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Terrorism and the media.

  • #1
    Closed Accounts Posts: 88,984 ✭✭✭✭ mike65

    Who gains most from a terrorist act that deliberatly leaves someone and thier family hanging by the thinnest of threads? The terrorist gaining a spotlight to parade he vile character or the media as they gain viewers and the chance of a breaking story or publicity coup?.



    Debate over hostage coverage

    Ken Bigley pleaded for his life in a video released on Wednesday
    A debate has begun among media commentators over whether the British media should give "the oxygen of publicity" to the kidnappers of Ken Bigley.

    Some argue that showing videos made by the Briton's captors merely plays into the hostage-takers' hands and encourages terrorism.

    Others disagree, saying that such videos are news, and that to refuse to show them would be a political act of censorship.

    Ahmad al-Rikaby, founder of Baghdad's first talk radio station, Radio Dijla, described UK television's coverage of the hostage crisis as "blood shows".

    "[The publicity] is helping them to recruit more members to terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

    Prime Minister Tony Blair, in a interview for Sunday's Observer newspaper, said the hostage-takers holding Mr Bigley were "manipulating" the media in pursuit of their goal of destabilising Iraq.

    He said they believed: "they can use and manipulate the modern media to gain enormous publicity for themselves and put democratic politics and politicians in a very difficult position.

    He added groups such as the one holding Mr Bigley "are there in Iraq to try and stop the country getting better,to murder anyone who tried to help its reconstruction or its democratic process.

    "And our response,surely,has got to be to stand firm against that."

    Adrian Van-Klaveren, BBC's head of newsgathering, told Today the videos contained "real information".

    He admitted the hostage situation was "an incredibly difficult area".

    But he said it was vital to show videos and images from the hostage-takers with "context and explanation".

    He said: "The reality is these people have been kidnapped, there are the videos, and the videos contain real information.

    "They contain real information about demands being made by the terrorists, they contain real information about whether people are dead or alive."

    The pair were discussing the media coverage of Mr Bigley's kidnapping alongside former Guardian editor Peter Preston.

    Spin tactics

    Mr Preston urged British newspapers to take a "more muted" approach to the crisis.

    He compared UK coverage of Mr Bigley's ordeal with coverage in the US of the fates of two American co-hostages, both of whom were executed.

    He said: "They have not actually not reported it, but I think the Washington Post put it on page 27.

    "That's the kind of mid-way I think we ought to be thinking about."

    He added that the terrorists were using spin tactics and accused the British media of being "too easily manipulated".

    There has been no word on Mr Bigley since he was seen pleading for his life in a video posted on a militant-linked website on Wednesday.

    Mr al-Rikaby urged the media to remember there were also hundreds of Iraqi hostages.

    He said: "It's a very sad story but the reality is that the British hostage in Iraq is not the only hostage.

    "We have hundreds of Iraqis who have been kidnapped in recent months including children, including women.

    "Those people don't have a face in the media - it's normally the western hostages who have their faces in the media."


  • From the Times
    Does TV news play the terrorists' game when it shows the hostage videos?
    Nick Robinson's Notebook

    WHAT a foul, nauseating stench of a week. Day after depressing day I have waited for a man to be brutally murdered as a spectacle for a watching world. Day after day I have watched a family’s agony. Day after day I have witnessed the Government’s apparent helplessness. How I hate the feeling that we are doing exactly what the hostage takers want. Every video of their butchery, every heart-rending appeal, every breathless countdown to a new deadline is part of a script which could have been written by the men holding a knife to Ken Bigley’s throat.

    So why do we in the media play along? Please don’t think for a moment that we cover these events without the most careful thought. Each and every day my bosses at ITV News have issued new guidance to programme teams. Don’t talk of hostages being “executed”, read one, as it implies a legal punishment. Another decreed that we would not use the video and the (dreadful) sound of the moments before hostages die as this robbed them of their dignity. And so on. My boss says that these are some of the hardest editorial decisions he has had to take, for he must decide not only whether to show but also how much.

    Why, though, don’t we simply refuse to play the terrorists’ game at all and not broadcast any of it? Why don’t we deny them what Margaret Thatcher once called “the oxygen of publicity”? News organisations do occasionally agree to news blackouts if they are advised that this will help to secure the safety of hostages. But to censor our coverage now would be a political act. We can no more censor images of the appalling deaths of hostages than we can of the victims of war. The Pentagon’s decision to refuse to allow pictures to be taken of coffins returning from Iraq was, I have little doubt, not simply to show respect, as officials claimed.

    There is another problem. Even if all the terrestrial broadcasters wanted to we could not black out CNN, Fox and al-Jazeera, not to mention the internet. I have been shocked by the number of people I have spoken to who have watched the gruesome hostages videos on the web. I won’t. It is what they want me to do. It is down to each of us to find our own way of not giving the hostage takers what they want.


  • Peter Preston
    Sunday September 26, 2004
    The Observer

    There's a savage irony here. When Downing Street tries a little spin these days, the press turn into tigers hunting hidden dragons. But when Osama bin Laden or Abu Musab al-Zarqawi pull their parallel self-serving stunts, we're pussycats. We clear the front pages for them.

    Just look, for example, at last Thursday's nationals. Ten papers, one story. 'Save Me, Mr Blair,' said a heart-rending Mirror . 'Please help me, Mr Blair,' said the Mail . 'Mr Blair, please... I think this is my last chance,' said the Independent. And so on and so identically forth. Even the FT joined the chorus. There were the same video shots of poor Ken Bigley's desperate internet message. There were the same quotes and pleadings. No escape and no relief anywhere. Turn on your TV or radio, and you got it all over again. Al-Zarqawi in his black hood was top of the shop for Britain. And nobody stopped to wonder why.

    Yet when you do pause to consider, any mystery falls away. Routine kidnappers want ransom money delivered amid continuing secrecy. Routine kidnap groups in Iraq take Iraqis and trade them for cash or complicity. But seizing foreigners offers totally different opportunities - in Japan, France, Korea, Turkey, Italy, and the USA among many others; and now in Britain.

    Then the prize is a sickening of public opinion and a weakening of political will. Then the oxygen of publicity arrives in tanker loads. Then publicity is the name of this game, the reason for its vile existence.

    Why are we being so slow to see this? A blinkered arrogance, perhaps. The same kind of arrogance that persuaded the Red Army 20 years ago that hairy Afghan tribesmen were too primitive, too medieval, to fire Stinger missile launchers. Such illusions, and countless helicopters, went bang overnight. Third World countries can use First World armaments pretty damned effectively, so why can't Third World terrorists lead First World media men a similarly macabre dance? Spin doctors wear beards and kaftans, too.

    'September 11 changed everything,' George W Bush said again last week. He's right. And the crux of that change, beyond even the thousands of deaths, was the spectacle of airliners slamming into skyscrapers, the TV slow-motion replays, the front pages cleared across the globe. The spectacle was the story. The image was mightier than the sword.

    So it goes, then. Some outrages - bombs on Madrid trains, outside Casablanca bars or in Bali night clubs - are terrible in their carnage, but short-lived in international consciousness. They yield pictures of death and destruction, but these, alas, can be soon filed away. What you need, therefore, is terror with resonance and a video shelf life. Ah, hostages!

    One Chechen gang devised exactly that resonance three weeks ago at Beslan. Take a whole school hostage and sit there for days in front of the cameras as CNN, Fox and the rest arrive and cover you on 24-hours cable alert. Take your own video footage inside the gym. Be prepared for mass martyrdom and murder as necessary. But, come what may, the image will linger on for every mum and dad and teacher taking their kids to school, a shiver of terror as you say goodbye at the gate. Not the big bang, the big shudder.

    Al-Zarqawi and friends have a more modest modus operandi than that: basically, in media terms, the Ecclesthorpe Bugle newspaper bill gambit that says: 'Ecclesthorpe sailor dies on Titanic'. They've calculated that if you snatch a Japanese or an Italian, then Japanese TV or Berlusconi Inc will get very excited indeed (though the UK and US may barely notice). Thus the ploy can be worked over and over again, a rotation reaping different regional dividends each time. Just concoct a splashy demand, like the release of a couple of women. Just put your masks on and set your camera running. Wait for the headlines to blossom of their own accord.

    And the lousy truth is that it works. It's a Brit victim involved at last, so British editors, like British politicians, jump to attention. The pictures flow straight onto the page at the push of a digital button. The headlines, in fact, write themselves as convenient quotes. 'Please help me, Mr Blair. I don't want to die. I don't deserve it'. (And the Telegraph, shamefully, even leaves the quotation marks out). Did anybody write that script? Was Ken Bigley speaking from the heart, or was he told what to say? Nobody knows or wants to know.

    The trouble with spin, of course, is that reality often walks with it many steps of the way. The tragic ordeal of Mr Bigley has been real and painful to watch. The suffering of his family, with their televised appeals, has been agonising. Tony Blair and Jack Straw have probably had some raw nights of the soul, too. True emotion.

    The story is real, a matter of life and death and international order. It has to be reported. Nobody can, or should, blow this oxygen away. If hostages die in censored silence, we betray them and ourselves. But there is a difference, I think, between censorship and unreflective stupidity. The most obvious questions are the hardest to bear. Why did Ken Bigley's two American colleagues die first? Perhaps because they were not the first such victims for American TV, no shock of the new; perhaps because American papers didn't clear their front pages so automatically; perhaps because the spin doctor in the kaftan thought Britain a fresher bet.

    Too cynical in its despair? But this spin of the terrorist web is deeply cynical. Maybe it's not the only motivation in town. Maybe there are broader aims and more complex manipulations. But the nightmare of Ken Bigley has also been a nightmare shot for and played by the media. We can't escape that, but we can stop going along blank-minded at the push of a button.

    We, in the newsrooms and studios, need to realise we're being manipulated. You, the reader and viewer, need to be constantly told that as well. Al-Zarqawi's reality is slaughter as spin, and only when we know that will we be able to see it for what it is, and to come to terms with its full malignity.


  • Why isn't this thread active after every sky news sensationalist story?

    It is the media that create the terror long after the 'terrorists' have gone.

  • This thread is from 2004, how did you even find it?

    Its a good topic though but You'd be better off opening a new thread and maybe linking this one to the OP, as this one will probably be locked

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