This thesis explores sociological theories on how the mass media is both a victim and a perpetuator of the "culture of fear" as seen in Western societies. By fusing this perspective with Ulrich Beck_s concept of "risk society," I discuss how in late modernity, we face certain environmental risks because the progress paradigm encouraged industrialization at the expense of natural resources and the health of the planet. There exists a general sense of anxiety among the American population because we are "disenchanted" with the ability of science to address the problem of science-induced climate change. Through content analysis on the portrayal of global warming in Time and Scientific American magazines, I tracked the use of fear-evoking language (adjectives, metaphors, normative claims, and some visuals) from 1977 to 1987 and from 1997 to 2007. Results showed that emotive language did not increase as we moved into and through this culture of fear, but that the magazines did maintain an overall heightened concern about global warming. I make theoretical conclusions about the increasing importance of politics in addressing environmental risks as well as how the media constructs a reality of global warming that reflects our anxiety concerning the instability of late modernity.


Fitz Gibbon, Heather


Sociology and Anthropology


Broadcast and Video Studies | Critical and Cultural Studies | Mass Communication

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis



© Copyright 2009 Andrea C. Brown