Study: Terrorists, media have symbiotic relationship

You. Don’t. Say.

Call it the Freddy Krueger theory of counterterrorism: ignore it and it loses its power.

The researchers counted direct references to terrorism between 1998 and 2005 in the New York Times and Neue Zuercher Zeitung, a respected Swiss newspaper. They also collected data on terrorist attacks around the world during that period. Using a statistical procedure called the Granger Causality Test, they attempted to determine whether more coverage directly led to more attacks.

The results, they said, were unequivocal: Coverage caused more attacks, and attacks caused more coverage — a mutually beneficial spiral of death that they say has increased because of a heightened interest in terrorism since Sept. 11, 2001.

Zarqawi had already figured it out. Fancy that.

There are a lot of avenues for secondary studies here. They only looked at two papers; what would they get from a broader sample? Does it make a difference if the coverage is neutral or negative? Does Arab media coverage weigh more heavily than western media coverage? How much does the Internet bring to bear?

One of the researchers supports laws — of libel, I guess — that would prohibit calling anyone a terrorist who hasn’t been tried and convicted in that country’s courts. Er, yeah, buddy. Good luck with that.