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The guilt of the media

David Warren has a great column on the synergy between the media and the terrorists that are trying to destabilize Iraq. And from that, he makes a strong case that Zarqawi's death is a great victory:

So much of the credit for his murderous successes, and those of other terrorists like him, must be given to the mainstream media -- both East and West. Journalists assiduously advance the terrorist cause, by reporting almost exclusively on allied setbacks and mistakes, and by their ceaseless improvisation of destructive criticism against "Bush" and other Western leaders and allies. Heroic, and largely successful reconstruction efforts in Iraq have been ignored; instead we have an endless spool of meticulously-reported terror hits. The Western media attention to, and celebration of, such unstable characters as Cindy Sheehan and Michael Berg, make their alliances obvious. The New York Times has been the bellwether for this. Almost every news item touching Iraq is spun to maximize its demoralizing effect on the allied war effort. And across America itself, editors look to the Times nightly front-page line-up for clues on how to slant their own coverage.

To an enemy who depends utterly on morale, in the absence of significant military abilities -- who has only such weaponry as he can rig or steal, and only such soldiers as he can recruit in secret; who has no secure territory to which he can retreat and regroup -- this constant and reliable support from the media is indispensable. Without it, the "resistance" in Iraq would have collapsed quickly, saving ten-thousands of lives; and the Afghan "resistance" would be in greater disarray (though it has the benefit of secure pasturage in remote tribal mountain fastnesses).

But Zarqawi's death goes beyond spinning. The very fact touched off huge celebrations across Iraq this week, as did the capture of Saddam Hussein before it. While our Western media are loath to cover these demonstrations -- lest they enhance President Bush's position in U.S. domestic politics -- their effect on the enemy in Iraq is profound. An enemy whose morale depended on Zarqawi's reputation for ruthlessness, against the hard fact of popular detestation, is left staring at a wall. He needs another Zarqawi to emerge, quickly.

I've pointed out this terrorist-media feedback loop before, and it sickens me. To terrorize (or demoralize) a population requires not just violent acts, but the delivery of threats and intimidation. Most of the world's media have been too eager to fill the role.

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