige Image)

However keep in mind that constant discussion around such events is only benefiting individuals and corporations behind the military industrial complex. Continuation of such reporting will only enable this relationship to blossom. For now MIC is here to stay so to journalists out there, here are five “tips” to ensure you only mention relevant wars to keep the acts of MIC alive and strong.

Tip 1: Elicit fear in your readers. Make sure you do address the following terms in your piece… Terrorist, Muslim, ISIL, threat, danger, bomb, attack and hazard to society.

Tip 2: Only mention wars from the Middle East.

Tip 3: Convey the danger present to the western society if the militaries were not present to support and protect them.

Tip 4: Highlight ones own country, and the military power they have. Discuss new technology, new machinery or state of the art purchases to re-assure your readers.

Tip 5: If all else fails, throw the word ISIL or ISIS in to the piece to ramp up the fear factor.

If you would like to know any more about the Military- Industrial complex, I have created a YouTube video, which further details this theory.

Furthermore the film “Why We Fight” is an excellent documentary I found out about through peers Emma and Ashleigh, which is an excellent resource outlining the nature of MIC, particularly in the US.


So, now that you know a little background to MIC, how it happens and why, what do you think? Please feel free to comment below if you have any thoughts around the Military-Industrial complex.

Honour statement:
Thanks to Jonathan, Jenny and my peers from BCM390 for helping me edit this blog. I found a documentary resource via peers Emma Jackson and Ashleigh Mills during their weekly presentation on MIC. Thank you to the BCM390 class and Brian for constant encouragement throughout the semester.

Carr, Matt. “Slouching Towards Dystopia: The New Military Futurism”. sage 41.3 (2016): 13-32. Web. 11 Apr. 2016.<http://rac.sagepub.com.ezproxy.uow.edu.au/content/51/3/13.full.pdf+html>

“Costs Of War”. Watson.brown.edu. N.p., 2015. Web. 20 Mar. 2016.

Eloise Lee, Robert Johnson, 2012. “The 25 Biggest Defence Companies In America”. Business Insider Australia. N.p., 2012. Web. 28 Mar. 2016.

Eugene Jarecki, 2005, ‘Why We Fight’, documentary film, BBC Storyville. < https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o-X-PEjZhus>

Google trends. ‘Terrorist & Terrorism compare search terms’, Viewed May 19, 2016. <https://www.google.com.au/trends/explore#q=terroist%2C%20terroism&cmpt=q&tz=Etc%2FGMT-10>

Image, 2015, ‘terrorism headline’, <https://blogs.glowscotland.org.uk/sl/oystercatcher/files/2015/11/newspaper-with-terrorism-headline.jpg&gt;

McLean I & McMillian A 2009. ‘Oxford concise dictionary of Politics, 3rd edition’, Oxford University Press, New York.

Mcphedran, I, 2015. ‘Fedral Budget 2015: Defence spending hits $31.8 billion’, News.com. Viewed, May 16, 2016 < http://www.news.com.au/finance/economy/federal-budget/federal-budget-2015-defence-spending-hits-318-billion/news-story/54b29589ffa3f53debc299e5cd696698>

Murphy, K, 2011. ‘Is Homeland Security spending paying off?’. LA Times, 28 August 2011. Viewed May 18, 2016 < http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-911-homeland-money-20110828-story.html>

PGPF.ORG, 2016 “U.S. Defense Spending Compared To Other Countries”. Pgpf.org. N.p., 2016. Web. 20 Mar. 2016.

SBS, 2014.’Sydney Seige’, Image. <http://www.sbs.com.au/news/sites/sbs.com.au.news/files/20141215001076415632-original.jpg&gt;

Shariatmadari, D, 2015, ‘Is it time to stop using the word ‘terrorist’?’, The Guardian, January 28, 2015, viewed 18 May, 2016. < http://www.theguardian.com/global/commentisfree/2015/jan/27/is-it-time-to-stop-using-the-word-terrorist>

Tuosto, K. 2008. The “Grunt Truth” of embedded journalism: the new media/military relationship. Stanford Journal of International Relations. America. pp. 3-14.< https://web.stanford.edu/group/sjir/pdf/journalism_real_final_v2.pdf>



Author: abbeycubit

I am a 22 year old, currently based in Sydney, Australia. I am working in a Media Agency and am a recent University graduate. I have a love for travel, sweet potato and books. I hope you enjoy my blog xx

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