"Terrorism is aimed at the people watching"

Even if further research bears out those findings, I do not believe it desirable, or tenable, for terrorist attacks to go unreported. But a United Nations report was persuasive when declaring, “the relationship between terrorism and media is complex and fraught. At its worst, it is a perverse symbiotic relationship – terrorist groups devising spectacles of violence to continue drawing the world’s attention, and the media incentivised to provide wall-to-wall coverage due to huge audience interest.”

Or as Brian Jenkins put it, “Terrorism is aimed at the people watching, not at the actual victims.”

My thoughts are far from the last word on how media organizations should respond. But I find it strange that the surfeit of tabloid-style sensationalism after terrorist attacks is published without much debate or even awareness of possibly perverse consequences. Even merely stoking needless fear in Americans would be harmful.

To report on that which is frightening cannot be avoided. But media organizations can avoid omitting context or adding sensational elements that exacerbate public fears.

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