Coping with a Crisis of Meaning: Televised Paranoia

Hugh Ortega Breton


Across all genres, television communicates a host of perceived dangers or risks to human survival as entertainment, responding and reproducing the victim and risk consciousness of the late twentieth and early twenty first centuries. Terrorism has captured the imaginations of not only politicians but also producer/writers, and as a consequence of this, and the visual spectacle that war and terrorism provide, it has featured regularly and consistently in British and American television programming. This article presents the analysis of some British current affairs entertainment programming (film and documentary) broadcast by the BBC during the height of the misnamed “war on terror”. Through the analysis of these programmes I will demonstrate a psycho-cultural approach to textual analysis informed by early object relations psychoanalysis. Being aware of the degree to which political elites have shaped what is known about the ‘war on terror’ allows us to apply knowledge of the political and historical context of these elites to understanding why the dominant ‘war on terror’ perspective is paranoid in character. I will offer an explanation of why a paranoid style predominates in terrorism related programming in my conclusion.


television, psychoanalysis, paranoid, projection

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