Don’t give them what they want: Terrorists should be starved of the oxygen of publicity
Wednesday 22 February 2017, 7pm | VIDEO & PODCAST NOW ONLINEAdd to Calendar >
Why do they do it? Again and again, after every attack, our media react by giving the terrorists exactly what they want – maximum publicity. Of course, the public should be told that an atrocity has taken place. But each attack dominates the news for days at a stretch. The TV networks go into overdrive, flying out their journalists to the scene of the attack and saturating their airtime. All this plays into the hands of terrorist organisations, allowing their killers to be glorified in the eyes of their supporters. In addition, the wall-to-wall news coverage creates a climate of fear and fuels the more authoritarian and xenophobic strands of our politics. President Trump’s recent actions – banning refugees and appearing to reference fictional terrorist attacks in Sweden – might be seen as an inevitable consequence of this hysteria. We should get things into proportion. After all, you’re more likely to fatally slip in the shower than be killed in a terrorist attack.
This is the line that will be taken by former Times editor and Guardian columnist Simon Jenkins. He will be joined by Fawaz Gerges, a prominent expert on ISIS and al-Qaeda who has extensively researched the historical roots of jihadi extremism on the ground in the Middle East. Gerges will explain how the West has played into the narrative of terrorists by portraying them as an existential danger, rather than as mere common criminals.
But for national security commentator Douglas Murray, the only way to defeat terrorism is to tackle it head on, speaking plainly about the true scale of the threat. The recent wave of attacks by ISIS was just the beginning, he will argue. Over a thousand foreign fighters have recently returned from Syria to Europe, and are highly likely to pose a risk to our security. It’s vital that our media and authorities keep the public fully aware about the terrorist threat and encourage everyone to be vigilant. Honest reporting is absolutely crucial, especially when society itself is under attack. As for ISIS, how they are portrayed in the mainstream media is a matter of indifference to them – their publicity strategy is all about broadcasting their attacks on social media to an audience of millions, not headlines in the press.
Does publicising terrorism play into the hands of the perpetrators or does it help keep us on the alert against further attack?
Professor of International Relations at the LSE and one of the world’s foremost academic experts on jihadi terrorism. He is the author of ISIS: A History and The Rise and Fall of Al-Qaeda.
One of the UK’s leading commentators. He is a former editor of both the Evening Standard and The Times and was chairman of the National Trust from 2008 to 2014. He writes a column twice weekly for the Guardian and weekly for the London Evening Standard, and appears frequently on the BBC. He has authored numerous books on topics ranging from architecture and landscape, to history and politics.
Associate Director at The Henry Jackson Society, bestselling author and award-winning political commentator. He focuses particularly on UK and US foreign policy, terrorism, national security and the Middle East.
Award-winning senior CNN international correspondent who has reported extensively from war-torn Syria, where she has interviewed Western jihadists, witnessed mass-casualty airstrikes, and visited areas where no Western journalists dare to travel. She also reported from Paris following the November 2015 terror attacks, contributing to CNN’s recent award for Best Breaking News Coverage from the Royal Television Society.
Speakers are subject to change.