Jewish World Review Oct. 23, 2001 /6 Mar-Cheshvan, 5762

Stanley Crouch

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The media, where threats to flesh and blood have little meaning


http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- THERE has been a lot of what I consider irresponsible broadcast and print speculation since Sept. 11 on possible terrorist methods of mass murder. It is packaged as "thorough" coverage.

I don't buy that. I don't buy the idea that in a democracy it is the duty of the media to speculate to the point of providing potential terrorists with blueprints for more mayhem.

I don't think that those acting irresponsibly believe they are doing something wrong. They're just too removed from reality to step outside the world of abstract discussion where threats to flesh and blood have little meaning.

Otherwise, one cannot understand how on television and radio and in papers and magazines the methods are detailed, for example, on how to successfully spread infectious diseases or create an explosion comparable to a small nuclear bomb.Someone who wants to murder as many Americans as possible should not be able to get detailed ideas on how to do it from media outlets.

Should we have absolute media silence on the threats to public safety? Of course not. I am saying something else. Public fears should not be transformed into a still more chilling experience in a period when the techniques described by the talking heads and press pundits might actually be carried out.

Perhaps too many of us within the media have become accustomed to fear as a product, as a form of entertainment, so we are not aware of the difference between special effects and thousands of people being murdered.

Maybe we think that the obligatory movie scenes in which the minds of the mad are discussed have to be replicated on television news and in periodicals so audiences can feel they are getting a full serving of horror.

I am not talking about censorship. I'm talking about common sense.

There are those who say the terrorists among us are so sophisticated that anything they might hear some "expert" speculate about has already been thought of or is already in the planning stage. I don't buy that, either.

We don't know what terrorists know or what they're working on. It's foolish to offer them even a shred of inspiration or advice.

Media types understand this when the point is properly put. I discovered this when arguing my point with a journalist in her late 20s. I asked her if she were on a panel in a room full of rapists and burglars, whether she would give out information that would make it easier for her home to be burglarized or offer instructions on when she was most vulnerable to a rapist. You know she said no.

I'm not arguing that we in the media should return to sex scandals and other sensational but insubstantial stories. I just believe that if terrorists intend to murder people, they should have to struggle for ideas, not get them for free.


JWR contributor and cultural icon Stanley Crouch is a columnist for The New York Daily News. He is the author of, among others, The All-American Skin Game, Or, the Decoy of Race: The Long and the Short of It, 1990-1994,       Always in Pursuit: Fresh American Perspectives, and Don't the Moon Look Lonesome: A Novel in Blues and Swing. Send your comments by clicking here.

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