Process of changing the attitude of people

media framing in relation to the construction of a mosque at ground zero. We identify the various frames used by various media houses in America and compare and contrast them. We analyze the related literature and the basic concepts involved in media framing. A general overview of the concept of media framing is also provided.

Entman (1993) describes framing as a scattered concept where previous researchers lack clear conceptual meanings and depend on context-based definitions, rather than general applicability. Brosius and Eps (1995) proceeds that framing may not be clear in explication and generally used but can be seen as a metaphor which does not convert directly into research setting.

While different authors agree that there is lack of commonality in the definition of this term, people have often used the term frame to refer to similar but different approaches. For this particular article, I now use the term framing to refer to the way media houses use mind-controlling technique to gain readership and viewership by providing what appears to be new but intricately woven to control the thought process and opinions.

Framing can be compared to the setting of agenda or opinion but stretches the research by pin pointing the issues that area at hand instead of a particular topic. Framing theory makes the media take an issue and then places it to connote a new meaning or opinion. It is a very important technique since it makes the media tailor the thoughts of the masses towards a particular direction hence they become opinion leaders. When the media selects topics, they direct the people where and what to think.

When journalists choose a frame, they make sure that they even provide a structure in such a way that their audience only interpret what is provided. A frame is a notion which serves to organize or direct social meaning to a given issue at hand. Their intention is to make the targeted audience to think about the news bulletin or article and how to think about it.

This article looks at the myths, stories, metaphors, and narratives and traditions that the media employed to capture the attention of the American citizens and the world at large and cause the proposal to construct the mosque near ground zero a big story. While research has shown that the proposed Islamic Cultural Center and Mosque was not to be constructed at the ill-fated World Trade Center site, the frames that were used clearly depicts that the media conditioned the thoughts of the audience to think in a particular direction by associating the 9/11 bombing by the Muslim Extremists and the construction of the cultural center.

Literature Review

Extant literature has been dedicated to the concept of media framing. This literature can be categorized into four broad stages. The initial stage which gives an account of media framing that occurred between the 1920s and the 1930s was characterized by event that occurred during the World War I such as propaganda effects as well as its beliefs regarding beliefs on the influence of media on the attitude of people (Scheufele, 1999). The second phase took place between the 1930s and the 1960s and was marked by issues that tended to put forward the gravity and need of personal experience in the process of changing the attitude of people. The researchers who noted this did believe that the main media effect was concentrated on the reinforcement of the attitude that were already in existence as postulated by Klapper (1960). The study of the third stage which took place between 1970s and 1980s gave life to the new media effects that were even stronger. The focus of the media was however rapidly shifted from attitude changes to more cognitive-based effects as outlined by Noelle-Neumann (1973). Lastly, fourth stage which has been running from 1980s to present has been heavily marred by elements of “social constructivism,” as shown by the work of scholars such as Berger and Luckmann (1966), Gamson and Modigliani (1989) and Tuchman (1978) who are all social scientists.

The other portion of literature on this stage of media effects has also been researched and discussed by political scientists such as Ivengar (1991) and Scheufele (1999) where the concept of social constructivism attempts to make an explanation on the possible relationships that exists between media and the audience via a combination of elements of strong as well as limited media effects in the domain of mass media.

The work of Gamson and Modigliani (1989, p. 2) categorically expressed the fact that “Media discourse is part of the process by which individuals construct meaning, and public opinion is part of the process by which journalists…develop and crystallize meaning in public discourse.” The work of Gamson and Modigliani (1987) further portrays the real essence of media framing as being the main organizing idea or rather the story line that gives a meaning to certain upholding string of events. The frames therefore do suggest what a certain controversy is about as well as the real essence of the issue involved (Gamson and Modigliani, 1987, p. 143).

Entman (1993) however points out that the meaning of a frame is tied down to the selection of certain aspects of a reality which is perceived in order to make them salient so as to promote a certain definition of a problem, its moral evaluation, causal meaning as well as the treatment of the recommendations (Entman, 1993, p. 52).

The work of Iyengar (1991) made a differentiation between the thematic and episodic media frames. These episodic media frames are a depiction of public media issues which in essence are concrete instances as well as specific events that come about as a result of individualistic actions. The thematic framing reports on the other side are a systematic reflection of the problems that take place in our society on a level that is considered abstract but with outcomes that are general. The media framing of the Mosque at ground Zero is a perfect example of thematic framing

The work of Simon and Xenos (2000) on media framing was concentrated on the analysis of media framing in order to research the influence of public deliberation that is actively involved in the process of social creation as well as the changes that occur in our society over a period of time. They point out that deliberation is a process involving political argumentation that moves on through a process of discursive giving and taking. The effects are therefore intricately linked to the media framing effects as was indicative in their research (Simon and Xenos, 2000, p. 367).

The work of Gamson and Lasch (1983) came up with an identification of various framing as well as reasoning devices that can be utilized as a combination in order to create frames. The framing devices include metaphors, exemplars, and visual images, depictions and metaphors. These do suggest a framework to be used in viewing of the issues involved. The reasoning devices on the other side include roots, appeal principles and consequences. They are used in the provision of justification and reasons for the general positions that are adopted (Gamson and Lasch,

1983, p. 399).The work of Stone (2002) makes an addition to the list of devices that include synecdoche as well as numbers. Synecdoche refers to figure of speech which represents an idea in its entirety or in parts. Numbers on the other hand are used as a method of describing a certain phenomena as well as events using measurements. The most favorite technique is the use of ether abnormally large or small numbers in order to dramatize an idea as pointed out by Stone (2002,

p. 137)

Identification of three frames used in the context of reporting describing them clearly


A very dominant frame used by CNN’s Anderson Cooper in the framing of the mosque near ground zero is numbers. They used extremely large statistics in order to show how grave the situation was being objected by a higher percentage of the Americans. They purported that a poll they conducted revealed that 68% of Americans opposed the construction of the ground zero mosque. What the authors of the so-called large statistics do not understand is that while these numbers may be lower or close to their projection, this happened after anti-Muslim campaigns by the media and other paranoid crusaders hiding the truth and letting the politicians use the issue to fight their own battles while the construction of the religious center becomes a scapegoat (CNN, June 6th 2010)

On November 11-2010, the other dominant frame used by CNN in debate with Pamela Geller, is the use of the phrase ground zero in quotation. This framing of issues is identified as shorthand. In almost all its references, the term ground zero comes out more frequently than the term Park 51 which is the actual site of the proposed Islamic center. In the same discussion, Pamela, who had called a rally against what she perceived as an attempt to “Islamize” America, insists that the site of the Islamic center is part of ground zero despite being two blocks away or rather, not visible from the hallowed ground zero. The argument being advanced is that since, the Muslim extremists were responsible for the 9/11 disaster, the construction of the Muslim religious center would inculcate the jihad teachings and dishonor to the memory of the 9/11 victims. The question one would ask is this, what about the strip clubs, bars and other activities that are zero blocks away from the hallowed ground, do they honor the victims of the attacks. Consequently, it can be argued that Politicians and anti-Muslim groups found an easier way to agitate the crowds by exploitation of their Islamophobic instincts with the aid of the media framing of the issue. In same the interview, what comes out clearly is that Pamela fights against what she perceives as Islamization of America as opposed to Americanization of Islam. She later describes the center, which she refers to as ground zero mosque as a war memorial against the Americans by Muslims (CNN, July 15th 2010).

A look at a majority of the clips indicates a figure of speech used as a framing tool. A metaphor by the CNN on November 11, 2010 is used to describe the Park 51 site as the “Cordoba House.” This term has been interpreted by the critics to mean the conversion of the Church in Spain into a big mosque by the Muslims in the 12th century. This was meant to antagonize the Muslim groups with the other Americans in what Geller perceives as Islamic domination and expansion. They create a feeling that the intension of the Muslims was to conquer and convert the site into a victorious site as was done in Spain in the 12th century. The Cordoba issue has featured prominently directing the thoughts pondering and imaginations of the audiences by magnifying the America where the “triumphant” Muslims can just decide to build a “rogue mosque” with impunity and without government intervention.

Another segment of CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360 gave Fischer, television airtime to contribute that Islam is totalitarian and that it is anti-Christian and seeks “the extermination of Western ideology on civilization” and in yet another segment, Anderson Cooper featured Benham of prolife, anti-Islam crusade Operation Save America, where Islam was termed as a lie from hell. This is in fact use of depiction as a framing device to cause the listeners to collectively use Christianity to shun Islam and Muslims. The act of inviting an individual who had already made his/her stand known amounts to siding with him and a pointer that the audience should be prepared to hear one sided view and a chance to win the otherwise neutral listeners to his side of opinion (CNN, August 16th 2010).

On watching Fox news, the frequent frames that are common; Visual images, Islamophobes, Metaphors, short hand as the common and most conspicuous framing devices.

On this bulletin, Laura Ingle describes the park 51, as the ground zero in order to keep the people’s mind on the issue will it is a known fact that the proposed site was never at ground zero. This is well-known by the journalists that if the attachment with the ground is missing, the news becomes irrelevant since there are other mosques around the place which do not raise a lot of dust as this does (FOX, 11th December, 2010).

The use of the metaphor “Cordoba house” to refer to the park 51 is one technique of imagery that the media has used to put Muslims to task to explain why they compare the building of the most to the conquest of a church in Spain during the medieval period. The question comes in the minds of many is, are the Muslims celebrating the “Conquest” of the area around ground zero? This has been a creation of the press which seems to take sides with the Muslim critics.

While the Mainstream media, describes the Imam behind the construction of the mosque as a moderate Muslim, Laura ingle uses a narrative to bring this modernization in question by a saying he once claimed that even Christians had bombed Hiroshima but when Moslem extremists bomb, it’s a big issue. This framing was meant to cast doubt into the personality of the Imam and discredit his genuineness in condemning terrorism.

Dominant Frames

In these two channels, framing tools that are used are narratives, Visual Images, Metaphors, short hand and Islamophobes. In both channels, the frame that features conspicuously are use of visual images by carrying placards, the metaphor of Cordoba House which the Critics want associated with Muslim “victory” over the Christianity and the American civilization just like was at the time they converted the catholic church into a mosque in Spain many centuries ago. The following frames are commonly used to denote mostly during the Pamela Geller’s interview with CNN; “Islamic Domination,” “rogue mosque,” Islamization of America,” “Ground zero” and it is noteworthy that these same frames are being recycled by Fox, CNN and even other media houses like MSNBC and other print media like Big government, the salon, Atlas Shrugs among others. Even though both media houses use the above framing devices, CNN uses the term Cordoba House with so much regularity that even member of the audience who is ignorant finds himself asking, What about Cordoba and why is it such an issue here?

Social and political consequences of the frames

While many people wonder why the Islamic furor is at its zenith and tempers are flaring nine years after the 9/11 attack, it is clear that the media’s attention has brought with it Islamophobia within the American citizens and reversed the healing process. This is viewed as a result to be as a result of the media’s framing of the issue in conjunction with the anti-Islamic crusaders who create the whole mountain out of a mole hill.

Relevant theories for explaining the consequences of the frames

An analysis of the news clips from CNN and FOX revealed that the viewers of the “Mosque at ground zero” controversy suffered consequences that can be explained using two dominant theories. These are:

Cultivation theory

This is a social theory that is used to examine the cumulative as well as the overarching impact that television has on the viewers’ view of the world (Morris, 2010).This theory emphasizes on the effects of viewing television on the attitudes of the viewers rather than on their behavior. The viewers who watched stations that had most framings on the Ground Zero Mosques dad them believe that America was in real danger of being taken over by extremist Muslims.

The mean world theory

This is when people who are exposed to a lot of media end up believing that the world is a dangerous place that it is in reality. The resulting sense of insecurity makes the viewers to have a great desire to protect them from the danger and threat which is perceived as being eminent (Morris, 2010).The resulting panic that some Americans felt due to the Islamophobic slur and images (visual effects) can be said is a consequence of the mean world theory.

The use of frames has also taken a new turn and the Americans now view the Imam at the controversy, which was initially seen as a Muslim moderator as an extremist who is out to celebrate Muslim triumphalism over the twin towers bombing. Feisal Abdul Rauf, whose wife is spearheading the Cordoba House, has been portrayed differently by the media and this causes the audience to revise their thoughts about him. Many people now see him as a man behind the Islamization of America and a celebrator of the human caused disaster that befell America nine years ago. Were it not for the press, people would have seen these issues of the Islamic center differently as other Mosques are also around without raising eyebrows within the vicinity.

Although it was initially seen that the attack on the mosque was done by criminals who were out to tarnish Islam as a religion, the present media coverage now asserts that the whole Muslim community is responsible for the September 11 attacks collectively by the virtue of the site for the construction of the Islamic center. This has caused stereotyping of all Moslems to be war mongers and the issue of Conceptualization of media framing

Contrast between media houses on framing

The main contrast between the media houses was the gravity of reporting the extent of media framing. This is depicted in the work of Nisbet and Garrett (2010) whose analysis shown that FOX News was responsible for most of the rumors and misconceptions concerning the construction of the ground zero mosque.


The concept of media framing can be used positively and effectively in various parts of the human society such as in effectively improving businesses instead of using it to trample on basic human rights. It is important that it be used since it can be used in eliciting the true meaning of certain events.


Berger, PL. & Luckmann, T (1966)the social construction of reality. A treatise on the sociology of knowledge. Garden City, NY: Doubleday.

Brosius, H.B. And P.E. Eps (1995). “Prototyping through Key Events: News Selection in the Case of Violence against Aliens and Asylum Seekers in Germany.” European Journal of Communication 10 (3):391-412.

CNN (June 6th 2010). CNN Anderson Cooper 360 on Ground Zero Mosque it’s Geller’s Fault!

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CNN (August 2010). American Family Assoc No More Mosques Period

CNN (July 15th 2010) CNN Ground Zero Mosque Debate: Geller vs. Muslim American Society

Condry, J (1989): The Psychology of Television. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum

Entman, R (1993) “Framing: Toward clarification of a fractured paradigm,” Journal of Communication, 43 (4): 51-58.

FOX (11th December, 2010).New Islamic Mosque at Ground

Gabriel, B (2010). A Mosque at 9/11 ‘Ground Zero’?

Gamson, W.A. And Lasch, K (1983). The political culture of social welfare policy. In Shimon E. Spiro and Ephraim Yuchtman-Yaar, Evaluating the welfare state: Social and political perspectives, 397-415. New York: Academic Press.

Gamson, W.A; Modigliani (1987) a.”The Changing Culture of Affirmative Action.” Research in Political Sociology

Geller, P (June 05, 2010) Cair:Jihad in America 2010

Iyengar, S. (1991). Is Anyone Responsible? How Television Frames Political

Issues. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Klapper, JT. (1960).The effects of mass communication.Free Press, Glencoe

McCormack, J (2010). CNN Poll: 68% of American Voters Oppose Ground Zero Mosque

Morris, S (2010). The mean world syndrome

Nisbet and Garrett (2010) Fox News contributes to spread of rumors about proposed NYC


Noelle-Neumann, E. (1973). Return to the concept of powerful mass media. Studies of broadcasting, 9, 67-112

The Salon (16 August,2010).How the “ground zero mosque” fear mongering began – War Room

Scheufele, D. (1999), Framing as a theory of media effects. Journal of Communication, 49: 103

Simon, a and Xenos, M (2000) “Media framing and effective public deliberation,” Political Communication, 17: 363-376.

Stone, D.A. (2002). Policy paradox: The art of political decision making. New York: Norton.

Payser, a (May 13, 2010).Mosque madness at Ground Zero.

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