Friday, June 16, 2006

Terrorism and the Media: The Symbiosis

Instapundit has a piece about the symbiotic relationship between the media on the one hand and terrorism on the other. He puts it succinctly:
Terrorism is an information war disguised as a military operation. The press plays a symbiotic role, and isn't willing to address that.
Along these lines, he quotes from a document found in Al-Zarqawi's hideout. After outlining the various ways the US has been successful against the terrorists, the first item listed in the terrorist effort to regroup is:
To improve the image of the resistance in society, increase the number of supporters who are refusing occupation and show the clash of interest between society and the occupation and its collaborators. To use the media for spreading an effective and creative image of the resistance. [emphasis added]
The degree to which this ploy has worked is documented by the Washington Post, which Instapundit points to as an example of the symbiotic relationship between the media and the terrorism:
More ink equals more blood, claim two economists who say that newspaper coverage of terrorist incidents leads directly to more attacks.

It's a macabre example of win-win in what economists call a "common-interest game," say Bruno S. Frey of the University of Zurich and Dominic Rohner of Cambridge University.

"Both the media and terrorists benefit from terrorist incidents," their study contends. Terrorists get free publicity for themselves and their cause. The media, meanwhile, make money "as reports of terror attacks increase newspaper sales and the number of television viewers."

...The results, they said, were unequivocal: Coverage caused more attacks, and attacks caused more coverage -- a mutually beneficial spiral of death that they say has increased because of a heightened interest in terrorism since Sept. 11, 2001.
The international media may perhaps be unaware of the consequences of their doting coverage of terrorists when the consequences are not constantly and blatantly laid at their front doorstep, but what can be said of the leftist media in Israel, when the consequences are seen--and felt--on a near daily basis? It's likely more a result of the overall leftist viewpoint of the media, than anything else. Ideology trumps profit: and the results are no better.

In the article, the researchers goes on to suggest the logical step of denying them publicity by not publicly naming the terrorists--even given the exposure to news possible via the Internet, they suggest that since more than one group often claims responsibility, the affect of the publicity would be muted.

I'm not sure what the difference would be, whether multiple claims of responsibility were made publicly or made known over the Internet.

On the other hand, there is an example where terrorist responsibility should be made public: the involvement of Yasir Arafat in the assasination of American Ambassador, Cleo A. Noel Jr., and the charge d'affaires, George C. Moore in March 1973. It is unclear why the US Governement did not make clear Arafat's responsibility.

According to a New York Times article back in April 1986:

Assistant Attorney General John R. Bolton told Congress today that the United States would not seek the indictment of Yasir Arafat, the chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization, in the 1973 killings of two American diplomats in the Sudan.

The department said it had insufficient evidence to prosecute Mr. Arafat in the deaths of the American Ambassador, Cleo A. Noel Jr., and the charge d'affaires, George C. Moore.

Members of Congress had asked the department to study recent evidence that the lawmakers said indicated Mr. Arafat might have taken part in the decision by Palestinian guerrillas to kill the two men.

This is the same controversial and outspoken John Bolton who now represents the US at the UN.

But last month, the following was released by the Office of the Historian:
In the early evening hours of 1 March 1973, eight Black September Organization (BSO) terrorists seized the Saudi Arabian Embassy in Khartoum as a diplomatic reception honoring the departing United States Deputy Chief of Mission (DCM) was ending. After slightly wounding the United States Ambassador and the Belgian Charge d'Affaires, the terrorists took these officials plus the United States DCM, the Saudi Arabian Ambassador and the Jordanian Charge d'Affaires hostage. In return for the freedom of the hostages, the captors demanded the release of various individuals, mostly Palestinian guerrillas, imprisoned in Jordan, Israel and the United States.

The Khartoum operation was planned and carried out with the full knowledge and personal approval of Yasir Arafat, Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), and the head of Fatah. Fatah representatives based in Khartoum participated in the attack, using a Fatah vehicle to transport the terrorists to the Saudi Arabian Embassy.
The fact that Arafat was directly involved in the assassination is not new knowledge.

Scott Johnson points out in an article in November 2003 and again in a post on Powerline on Thursday that the State Department knew that Arafat was directly involved in the assasination of the two Americans from the beginning. [see also Solomonia on the electronic intercept of Arafat's order]

While writing an article on the topic in 2002, Johnson wrote to the State Department and was informed:
Evidence clearly points to the terrorist group Black September as having committed the assassinations of Amb. Noel and George Moore, and though Black September was a part of the Fatah movement, the linkage between Arafat and this group has never been established. [emphasis added]
Johnson later acquired 27 previously classified cables through the Freedom of Information Act. According to Johnson:

The cables demonstrated that in March 1973 the State Department had promptly concluded that Black September was nothing more than a front for Fatah and that Arafat himself had directed the operation resulting in the assassination of Noel and Moore. Both points are made over and over again in the cables to and from the Secretary of State.

To take one example, in early March the U.S Mission in Vienna reported to Secretary Rogers: "The Black September Organization (BSO) is a cover term for Fatah's terrorist operations executed by Fatah's intelligence organization, Jihaz al-Rasd...For all intents and purposes no significant distinction now can be made between the BSO and Fatah...Fatah leader Yasir Arafat has now been described in recent intelligence as having given approval to the Khartoum operation prior to its inception."

It's all very well for the US to assume to attempt to broker a peace treaty between Rabin and Arafat, but if it had been common knowledge that Arafat--a world terrorist and no freedom fighter--had ordered the murder of US officials, would Clinton and the US been so ready to push Israel into the Oslo Accords?

Update:

Soccer Dad recalls that Lady Margaret Thatcher said it best 20 years ago:
Democratic nations must try to find ways to starve the terrorist and the hijacker of the oxygen of publicity on which they depend.

Update II:

Thanks to Atlas Shrugs, Bizzy Blog and NewsBusters for linking!

Crossposted at Israpundit

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