Publicizing Terrorism

The whole ActionFigureGate episode really makes me think about the standards applied by international major media (IMM) to the stories they disseminate. Why were 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 his head. The IMM will immediately disseminate the picture and all of your demands and statements!

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

Back in the 20s and 30s, 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 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 were paying attention. When they stopped paying attention, people stopped getting hurt.

The exact same dynamic applies to terrorism today, especially the spate of hostage taking in Iraq. These are essentially extremely brutal publicity stunts, intended to benefit the terrorists by providing them publicity they otherwise would have no hope of obtaining. The publicity is so important that without it the kidnappings would not occur at all.

ActionFigureGate reveals that the IMM are not only willing, but actually so eager to publicize the terrorists that they fell for an obvious hoax. Clearly, in this matter, they have surrendered all of their critical judgment. The question is, why?

Well, first, I’m thinking that terrorists don’t make a lot of ad buys, so the free publicity doesn’t cost the media anything. Second, the very gruesomeness of the stories draws profit-making eyeballs. Third…

… well, third, I think we have to conclude that at some level, enough people in the media want to publicize these crimes due to their own political agendas. It is hard to see how the first two factors would so cripple the IMM’s judgment that they would risk the damage from being made to look like fools.

Like Rathergate, this is the kind of mistake people make out of passion. They publicize these crimes, and the viewpoints and demands of their perpetrators, because at some level they feel that giving the terrorists a free platform on the world wide stage makes the world a better place.

I find that thought rather chilling.

11 thoughts on “Publicizing Terrorism”

  1. Shannon:
    Thro away reason 1, and it’s a toss-up between 2 & 3. Come to think of it, they work together… by selling the “disaster du jour”, be it train werck or “failure” in Iraq, MM hopes and knows it *will* draw the eyeballs, which in turn draw the ad $$s. No eyes, no $$s.

    So, they get to spin bad news because, well, it brings eyeballs to the advertisers. Which is, after all, the real media game. Follow the money – who is paying whom, and for what?

    I pay my satellite providers to *not* advertise to me. MM are paid *to* advertise to me. It’s their job.

    Simple as that.

  2. I think the families of those killed, esp in the events where it appears press were given advance warning, should sue the news organizations that benefitted. They have a duty to prevent harm which has been violated.

    Put it in front a jury. See what Americans think of news organizations profiting from the murder of our military men and women.

  3. leelu,

    I am sympathetic to the “its all about the Benjamins” explanation. It does explain why they show the dramatic images but it doesn’t explain why they also disseminate names, goals and demands.

  4. You forgot #5: My right to know that a brave American Military action figure has been kidnapped and his life threatened. If a child’s toy can be so treated, none of us is safe!

  5. As others have put it before me – the MSM isn’t anti-war, they’re just on the other side.

    CBS, CNN, ABC, NBC, et. al. are the terrorists’ de facto propoganda arms.


  6. Shannon, does anyone besides me think this may be “Psyops” in action? Those “insurgents” are looking pretty loopy right now. Could it be that, drunk with passion, the MSM has been duped into swallowing one of Rummy’s psy-ops gel-caps?

    (I’m one who suspects Abu Ghraib, and the heavily-publicized military trials were psyops, too. Don’t know, just smells fishy.)

    Following up on Orion’s comment: do y’all remember when CNN announced its “disconnection” from Al Jazeera? I think it was engineered just before our military moved publicly into Afghanistan. Up to that point, these two partners had extensive and mutual financial, programming and news-gathering operations. And, while together, they aired many of AQ’s videos threatening America.

    This sudden journalistic dissociation deserves much more scrutiny.


  7. Steve,

    “…does anyone besides me think this may be “Psyops” in action?”

    For purposes of my thesis, it does not matter who produced the images only the media’s credulity in airing it. Perhaps it was an operation aimed at making the media look like idiots. The very fact that it was widely disseminated even though its origins are completely unknown says a lot about the media’s standards and practices.

  8. Your thesis suggests the IMM is ridiculously gullible. Whether intentional or not, this gullibillity renders them “useful idiots” for the terrorists. This regular reader sees no controversy there.

    I think many of the news organizations in the IMM rely on their national governments for a huge chunk of their funding, and they must toe a “party line” to maintain this favor. This makes them propaganda organs, not for-profit news organizations. As such any analysis that depends on “market forces” such as profit motive, has to fall short.

    Here your thesis would be served by a disection of the monolithic “IMM” you discussed. Time’s short, I know, but if one could trace the personal and financial links between the individual news organizations and their national and international political patrons, we could learn much about this surrender of “critical judgement.”

    I posed CNN’s early complicity with Al Jazeera as just one example. Other targets of scrutiny should be Germany’s NWI, Canada’s CBC and, don’t forget the Arab News.

    BTW, (re my original question) this gullibillity renders them cannon-fodder for our Psy-ops guys! (Anyone else think this, too?)


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