Friday, September 24, 2004

Oxygen of Publicity

Squander and Dumb Jon take issue with my recent fatwa against the Eugene Anderson video.

To Squander "the Western world is full of people who still haven't got the message" and to Jon "some folks won't get it until they actually see the Religion of Peace in action".

Alas I agree with Squander's commentator Gary. Although Jon may be right in thinking that the execution footage shown on prime time news might shock a few guardianistas out of their complacency, the people looking for this video are "FHM types who pore through the telephone sex line ads later. It's a completely different audience."

Where Jon does hit the mark is when he says "It is entirely fair to say that the media is acting as a willing accomplice to the killers. Of course, a less cooperative media might not mean less violence, but a media prepared to devote air time and column inches to passing on enemy propaganda in time of war can hardly be said to be discouraging further acts of terrorism."

Listen to this BBC Today item (RealAudio) - one of the few occasions where I find myself agreeing with the Guardian's Peter Preston. The Brit media - including the Sun, Mail and Telegraph are treating this as a massive human interest story with lots of thrilling political overtones. They aren't taking this war seriously.

Blanket media coverage is exactly what the bad guys want and exactly what we shouldn't give them. For the last week the issue and its spin-offs (Islamophobia again - and again and again, 'it's all Blair's fault' again and again) have dominated the papers and BBC. If there's any rationality among the kidnappers I can see the poor guy being kept alive for just as long as they can keep the front pages. On present form they could take a finger at a time and dominate the news till Christmas.

Yesterdays Indie front page was basically 'I've been unjustly imprisoned in Blair's fascist state - and even I think you should release him'. This morning's R4 'Broadcasting House' was jointly presented from Liverpool and Zarquawi's home town in Jordan. Plenty of room in such coverage for 'it's terrible, but what about the Palestinians', 'it's terrible, but what about the people bombed by America/Abu Ghraib prisoners/Bush's war for oil/poodle Blair/Hutton report'.

We even get to hear that the righteously angry 'Iraqis are fighting to get all foreigners out of their country'. Funny - British people who campaign legally to stop foreign immigration into the UK are called Nazis and should be 'duffed up'. People who saw foreigners' heads off are 'the resistance'. Where's Zarquawi from again ?

There is only one scenario where we should be giving the kidnappers exactly what they want and keeping the front pages full - if an intelligence-gathering operation with a reasonable chance of success is trying to pinpoint the hostage, or if somewhere in Baghdad half a dozen Arabic-speaking SAS are inching their way towards him while Britain tries to give them enough time.

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