Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Shoud we over react..?

We should not over react and fall in the trap placed by the terrorists says, Sunil Adam

Excerpts from his thought provoking article:

It is pertinent here to note that the media coverage of terrorism also has a bearing on the response of the governments. In his seminal work, “Mini Manual of the Urban Guerrilla,” Brazilian terrorist and thinker Carlos Marighella says the whole idea of staging spectacular attacks is to make the target government “overreact.”

The greater the media coverage, the greater the pressure on the government to demonstrate that it is in control, which invariably results in excessive measures that cause inconvenience to and harassment of ordinary citizens. Worse still, overreaction transforms a political situation into a military situation, as Marighella envisages.

That is precisely what the Indian government needs to resist as it contemplates its responses to the Mumbai terror outrage and that is what the Bush administration did not factor in when it declared “war” against the perpetrators of 9/11 attacks. If anything, President Bush compounded the situation by waging a war against Iraq in the mistaken assumption that a demonstration of overwhelming military power against a renegade state will send a message to the nonstate actors.

Counterterrorism’s conceptual lacuna of not factoring in media coverage becomes all the more glaring when we take into consideration that there are no foolproof ways to prevent each and every act of terrorism, let alone suicide attacks that are virtually indefensible.

No amount of intelligence gathering and monitoring of “chatter” or erecting security barriers to secure vulnerable targets can stop every planned attack. Not if all target-rich democracies are potential theaters of terrorist operations. The only option is to neutralize the efficacy of terrorism as an instrument of propaganda.

Nearly 40 years ago, when the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) assembled 60 international television networks and blew up three hijacked, but empty, Boeing aircrafts at Dawson airfield in Amman, Jordan, it became obvious that without the media coverage of terrorism would be reduced to what it actually is: a low-intensity and indiscriminate violence perpetrated by a small number of non-state actors with limited resources and reach.

Yet, no effort has ever been made to curtail media coverage on the plea that it would be an affront to the freedom of the press and amount to an undemocratic measure of censorship.

But that wouldn’t be the case, if there is a voluntary effort by the media itself. After all, over the past two decades, and certainly since 9/11, citizens, institutions and businesses in every country that has been a target of terrorism have made sacrifices and accepted restrictions on their freedoms, in an effort to prevent terrorist attacks.

It is only the Fifth Estate that seems to be exempt from contributing to this global effort. If anything, the visual media, particularly the American television networks that broadcast globally, have profited from greater viewership, thanks to the coverage of terrorist activities that have gone up exponentially in recent years.

The visual media and terrorism have a mutually reinforcing relationship, which needs to be broken to the detriment of the latter.

To read the full story, click here.

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