Friday, July 07, 2006

Terror and the Media.

A year ago as I watched the footage of people streaming out of the London Underground an uncomfortable thought running through my mind was that by watching the footage I was in effect dancing to the terrorists tune. The rolling news broadcasts of bloodied survivors and shocked passersby are what the perpertrators wanted. As military attacks the impact of any terrorist atrocities bar the destruction of World Trade Center have been pretty small. Only by magnifying the event through the media, in particular television, can terrorism have any real impact on then of millions of other people. In short terrorists in London last year, and in Bali, Beslan and numerous other locations before that, have harnessed television as a weapon and television news programmes are not merely observing events but are part of creating them. Before I go any further let me be clear, I am not accusing television news reporters of supporting terrorism, whilst I am not necessarily a fan of certain news organisations I have no doubt that the people involved abhor mass murder as much as I do, I am not suggesting that malice on their part is a motivation in this.

If a natural disaster occured killing the same number of people as these terrorist incidents the coverage would be justified, natural disasters are no more likely to occur because of the reporting. However by responding in a predictable manner to major terror events they are vulnerable to being exploited as tools by Al Qaeada and other sympathetic. Often very little information is conveyed in the news immediately after an event but the same images are seared into the consciousness of the viewer creating fear and horror where rationally there is very little chance of any particular person knowing one of the victims.

If an attack on the scale of the July bombings occurs again in Britain I hope the television networks will have the courage to exercise great restraint about how much coverage they give.

No comments: