Critical Essay on The Global Grapevine: Why Rumors of Terrorism, Immigration, and Trade Matter

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  6
Wordcount:  1437 Words
Date:  2022-11-07


The first Chapter of the book "The global grapevine: Why rumors of terrorism, immigration, and trade matter" present rumors as a cathartic method of making sense of catastrophe in helping those involved to deal with the trauma. Throughout the Chapter, the authors Gary Alan Fine and Bill Ellis use rhetorical appeals in arguing for the point that rumors in times of crisis draw upon fears of the unknown in attempts to make sense or figure out why the tragedy happened. Moreover, it is a means of dealing with the trauma that follows a terror attack such as the focus of the authors, the September 11, 2001, terror attacks. In this paper, a review of core arguments presented by the writers is evaluated followed by a reflective review of the issues presented.

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Reading Analysis and Interpretation

First, Fine and Ellis introduce rumors as a catharsis aspect of traumatized people in attempts to make sense of the disaster or terror attacks that just happened. Following the 9/11 attacks, the authors' note that rumors of what might happen next and who was to blame flourished. Evidence of psychologists concurring with sentiments by the authors is given as authoritative sources namely Gordon Allport and Leo Postman (Fine & Ellis, 2010). Although this is a good attempt at logos, the authors fail to present evidence of trauma among rumor developers and merely relies on hearsay while briefly mentioning psychologists to back claims that trauma causes rumors. The authors fail to convince the reader that it is a matter of opinion rather than fact.

Secondly, plausibility and credibility as political goals of development of rumors are presented as a fundamental human right of people especially those who are living under authoritarian regimes. The authors present the example of China and note how important it is that people speculate their future through the development of rumor (Fine & Ellis, 2010). This attempt at applying pathos also fails in the face of the authors, as terrorism cannot be likened to totalitarianism.

Thirdly, the writers present the concept of good versus evil, God versus Satan. As such, the authors present a narrative that followed the 9/11 attacks that took the form of good where the 'building surfer' escaped death as the twin towers tumbled. On the other hand, evil took the form of Satan's face or image that was seen via smoke on the twin towers before tumbling down. The core message the authors bring out is that rumors of good and evil kept the narrative going as people on the ground struggled to make sense of the terror attack in its aftermath. In this regard, the writers accomplish the application of pathos in making a convincing argument for their point.

The fourth attribute of the main argument that the writers present is the danger of rumors as central to the development of the looming crisis. By presenting the case of rumors surrounding celebrations by American Arabs following the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, a brewing hostility of non-Muslim Americans against Muslim Americans became rife. In this regard, the authors appeal to logos by presenting reasoned analysis and interpretation of the implications of rumors spreading without proper regard to the safety of vulnerable groups.

Another idea propagated in the book pertains to 'the grateful terrorist' who appreciates the gesture offered by non-Muslims as either kindness or affection (Fine & Ellis, 2010). Ideally, this notion seems farfetched and is an explication of rumor at its best since it does not effectively serve to prove or disapprove collusion among all Muslims in America regarding the advent of terrorism. Fine and Ellis (2010) present a consistently familiar narrative in the rumors surrounding the grateful terrorist. A disgruntled Muslim who gets a change of heart owing to the kindness of a generous non-Muslim American. The narrative of the grateful terrorist should ring alarm bells in people's minds because it not only lacks creativity but the rumors are meant to bring attention to Muslim Americans and Muslims at large as hateful people inherently who only show mercy when it suits them advantageously. Moreover, the idea that all grateful terrorists lack finances at grocery stores is laughable if not unoriginal in its construction.

Finally, the shaping of the narrative or rumor is attributed to the media (Fine & Ellis, 2010). The authors discuss the role of the media in fueling rumors whether leaning towards 'the grateful terrorist' narrative form or 'the celebrating Arab' type of narration. In essence, the author's show how rumors spread based on waiver facts that those spreading such rumors detach themselves from. Ultimately, rumors act as a cathartic approach that people utilize in attempts to make sense of traumatic experiences. Although the ultimate aim of the authors is to convince the reader of this fact, they ultimately only do so midway because much of the evidence provided is speculative and in the best-case scenario dependent on intelligent guessing rather than fact. In essence, rumors following a terror attack cannot be purely blamed on the people's desire to make sense of the situation as more often than not people want explanations and meaningful understandings to the threats faced. Rather than engaging in rumormongering, people desire to know the truth and deserve to be told the truth. However, the truth can be withheld when such rumors are spearheaded by authoritative information sources which make it difficult to make sense the terror attack such as was the case of 9/11 attacks.


Fine and Ellis (2010) in their attempt to persuade the reader make a valid point as pertains to the fact that terrorism often presents post-traumatic panic that leaves people speculating whether or not another attack would follow suit. Further, I concur with the authors' sentiments that such proclamations of rumor are often followed by intolerance of the suspected group of terrorists, which in the case of the perspective of the authors include Muslims and Arabs at large. Having states that, I cannot hesitate to state that the author is quite a bias in their perspective of how rumors develop after a terror attack such as 9/11.

The core attribute that I believe the authors ignore completely is the fact that all rumors have a source and that it is the intention or agenda of the source that fuels the rumor. At the onset, the authors present the argument that authoritative sources such as George W. Bush and Osama Bin Laden are to believed regarding all issues pertaining to the terror attacks of 9/11. However, this view of the situation is biased in the sense that it absolves the sources of any intended mischief.

A second reason for doubting the perspective of the authors stems from the fact that the authors only choose to review rumors following September 11, 2001, attacks as having been sourced from the people rather than authorities. Throughout the text, the authors give the perspective of rumors that are based 'the grateful terrorist' and 'the celebrating Arab' both of which are purportedly originated from witness accounts. What is obvious is that the authors ignore entertaining the possibility that a rumor of that magnitude might stem from individuals whether influential or not but with a driven agenda in mind.

Although the authors place the blame on the media as agents of spreading rumors, they do not examine the influential capabilities of the media in persuading the masses of a particular perspective of the narrative. In that esteem, I find that the authors were quick to judge that the people explained the rumors from anonymous sources. In actuality, the authors ignore the fact that it was the News media that had been peddling the rumors, to begin with as such rumors such as 'building surfing man' and 'Satan's face' were broadcast live on popular news outlets such as CNN and FOX News.


The verdict on the veracity of the information presented by the authors is 50% effective since the authors, to a great extent, present a biased and nuanced perspective of how rumors start, who spreads them, and the purpose for which the rumors that followed the 9/11 terror attacks were spread. In that regard, a balanced perspective would require that the authors do due diligence in investigating all possible sources of rumors including influence from potential suspects such as the media, the government, political actors, and corporations that may have had an interest in the spreading of such rumors. It can only be my hope that the rest of the book serves to meet this goal of widening the perspective on possible sources or rumors and the intentions behind the rumors.


Fine, G. A., & Ellis, B. (2010). The global grapevine: Why rumors of terrorism, immigration, and trade matte. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

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Critical Essay on The Global Grapevine: Why Rumors of Terrorism, Immigration, and Trade Matter. (2022, Nov 07). Retrieved from

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