UPDATE: Shannon Love writes:

The whole ActionFigureGate episode really makes me think about the standards applied by international major media(IMM) to the stories they disseminate. Why was major media so quick to disseminate pictures of an action figure as a genuine hostage photo?

More to the point, why are major media so quick to disseminate anything that a terrorist group, or purported terrorist group, releases?

The quickest way to get the prime spot in IMM today is to release a picture of somebody with a gun to their head. The IMM will immediately disseminate the picture and all your demands and statements!

For the terrorist, it is like being given millions of dollars in free advertising.

Back in the 20’s and 30’s, businesses tried to advertise themselves by pulling dangerous publicity stunts. They used human flies, faked car crashes, exploding buildings or anything they thought would get them free media attention. After a time, however, the media developed a consensus standard that such events would not be reported and the stunts for the most part stopped .

The media stopped covering the events for two reasons: (1) they sold advertising so giving away free advertising hurt the bottom line and (2) people were getting hurt and they were getting hurt only because the media was paying attention. When they stopped paying attention, people stopped getting hurt.

In fact, media organizations were held liable for injuries that resulted. Read the whole thing.