September 24, 2006

I THINK JOHN COLE IS MISSING THE POINT WHEN HE WRITES:

The notion that the media somehow share some culpability in the murders, mayhem, and chaos that followed the Pope’s speech because they ‘willingly’ work with terrorists to ‘ambush’ the general public is so absurd that it shouldn’t warrant comment. Is the media to blame for the murder rate, because every night I check the television, and they cover it? . . .

But to suggest that the media covering jihadist tendencies and calls to arms by radical clerics is somehow working in concert with terorists is not just offensive, it is stupid.

Cole undermines his case a bit by admitting that there are cases where media people have “behaved inappropriately” — that is, faked news on terrorists’ behalf, but the bigger point, stressed in my post and in the Austin Bay article that I linked, is that media attention isn’t just neutral coverage — the way it generally is with, say, urban crime — but rather the actual goal of terrorists. In fact, it’s their lifeblood. Terrorism is an information war disguised as a military conflict, and media coverage is an essential part of the terrorist plan.

Media people know this, and even admit it, but don’t let it affect their coverage — though as Pam Hess of UPI admitted, they’re far more careful about being spun by the U.S. military — and one reason why they don’t let it affect their coverage is that terrorism gives them ratings. That’s what I meant by their mutually-supporting relationship. Terrorists provide ratings (and, as we’ve seen, often via staged news events) and news media provide the coverage that terrorists need. As I’ve noted in the past, news media are entirely capable of moderating their own coverage when they think the stakes are high — say, protection of confidential sources, or promotion of racial tolerance — but here they clearly don’t feel that way. If they applied as much skepticism and adversarialism to terrorist behavior as they do to the U.S. military, few of us would be complaining.

In his novel Soft Targets, Dean Ing suggested a media-based information campaign against terrorism. One of the many ways in which that novel is obsolete is that it’s now impossible to imagine the press cooperating.

UPDATE: More thoughts on terrorists and the media here, from a journalist. “So then, why does the media take such pains to avoid parroting, carrying water for or even vaguely reflecting the ideals of the U.S. military or the nation’s elected government yet so wantonly accept and even hire the terrorists’ spin?”

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