Friday, September 22, 2006

Driving Over A Precipice

I woke up early this morning with a disturbing dream. I was driving in a convertible through the neighborhood I grew up in as a child. I'm fuzzy on some of the details, but after an attempted car-jacking (who doesn't enjoy a good car-jacking dream?), when I was trying to get out of a tight spot by turning the car around, I lost control and ended up backing the car over a precipice. Then I woke up. I always do wake up. I am not one of those people who sees a bad dream through to the bitter end; I bail pretty soon after the scary bits start. So, afterward, knowing further sleep would elude me, I took refuge in an old friend, turned on my laptop, and started reading. I've been flitting about from topic to topic, and finally settled on one to pass on to you that shares a few elements with my dream.

At TCS Daily, Austin Bay is looking at the "ambush technique" used by Islamofascist terrorists, which combines violence and media. He discusses the terrorists' use of a "grievance trigger", aimed at attracting media coverage, and according to Bay, intimidating both non-Muslims, and Muslims of a non-violent persuasion. He assigns this deliberate combination an acronym with a bit of irony:

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.
He discusses three specific incidents: the fake Guantanamo Bay Koran flushing story, which set off Muslim riots, the Danish cartoon debacle, which set off Muslim riots, and the recent remarks by Pope Benedict that quoted a Byzantine Emperor's criticism of Islamic conversion by the sword, that served as the trigger for "firebombing Christian churches (in several Muslim countries) and the execution-style slaying of a Catholic nun who worked in a hospital in Somalia." How ironic that protests against the Pope "slurring" Islam, by pointing out its violence, should take the form of violence. Can you say, "proving his point?"

Each of these stories has been magnified by a media that loves to report turmoil and upheaval, but the problem is that the media, by fanning these stories to life, creates much of that turmoil. Once there is a whiff of Muslim objection, the reporters of the news are all over it, and thus they spread it. I'm not blaming the media for the stories, but I am saying that the way they report them does add impact to the "grievance trigger." I am also not saying that no Muslim grievance is ever legitimate. I am simply saying that they get magnified to violence by the symbiosis of Islamofascist agitation and the media. This, I think, is Bay's main point--all of the incidents he cited required media cooperation to spread the grievance:
Executing a CBS ambush requires the implicit cooperation of sensationalist media -- media that delight in emotional slights and rarely probe beyond the superficial. Until that implicit cooperation ends, the Islamo-fascists will continue to exploit this productive stratagem, achieving propaganda victories designed to ignite a "clash of civilizations" and brutally intimidate their Muslim and non-Muslim opposition.
This is also where what Bay writes reminds me of my dream. We in the West find ourselves in a tight spot, facing ongoing "car-jacking" attempts by terrorists and Islamists. The Western media's reaction is to drive backwards, without looking, over a precipice. Ultimately, every time the media buys into the promotion of the "grievance trigger," they take us over another cliff, and we have to deal with the consequences. Unfortunately, unlike a sleeping Kat, the civilized world can't simply wake up. We have to run the full course of where the precipice leads, from riots to murdered nuns. I'm not saying the media should stop reporting things that might inconveniently incite Islamic ire, but I am saying that they ought to be more responsible. Could they have checked a little more closely into how it would even be possible to flush a book down a toilet, before filling magazines and newspapers with the story? Yes. Did the Danish cartoon kerfuffle really need to be pushed, even when (especially when) it was inciting riots? No. Does an obscure reference by the Pope, out of context, which was a very minor part of his lecture, warrant all the headlines? No. I know that I said we, as a civilization, can't really just "wake up," but I wish the media would.