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Saturday, July 09, 2005

Is The Press Critical to Terror's Success?

There is a real question about the role of the media in the War on Terror. The entire concept of terror as a weapon only works in a psychological sense. That is, terror that is not communicated is not terrorism. It’s simply a crime.
The question arises: would there be terror attacks in Iraq, Bali, Madrid or London, if they were not communicated?

It is becoming increasingly clear that the Mainstream Media (MSM) is critically important to the bombers, head cutters and assorted terrorists. The MSM act as the communication tool of the terrorists, showing just enough of their murders to blow them up to giant size, but showing none of the failures and completely eliminating context. How much do you know of a largely pacified and increasingly prosperous Iraq? Virtually nothing, unless you read it on the Internet from people actually there. What you get is the daily death and bomb toll.

If all the MSM reported every day from schools are the crimes committed there, how many parents would send their kids to school in the morning? What would our impression of schools be? But the MSM don’t. Can they be accused of a cover up? In a way they can. But the real answer is that they view schools from an entirely different perspective; the focus is not on the problems, the focus is on the solutions.

Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit notes:

JIM DUNNIGAN: "Al Qaeda, and Islamic radicals, would not be a world terrorism problem were it not for global Islamic media, and media coverage that treated the goals of the Islamic radicals with seriousness and respect."

UPDATE: Reader Joseph Fulvio emails:

Since the ‘insurgency’ is as much about influencing the Western public as it is about destabilizing Iraq, one wonders just how virulent it would be without Al Jazeera and Western media life support. I suspect it would be far less potent absent the breathless, sympathetic ‘reporting’ of each act of barbarism. This notion is dismissed by war critics as ‘blaming the messenger,’ but that doesn’t make it any less true.

What's interesting to me is that members of the press are exquisitely sensitive to the dangers of being manipulated by our own government, but so much less so in other cases.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Zelda Aronstein emails:
I bet if the media voluntarily stopped showing any pictures of all terror attacks, that the terror would stop. Thus ending the GWOT without a shot.

This policy would be NO DIFFERENT than how they cover folks who run on to baseball fields: they do NOT show them on TV; they ignore them.

Would the media ever put peace above their ratings/profits? Never.
Sadly, that's probably right.

And Strategy Page has these comments:

Al Qaeda, and Islamic radicals in general, would not be a world terrorism problem were it not for global Islamic media, and media coverage in general that treated the goals of the Islamic radicals with seriousness and respect. For decades, Islamic radicalism only played in its own backyard, trying to replace Islamic tyrants with Islamic religious dictatorships. These Islamic terrorists didn’t get much publicity overseas, and what they did get was mostly negative. Most Islamic nations were dictatorships, with the local media tightly controlled. That changed, for a while, in the 1980s, when the fight between Moslem Afghans, and atheist Russians, was given ample, and positive, publicity by the media in most Moslem nations, and throughout the Western world. The battle in Afghanistan was considered a jihad (Holy War) by Moslems, and what good Moslem could refuse to heap praise on that. The thousands of Moslems who went to Afghanistan (Pakistan, actually, which was where the Afghan rebels rested between missions), were considered heroes when they returned home. Many of these “Afghanis” soon ended up in jail, for spouting off about how great it would be to have a little Islamic revolution at home. Moslem countries went to war with their Islamic radicals in the 1990s, an event largely unnoticed in the West. There was always some unpleasant violence going on in Moslem countries. Either religion or politics would set things off, and this wasn’t news in the West.

That changed in 1996, when al Jazeera, an international satellite news network began. Now the millions of Moslems in the West could get news delivered using modern, compelling methods, but with a Moslem slant. That slant was quite different from the view of the Moslem, especially Arab, world provided by Western news. The biggest difference was how Israel, and Islamic terrorism, was explained. To Moslems, Israel was a great crime inflicted by the West on the Arab world. To the Arab media, Israel did not deserve to exist, and any Western nations that supported Israel, especially the United States, were enemies of Islam. Extreme stuff, but the sort of line you had to run with if you wanted to succeed as a journalist in the Arab, and Moslem world. This line was supported by most Arab governments, because if took attention away from the fact that most Arab governments were corrupt dictatorships that had never done much for the Palestinian people the Israelis were accused of oppressing.

The only large scale opposition to Moslem corruption and dictators was Islamic radicals, especially in the form of al Qaeda. But this opposition failed in the 1990s, and al Qaeda decided to turn its attention to targets in the West. According to al Qaeda, the ultimate cause of all the problems in the Moslem world (the corruption, the poverty, the dictatorships) was Western influence. Decadent Western media, and political influence in the form of Western support for Israel and current Moslem governments, must be destroyed before al Qaeda could clean things up in the Moslem world. Once the Moslem world was “purified” and united under one religious dictator, the rest of the world could be converted to Islam, and a planet wide Islamic religious government establishment. This is what al Qaeda wants. Does anyone believe they have any chance of achieving it? No one does, except millions of Moslems mesmerized by the al Qaeda message, and the thousands of al Qaeda warriors ready to die for the cause. Many of these al Qaeda supporters were in Moslem communities in the West. Thanks to al Jazeera, the Internet, and other satellite based media, the twisted logic of al Qaeda, was presented as news. The rabid anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic reporting so common in Arab media, but absent in the West, was now available anywhere in the world.
This created an enormous “expatriate patriot” effect. This is what happens when expatriates become more enthusiastic about violent solutions than the folks back home. This was seen rather vividly among Irish immigrants to the United States in the 19th century, where these Irish patriots formed armed groups, and engaged in terrorist acts in North America, in support of liberating Ireland from British rule. After this happened in the 1920s, the expatriate Irish still maintained the most anti-British attitudes. In the 1970s, when Irish terrorism began again, in Northern Ireland, which was still under British rule, much of the monetary support came from Irish overseas. The Irish in Ireland were much less enthusiastic about Irish terrorism than were the Irish overseas. The same thing is now happening with Moslem support for Islamic terrorism. In Moslem nations that have suffered from Islamic terrorists, places like Algeria, Egypt and Iraq, al Qaeda is hated. But among Moslem communities in Europe, there is a rather more idealized and romantic view of these Moslem “martyrs.” Recruiting is easier in Europe, as is raising money. While only a small minority of the expatriate Moslems support the terrorists, that amounts to over a million supporters, and thousands of volunteers for suicide attacks and terrorism.

There is another problem, particularly with Europe. When confronted with a growing Moslem minority, and its enthusiastic adoption of al Jazeera’s breathless coverage of Islamic terrorists, and the usual anti-Semitic coverage of Israel, Europe blinked. Rather than resisting this, Europe again went for appeasement. This didn’t work with the fascists in the 1930s, or the Soviets during the Cold War. But appeasement is a very popular policy in Europe. It isn’t working with Islamic radicals who, like the nazis and communists, want to conquer the world, and are willing to kill millions to get the job done. Appeasement is deeply embedded in the European psyche. Even after the nazis made it clear what they were all about, and had conquered much of Europe, many Europeans preferred to collaborate with the new tyranny. Even after the Cold War was over, many Europeans are nostalgic for the “failed experiment” of Soviet communism. If only someone else could come back and try it again, and do it right this time. This same twisted logic is being applied to al Qaedas mad march towards world conquest.


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