Thursday, May 12, 2005

If it bleeds, it leads

John Tierney bemoans the media obsession with cramming terror attacks down our throats:

I didn't see what good I was doing for anyone except the planners of the attack. It was a horrifying story, but it was same story as every other suicide bombing, from the descriptions of the carnage and the mayhem to the quotes from eyewitnesses and the authoritie

And Bruce Schneier interprets his words as arguing "that the media is performing a public disservice by writing about all the suicide bombings in Iraq. This only serves to scare people, he claims, and serves the terrorists' ends."

True, it does. I can't put my response to that argument in any better words than Bruce's:

So why is the argument wrong? It's wrong because the danger of not reporting terrorist attacks is greater than the risk of continuing to report them. Freedom of the press is a security measure. The only tool we have to keep government honest is public disclosure. Once we start hiding pieces of reality from the public -- either through legal censorship or self-imposed "restraint" -- we end up with a government that acts based on secrets. We end up with some sort of system that decides what the public should or should not know.

Exactly. It is more important to a society that depends on the the free flow of information to keep our leaders honest to see these dramatic, terrible images, to hear of atrocities then to have them withheld, out of good intentions or bad, and never have a chance of deciding to fight against them.

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