National Security

Kerry Asks Media To Stop Covering Terrorism, Media Promptly Covers ISIS Spokesman Death

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Russ Read Pentagon/Foreign Policy Reporter
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Secretary of State John Kerry suggested Tuesday the media should stop covering terrorism in an effort to curb attacks, but media outlets promptly disregarded his request hours later.

Kerry’s theory follows conventional Obama administration philosophy regarding terrorism: responding to attacks plays into the terrorist narrative. Instead, the secretary proposes that ignoring terrorists will prevent further attacks, considering, “people wouldn’t know what’s going on.” Hours after Kerry’s statement, reports came in that ISIS spokesman Abu Muhammed al-Adnani had been killed near Aleppo, Syria. Dozens of media outlets, including The Daily Caller News Foundation, quickly reported on the death.

Assigning the media blame is a tool frequently used by politicians, and even some media sources. Academics of various backgrounds also point the finger at the media for supposedly enabling terrorism. Michael Jetter, of the School of Economics and Finance at Universidad EAFIT in Colombia, made a contentious argument that media coverage can lead to follow-up attacks.

Some countries have taken various steps towards self-censorship. French outlets ceased publishing names and images of terrorists after a radical Islamic terrorist murdered a priest in July, in order to prevent any glorification or copy-cat attacks. The policy has proven ineffective thus far, as France has since been victim to at least two terrorism-related attacks.

“The notion that denying posthumous glorification will reduce terrorism is based on a confused and confusing view of contemporary jihadis,” wrote Noah Feldman, a constitutional and international law professor at Harvard University, in a piece for Bloomberg View last week. “What attracts some young Muslims, mostly men, to martyrdom is precisely the desire to subsume their identities into a greater, divinely inspired cause — that of the Muslim ummah, or community, as a whole.”

But Kerry is not alone: World leaders responsible for tackling ISIS often complain that reporting on ISIS undermines their efforts.

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