John M. Phelan
Framing Terror



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Media Attending to Murder:
Reflections on the coverage of Daniel Pearl's Brutal Murder

The beheading of Mr. Pearl on camera is a dreadfully barbaric act from our primitive pasts of hanging, drawing and quartering, all before cheering mobs. It is truly horrendous and a giant step backwards.
It will surely be decried as such around the world, thus setting back the hopes so many intelligent and rational Muslims have held for honorable accomodation with the West and peaceful reconciliation with current enemies.

But I doubt whether this horror from the primitive past will be compared in our major corporate media with the technological horror of the high-tech present: strategic bombing or strategic air power, which decapitates, dismembers, roasts, eviscerates, buries alive not merely combatants or those who volunteer the risk of harm's way, like journalists in hostile territory, but the innocent in their homes, of whatever age and condition.

This is what converting countries into parking lots means on the ground. And this is the direct purpose of strategic bombing doctrine: demoralize the enemy so that he has nothing left to fight for. The damage is not collateral, it is essential, from Dresden and Hiroshima to Baghdad and Kandahar. What kind of victory results is as varied as the times and the enemy, but it is never neat and surgical.

Both classes of murder are barbaric, but beheading, being primitive as well as barbaric, can only cut off one head at a time. Nothing like the efficiency of carpet bombing.

Yet Mr. Pearl's horrid death will be singled out as a sign of the monopoly on evil and lack of respect for human life by those unable to wield the whirlwind of high-tech industrial strength death-dealing.

One day perhaps we can all find less brutal and more lastingly effective means to justice and peace. Innocent victims are not avenged by more innocent victims. So long as our media and politicians keep trumpeting our unique concern for human life and loathing of violence as we extract eyes and teeth, that day stays ever distant.



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