Viewpoints

By Rod Dav4is
Friday, December 12, 2003
 
Reporting Terrorist Actions

I recently read an article in the Wall Street Journal's online Editorial Page, "Years of Rage A portrait of Kathy Boudin, American terrorist", by Dorothy Rabinowitz, Wednesday, November 26, 2003. This caught my attention:

The Weathermen had ... set explosives in the first-floor ladies' room of the U.S. Capitol building in 1972--a crime, like the previous bombings, for which the group took full credit, in messages issued to the FBI and the press.

Getting the credit, indeed, was the whole point. But it was the Capitol bombing that heralded the beginning of a major problem--that problem being the FBI's new policy, which cannily avoided announcements crediting bombings and similar acts to the Weathermen. The agency let it be known, instead, that the explosions were the work of unidentified "crank groups." To be deprived, thus, of the headlines and publicity that were life and air to the Weathermen was a serious blow...

Why hadn't I seen it before? Terrorists live for the publicity! It is chiefly through media attention to their crimes that they accomplish their nefarious purpose—and the more lurid the coverage, the better. Without such nationwide – indeed, worldwide – coverage, their dastardly acts would terrorize only those few directly involved and their families.

Of course, the dead are beyond terrorizing, despite their recent close involvement.

In a very real sense, the press is complicit in furthering the designs of terrorists by eagerly reporting the bloody results of their crimes. And so are we, the consumers, complicit by our sanguinary fascination with the awful details, which fascination drives the media to ever more obscene coverage.

Who needs to see this crap, anyway?

What would happen if the world press stopped reporting terrorist actions entirely? The terrorists would lose their chief means of spreading terror. They would be relegated to depending on word of mouth for this purpose, a far less efficient and notoriously flawed mechanism.

And what would be the point, then, of blowing up a few kids when only a score or so of people would be thus terrorized? It seems not very cost effective.

Summary

There can be no doubt that reporting of terrorist activities in lurid detail plays into terrorists' hands.

Publicity is terrorist manna.

What is to be done?

It seems obvious to me that the media should stop reporting all these bombings and such -- at least in the manner currently done.

There is no reason to report the gory details; doing so only helps the terrorist!

Neither is there any good reason to report who has taken "credit" for the crime. This can only help the terrorist group spead their "message".

-R.



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