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Terrorism is a publicity stunt

Posted by John Reed on

The public never seems to have figured out that terrorism is a publicity stunt. The goal of publicity stuntmen is publicity. Did al Qaeda get publicity as a result of 9/11? It may have been the most publicity anyone ever got for anything in the history of the world.

Al Qaeda’s paymasters, ultimately, were the media and the folks who watched the videos of the planes going into the WTC. Did the media broadcast those images? Sure. So we can blame the media? No. Any media outlet that did not show those images would have seen its entire viewing audience switch channels away from them in seconds.

But it would be appropriate if we could use some restraint when it comes to rewarding publicity seekers for doing telegenic things to get noticed —especially when those things involve killing or maiming people to get attention.

Athletic event streakers

For example, TV networks no longer point their cameras at guys who run onto the field in the middle of the game at athletic events. They figured out it was encouraging and rewarding such behavior. Well, duh.

A woman used to come to the Academy Awards every year dressed in extremely skimpy dresses. The Academy finally banned her.

So the media is not totally incapable of refraining from rewarding publicity seekers. Corporate spokespeople and political campaign workers have generally learned to try to ignore such people whenever they can get away with it. To his chagrin, Virginia senator George Allen failed to ignore “Makaka” in his recent unsuccessful run for reelection and may have lost the very close election as a result.

So one big rule about terrorism is that neither the media nor the government should reward terrorists with publicity. Many Arabs said guys like Osama and Zarquawi were nobodies until the President of the U.S. and other U.S. officials made them stars by talking about them as if they were important. Those guys promptly added the high government denunciations of them to their resumés and became more important in the Arab world as a result.

Invented by Muhammed Ali

This trick was invented by Muhammed Ali (who was inspired to do so by pro wrestler Gorgeous George). When he started professional fighting, he was going to have to fight a bunch of guys to get a shot at the heavyweight title. He wanted to jump the line. So he invented trash talking and did, indeed, get to jump the line as a result. (One boxing fan tells me Ali was at the head of the line when he started the trash talking. Not my area of expertise.) Guys like Osama and Zarquawi blow up a building and all of a sudden they are candidates for Time Man of the Year. How’s about we wise up and stop promoting these nobodies thereby rewarding them for terrorism?

The media and government should refrain from identifying either individuals or groups responsible for terrorist incidents. They should not devote air time to discussing the grievances of those responsible for terrorism because doing so rewards the terrorists and is the motivation for the terrorism. If we take away the reward, the terrorism will diminish. If we could take away the publicity reward completely, it would end. It’s like outlawing paying ransom to make kidnapping no longer a profitable business. Giving publicity to terrorists, their causes, and groups rewards them for killing and maiming and thereby encourages more killing and maiming.

They are criminals, period. The media and the government should report and react the same way they react to murders and assaults. For example, on 9/11, 19 guys hijacked four airliners and crashed them into the WTC and Pentagon, killing themselves and their passengers as well as thousands of people on the ground.

I don’t know if the First Amendment would prevent a law rewarding terrorists with publicity. Seems like their right to peaceful free speech could be preserved. If I recall correctly, a U.S. court said that yelling “Fire” in a crowded theater was not protected free speech because of the likelihood of injury. An even better argument could be made that rewarding terrorists for killing and maiming with publicity and air time is likely to encourage more such injuries.

John T. Reed

Link to information about John T. Reed’s Succeeding book which, in part, relates lessons learned about succeeding in life from being in the military

John T. Reed military home page


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