Anxiety, Fear Mongering and The Media

Since the beginning fear and anxiety have been a basic fundamental emotion, established through evolution as we confronted threats it has served as a survival tool creating appropriate behavioural responses (Olsson, A. Phelps, E. A. 2007), and through these emotions we have established diverse belief systems as tools of comfort. However as civilisation developed and threats became to lessen our anxieties and fears began to change from immediate dangers to more superficial aspects created through the media. Our anxieties were further fumed when the media began to frame their stories around fear and establish what now is labelled ‘fear mongering.’ With this fear mongering, anxieties shifted towards cultural, racial and social predominately due to current international media coverage and content sharing.


These above images help illustrate how our anxieties have broadened and moved towards cultural and social issues, the dominating tabloid media outlet in Australia The Daily Telegraph expressed fear mongering headlines following the 2014 Sydney hostage crisis. These headlines were released immediately following the incident, prior to any evidence showing that any radical group or in particular the ISIS were involved, (Posetti, 2014). Subsequent media reporting continued to be ‘over the top’ and unethical, exploiting what became a sensitive incident resulted in the creation of anxiety and firmly placing it into the minds of the consumer, with tabloid readers being twice as concerned about crime than their broadsheet counterparts (Cozen, 2003).

Following 9/11 Australia hasn’t seen a media orientated view on terrorism with this scale, ISIS has provided the media with means to create anxiety as a concern that directly confronts Australians. Since the media’s increased interest in ISIS, opposition against Mosques have grown, with groups deeming them to be against ‘social and public interest’ (Gorrey. M. 2014). Further (ABC, 2014) reporting dramatic opposition against the Bendigo Mosque claiming “if you’re Muslim and you want a mosque, go back to the Middle East. This is Australia,” stating later that the council was doing nothing to protect the community from terrorism. This anxiety is directly correlated with the press causing fear, associating Islam and terrorism, just as the media associated South Americans and Asians with drug and human trafficking.

Just like sex, fear has shown its ability to sell papers, according to Dannah Boyd (2012) the media is sullied with fear to shape and develop public opinion. Given the dramatic increase of media through new technologies, media outlets are now battling for attention. Subsequently causing anxiety through fear, emotional and physical self esteem and cultural differences. While majority of this can be contributed to the media, many unfortunately hinge onto the media and that is an anxiety within itself, and perhaps the only group that can fix the media – is the media.


Boyd, D. (2012), The ethics of fear and how it undermines an informed citizenry,, retrieved 13.04.15

Cozens, C. (2003) Tabloids ‘stoke fear of crime” The Guardian, viewed 12.03.15

Gorrey. M. (2014). ‘Concerned Citizens of Canberra’ group continues opposition to Gungahlin mosque, September 3rd Canberra Times 

O’Keeffe, G.S. Clarke-Pearson, K. Council on Communications and Media. (2011) The Impact of Social Media on Children, Adolescents, and Families. viewed 11.03.15

Olsson, A.; Phelps, E. A. (2007). “Social learning of fear”. Nature Neuroscience Posetti, J. (2014), How the Sydney Siege was reported by the public and news professionals,, retrieved 14.03.15

Unknown Author. (2014). Bendigo mosque: Council approves construction despite fiery public meeting, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, retrieved 14.03.15

Further Referencing:

‘To move away from certain newspapers and certain shows’ Susan Carland addresses anxiety caused by media and social opinion in regards to religion. Perhaps, as Andrew Bolt states that ‘there happens to be a problem in the community,’ these problems are caused by media smear campaigns against certain religions and cultural differences (depending on international and national news) providing anxiety for the reader to sell papers or attract viewers.

Q&A, ABC 26th March 2009.


One thought on “Anxiety, Fear Mongering and The Media

  1. Fear mongering is a tactic used by tabloid media to incite fear in the public to generate interest in a story (Hilton, 2011). Fear campaigns often misleadingly present an incident or a threat that has a small probability of repeating or actually occurring as being probable to transpire (Glassner, 2009). The Daily Telegraph’s headlines as demonstrated in the article above are a clear example of a tabloid media sensationalising a singular incident to disproportionate the gravity of the hostage situation in the Lindt Café and the actual threat to Australia’s wellbeing as a nation.

    Fear mongering by the Daily Telegraph and other tabloid media isn’t just limited to ISIS or other terrorist organisations. Australian’s have been subjected to a host of other fear mongering topics from; the ‘deadly Swine Flu virus’, the advent of ‘one-punch killings’, and the ‘war on drugs’ to the need to ‘stop the boats’. Fear campaigns can have serious and lasting ramifications for society (Hilton, 2011). Fear mongering is not only a highly criticized and unprofessional type of journalism, (Glassner, 2009) it can also place serious pressure on governments to respond to the media fuelled public outcry to implement new legislation or enforce different policy changes (Quilter, 2014).


    Glassner, B 2009, The Culture of Fear, Basic Books, United States.

    Hilton, S & Hunt, K 2011, ‘UK newspapers’ representations of the 2009–10 outbreak of swine flu: one health scare not over-hyped by the media?’, J Epidemiol Community Health, vol. 65, pp. 941-946.

    Quilter, J 2014, ‘One-Punch Laws, Mandatory Minimums and ‘Alchol-Fuelled’ as an Aggravating Factor: Implications for NSW Criminal Law, International Journal For Crime, Justice and Social Democracy, vol. 3 no. 1, pp. 81-106.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s