Glenn posted a response to my opinion that it is stupid and offensive to blame the media for ‘ambushing’ us by reporting terrorist acts and jihadists threats, and I am not quite sure what to make of it. Glenn writes:
Cole undermines his case a bit by admitting that there are cases where media people have “behaved inappropriately” — that is, faked news on terrorists’ behalf, but the bigger point, stressed in my post and in the Austin Bay article that I linked, is that media attention isn’t just neutral coverage — the way it generally is with, say, urban crime — but rather the actual goal of terrorists. In fact, it’s their lifeblood. Terrorism is an information war disguised as a military conflict, and media coverage is an essential part of the terrorist plan.
Media people know this, and even admit it, but don’t let it affect their coverage — though as Pam Hess of UPI admitted, they’re far more careful about being spun by the U.S. military — and one reason why they don’t let it affect their coverage is that terrorism gives them ratings. That’s what I meant by their mutually-supporting relationship. Terrorists provide ratings (and, as we’ve seen, often via staged news events) and news media provide the coverage that terrorists need. As I’ve noted in the past, news media are entirely capable of moderating their own coverage when they think the stakes are high — say, protection of confidential sources, or promotion of racial tolerance — but here they clearly don’t feel that way. If they applied as much skepticism and adversarialism to terrorist behavior as they do to the U.S. military, few of us would be complaining.
I don’t think it is undermining my case to point out legitimate media failings. To the contrary, I think it strengthens my case to point out that, yes, there are times when the media is flawed and does ‘buy into’ jihadist spin. Just like it is fair to point out that there are times when the media buys into the government spin on issues. WMD, anyone? In the run up to the war in Iraq, whole segments of society were effectively shut out from the debate- cast as insane, crazy, anti-war activists and routinely ignored.
I was ok with that because, in my opinion, many of them were just that- insane, crazy, anti-war activists. That some of them turned out to be right about a number of things is egg on my face, not theirs. Ask your average lefty about the media coverage prior to the war in Iraq, throw in the name ‘Judith Miller,’ and then duck.
Regardless, it seems Glenn’s real complaint is that the media refuses to be spun by the ‘good guys,’ but is somehow buying the ‘spin’ of the bad guys. I don’t see that. I see them trying to report what they know at the time, and I don’t think what the jihadists and terrorists said was or is ‘spin.’ I think they really do want to do what they are saying, and I don’t have a problem with the media reporting that. That isn’t being spun- that is accurately reporting what they want to do, and I support them reporting it much like I support allowing the KKK to march down the streets of Skokie – I want to see what the crazy bastards are up to rather than having them fester underground.
At any rate, I simply do not buy the argument that the media being cautious when dealing with an administration and military establishment that routinely does lie to them is somehow a problem, and I don’t buy the argument that reporting the desires and statements of jihadists is somehow ‘helping’ them. If anything, it galvanizes support against them.
It seems to me the core of this distaste with the media is the false impression that, for whatever reasons, the media is on the side of the terrorists because they report what they do, yet not on the side of the good guys because they are skeptical after being lied to a number of times. If that is the case, Glenn’s problem isn’t the media coverage, it is that he is not getting to decide what the media is covering.
Finally, the debate we are now having is light-years apart from Austin Bay’s thesis. The media being insufficiently servile to the ‘good guys’ yet buying into the ‘spin’ of the bad guys is a whole different argument than Austin Bay’s claim that the media is ‘ambushing’ us and working in concert with the terrorists. Let’s quote Bay:
The ambush technique coordinates blood-spilling violence with sensational imagery and rhetoric using a dispersed network of media operatives, guerrillas and terrorists. Networked, Coordinated Blood-spilling plus Sensationalism — hence the technique’s acronym: the CBS ambush.