Terrorists execute attacks like 9-11, the Madrid Train Bombings, and the Mumbai bombings to attract international or regional media attention to their cause because they understand the old media axiom that “if it bleeds it leads.” I wanted to ask a completely hypothetical question today: What would today’s terrorists do, if there wasn’t a CNN or a twenty four hour global news cycle?
Of course I know that cable news cannot be repackaged and marked return to sender, but without the twenty four hour news cycle, terrorists would be limited in one of their key sources of propaganda and recruitment.
Through repeated airplay on CNN on other networks, terrorists have a captive audience for their deeds and a ready recruitment tool among alienated populations because Al Qaeda can say to a youth “The West is the cause of all your problems and were the only ones who can do anything about it.” It’s hard to argue with the visual.
Without the global news cycle embodied by CNN and others, that produces heroes and villains at a moments notice, this would force terrorist activities onto the vast wasteland of the Internet and turn terrorism into a far more regionalized activity that would be covered by state media and satellite television stations like Al Jazeera, potentially decreasing the global reach of its’ tentacles and audience.
Of course, if one knows what their looking for…locating propaganda and information about terrorist organizations online is not exactly rocket science, so it probably wouldn’t do much to prevent the spread of hateful ideology on both sides of the Western/Islamic Extremism divide.
“You can kill a man, but you can’t kill an idea.” Where many Western observers see a flaming building, bus, or train, Al Qaeda sees themselves as standing up for an ideal. By continually displaying images of property destruction and wounded victims, the news media is offering a free victory lap for Al Qaeda and like minded individuals.
This I concede has got to be a tough call for news bureaus because one has to cover the news without appearing to glamorize the very action their supposed to be reporting upon.