Saturday 29 July 2017

The Impact of Media on Terrorism

De Facto Allies in Magnifying Unwarranted Impact?

2009-06-02 11:18


Some eminent writers and scholars argue that too often the media helps promote terrorists' agenda. Others, however, have a different opinion. I tend to go with the former, and in this short Paper, will show how terrorism can be seen from at least two perspectives, those of the victim and the perpetrator. Using three examples, I will prove that the media would not mind terrorist acts coming up on their own on the agenda, however distasteful and disagreeable they may seem. Terrorists cannot thrive without the media, and I will bring out the obvious: The media suits the interests of both parties. 

         Keywords: terrorism, media, perspectives, casualties, infidels, television ratings

        The horrific events of 9/11 brought terrorism centre stage. Terrorism had existed well before that date, but remained largely underplayed, till Uncle Sam got bearded in his own den for the first time since their war of independence way back in 1875-83. Over 99% of the American people have no idea of the ravages of war and what it can do to a targeted nation. Without attempting to add to the plethora of definitions of terrorism, let me just say that there is a fundamental difference in the way it is seen, related purely to perspective. The victim and the perpetrator portray an incident affecting them quite differently.

         For example, US media might say, “Terrorists detonated a bomb near the camp of the U.S. peacekeeping forces, causing numerous U.S. military casualties.” Arab media would report it as: “Freedom fighters detonated a bomb near the base of the crusaders. The tremendous blast killed and severely injured many infidels.”

        A free press is a mandate in a democracy. If the content available was not salutary, the media would still report it. Terrorism uses this mandate to further its own aim by spreading fear. A terrorist organization actually needs the media to spread information about localized attacks as widely as possible. In the cause of reporting, or at times, hogging the limelight, the media does exactly what the terrorist wants. Paradoxically, terrorism has become a boon for the media, because such attacks make television ratings surge. “Terrorist acts are well calculated, always played to an audience and specific tactics employed to maximize impact.”

       There are people who feel that the media brings the world up to date and educates people about the ills of terrorism and how it is crucial to lend a hand against this ugly monster. I do not agree and believe that the media is only interested in its ratings, ‘damn the consequences’.  I will use three examples to support my argument.

       Since 1960, advancement in technology had affected the media greatly, giving it a face and voice, not just events reported on black and white paper. The nature of terrorism reporting had also evolved simultaneously. While aimed to promote terror in a larger target audience, terrorism often aims to recruit more supporters. The media is the conduit to both these aims. Terrorism ‘relies almost exclusively on psychological “warfare” for its intended impact. Victims of an attack are the signal that is amplified and broadcast, terrorizing the target audience into capitulating to the terrorists demands’. “Terrorists are not interested in three, or thirty – or even three thousand - deaths. They allow the imagination of the target population to do their work for them. In fact, the desired panic could be produced by the continuous broadcast of threats and declarations – by radio and TV interviews, videos and all the familiar methods of psychological warfare.”

       Terrorists have four media-dependent objectives when they strike or threaten to commit violence. The first is: Gain attention, intimidate, create fear. The second is: Recognition of the organisation’s motives. Why they are carrying out attacks? The third is: Gain the respect and sympathy of those in whose name they claim to attack. The last is: Gain a quasi-legitimate status and media treatment at par with legitimate political actors.” Many cases confirm that ‘getting attention through the media is important terrorist strategy. The 7 July 2005 London bombings on the transit system in London is one example, with the G-8 summit on in Scotland. The terrorists pushed the G-8 leaders off the front pages’.

       The Palestinian terrorist organisation Black September attack on Israeli athletes in the Munich Olympic Games 1972, when people around the world were watching the Games and large numbers of newspaper and broadcast journalists had gathered, is another example. A hostage situation and a rescue attempt ensued, closely covered by all media, and watched by approximately 800 million people throughout the world. The terrorists “monopolised the attention of a global television audience.  “Black September undoubtedly chose Munich at the time of the Olympics because the technology, equipment, and personnel were in place to guarantee a television drama that had never before been witnessed in the global arena.”

       The images of attacks like 9/11, can inspire awe. For instance, “after 9/11, Al-Qaeda and Bin Laden have become more popular in the Muslim community.” “Simply by showing that he and his kind could land a devastating blow against the US on home ground, bin Laden conditioned a large number of young Muslim men – mainly in the Muslim diaspora in western Europe – for recruitment into his cause without ever meeting them.”

       The Internet can be and has been used terrorists for cyber-terrorism, coordination of plans, communication with cells, or propaganda and information. That they can now manage their own media is not the only advantage they have in using the Internet. Higher bandwidth, a product of advancing technology, allows them to display their acts in real time, magnifying the ‘Dread Factor’ multifold.

“There are other advantages in using the Net. The audience is enormous; it is easy to access and stay anonymous, it is incredibly fast and inexpensive, and it offers a multimedia environment, which means that text, graphics, video, songs, books, and presentations can all be combined. In addition, regular media now often report on or even copy Internet content, which means that both old and new media can be influenced by using the Internet alone.” Weimann, 2004.

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

Monday 10 July 2017



Since 1982, the troubled national carrier Air India (AI) has earned the dubious distinction of being an airline with the highest number of employees on its rolls per aircraft as it has been hiring staff to oblige political bosses who run the government. According to industry sources, no reputed airline in the world has an employee-to-aircraft ratio as high as that of AI with 27,000 employees in 2012 (rectified to 40,000 in 2015), a staggering ratio of 328 employees per aircraft.

Figures for efficient Airlines are 127 per aircraft at Lufthansa (38,000 employees: 299 aircraft), 140 at Singapore Airlines (14,000 employees with 100 aircraft) and 178 employees per aircraft at British Airways. 

"It is a fact that they are overstaffed. Positions were created to please political bosses. Staff was not hired according to operational requirements. People were hired not for competence but for connections," said Captain Mohan Ranganathan, an aviation safety consultant. With taxpayer's money utilised to save AI year after year, voices were inevitably raised to prune the airline's staff strength to make it economically viable. “The deadwood needs to be removed," Ranganathan added. HOW? It is simply not possible to remove a single employee, as they are protected by Unions. It is the only airline that allows unsightly and overweight 55-yr old mothers of three-possibly grandmas too-to fly as Cabin Crew. 

"The second highest liability of AI is overstaffing next only to the Rs 50,000 crore debt," says Captain G. R. Gopinath, the founder of Air Deccan. Scaling down the number of employees and cutting their fat pay packets forms part of the turnaround plan of the loss-making airline but these crucial steps have not been implemented. Yes, it launched an aggressive voluntary retirement scheme (VRS) immediately to downsize the airline, which was running up a wage bill of Rs 4,500 cr annually. Less than 400 employees left, as the employees were very comfortable in their cushy jobs.

Even the modest plan to prune 10 per cent of the staff strength through VRS has not been implemented as political will is lacking. "It is a sorry plight that Air India does not have the right business plan and model which is adding to its woes," said Kapil Kaul, chief executive officer, South Asia, Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation (Capa). But the grapevine spilled its secrets-AI was the prime carrier of Politicos and Babus, that too in 1st class, leave alone executive class. 


Out of the blue, on Oct 9, 2015 came a bolt of lightning. “AI cuts down staff-per-aircraft ratio from 300 to 108 in 2 yrs.” The hierarchy claimed that Air India had successfully reduced its air the aircraft-to-employee ratio from 300 per flight to 108, cutting it down by almost two-third in the last two years and improving on the time its aircraft remain in the air. "It has increased turn-around time for every flight and increased the number of hours an aircraft remains in the sky," an airline official. THIS IS ABSOLUTE BULLSHIT. The mega money-drain now claims to have the lowest employee to aircraft ratio in the world! IN THE WORLD!!! They simply changed the nomenclature of 25,000 employees.

For once, the proper decision has been taken  ̶  Get rid of the pink elephant. But then, which fool will want to take over an inefficient, slothful, indolent and diatribe-ready set of loss makers with equally inefficient operating status, laden with crippling debts nearing 55,000 cr? When you take over 122 aircraft, 40,000+ employees, you take over unknown secrets that will tumble out of Ma Hubbard’s cupboard only after the deed is done. 

Once the nation's largest carrier (funny, there was no competition), its market share in the booming domestic market has slumped to 13 percent as private carriers such as IndiGo, Spicejet and Jet Airways have grown. Previous attempts to offload the airline have been unsuccessful. If Modi can pull this off, it will bolster his credentials as a reformer bold enough to take on some of the country's most obdurate problems. A BJP labour union has opposed the idea of a sale already. 

And the joke of the day: The national carrier has stopped serving non-vegetarian food in the economy class for all flights in the domestic sector with immediate effect. This is aimed at cutting costs! All of Rs. 30,000 per day. 1-1.2 cr per year, the salary of 2 junior Captains. Passengers in the business and first class will not be affected.