TwoCatastrophic Bombings in Beirut (1983)
TwoCatastrophic Bombings in Beirut (1983)
Dueto globalization, people from the whole world have access to newsthrough radio, television and the Internet. At the same time creditgoes to those making a progress in communication technologies. Theadvent of telecommunication technologies has facilitated thetransformation of the world into a global village. Telecommunicationshave also been blamed to fuel criminal activities since theyfacilitate the cross-border spreading of terrorist organizations andradical groups. The attackers have members in specific countries thatthey want to inspire and they have enemies that they want to shockand instill fear.Currently, the most famous examples are Al-Qaedaand ISIS. These terror organizations have gained high mediaattention hence have managed to recruit more supporters and members. Some people say that media coverage is nothing less than adouble-edged sword. On the one side it informs the public about theviolence and is dedicated to creating awareness and support againstbombing and acts of violence. On the other hand, media reportinghelps these groups infuse fear and reach the possible supporters whoare far away. This paper aims at explaining the role that mediaplayed in 1983 Beirut barracks bombings (Nacos, 2016).
Inthe last decade, there have been quite some examples of the mutualbenefit that exists between the media and terrorist organizations. Whether it is the quite minor arson by an amateurish environmentalcollection or mass destruction by a network of terrorists, theperpetrators’ media-related objectives are the same: they likeattention, to be recognized as well as a high degree of legitimacyand respectability. Their main aim is to attract the reader and gainall the attention for instilling fear. Media on the other hand, getsattention from the public, and that plays a significant role inincreasing their records for sales as well as getting a high numberof audiences.
Terrorismreported becomes active thus the media has to present their storiesin a certain way so that they benefit from the eagerness of thepublic since the public likes updates on terror attacks. Tragedy isone of the values that make a story news-worthy, and terrorism andtragedy are inseparable. At many times, the media reports for owngain other than that of the public. They consider their interestfirst forgetting that the public is watching and waiting for whatthey publish. It is, therefore, justifiable to opine that there is amutually beneficial relationship between terrorism and today’smedia. However, despite the mutual benefits, the media is failing todo its part such that the public never gets informed on some issuesor they get less information on certain matters such as terrorattacks (Freedman & Thussu, 2012).
Thoughthe media covered the Beirut bombings, still the little that was donein the media concerning the attack managed to convince the UnitedStates to withdraw their forces from Lebanon. Regardless of thesalience of the terrorism taking place today, the scholars and policymakers have just began to understandhow the act works. A lot ofarticles about the origin of terrorism, what motivates terrorists, aswell as the conditions in which terrorists strategies fail or succeedare being published. One of the aims of terrorists beingrecognition, the media plays a significant part in ensuring that theyachieve their goal. Beirut attacks through the media facilitatedwithdrawal of soldiers from Lebanon, but a question arises on whetherthe media played their role accordingly. Yes, they succeeded in theterrorists’ part but they failed to completely satisfy the publicsince one day after the attack, Paris was attacked and the attack hitthe headlines of western media such as the New York newspapers. Media ensured that Paris attack was all over and caught the attentionof the public who read the stories and mourned the death of thepeople who died (Freedman & Thussu, 2012).
Onthe Friday of the attack, there was a widely shared tweet on attackthat would take place in Paris. But it was later realized that it wasnot all about Paris but Beirut. The tweet was shared by over 50,000people but it was wrong. In fact the Beirut bombings were extensivelycovered by the media. The New York Times , the most famous mediaorganization in the United States covered it. The Washington Post ranan Associated Press story on it. Then reporter Hugh Naylor was tocover the blasts and write a nice lengthy piece on their aftermath.The Economist had a thoughtful piece that reflected the significanceof the attack. CNN is known for rightly or wrongly having areputation for least-common-denominator judgment of news, reportedone section after another on the Beirut bombings. Even then, aBritish tabloid (Daily Mail) which is well known for its gossipyroyal’s coverage appeared in the story (Freedman & Thussu,2012).
Duringthe first 30 hours, at least 433 media outlets around the world wroteabout the attacks on Beirut as compared to 4507 media outlets thatcovered the Paris attack at the same time. This shows a massive spikein the coverage of Paris incident hence the media was biased againstthe Beirut attacks so openly. In the first six hours of the event,about 40% of the domains that would have wanted to cover the Parisincident had already made it viral. There was a wide discrepancy inthe saturation in the first 30 hours. The dispersion of top mediadomains for Paris was nearing 5 times more than dispersion of theBeirut bombings. There was also a high rise in the saturationcoverage for Paris in the first two hours while for 24 hours only afew top media outlets had covered the Beirut incident. The terroristsachieved equally from Beirut ad Paris bombings despite all thatdisparity (Freedman & Thussu, 2012).
Thetweets that had gone viral about Paris attacks some days before theattacks are said to have been wrong. Social media being a verypowerful engine of distribution can distribute false informationcausing a very severe impact. Social media disseminates informationaround the world faster than any other kind of media. Before therelease of that Twitter, it would have been good to confirm whicharea was actually the target for security purposes. If the tweetwould have contained the correct information, a lot could not havehappened. However, there is a possibility that the attackers releasedthat false information to confuse people so as to be able to attackboth places. The media might have released the first hand informationwhich was wrong but there was a source from which they received thenews before broadcasting it. Finding the origin of that tweet mayshift blames from social media but a question will remain on whyafter the attacks the media covered the story (Freedman & Thussu,2012).
Mainstreamreporting of the Beirut attack has been bare, pathetically dwarfingthe existing frenzy centering in the region of Paris. Beirut has notmanaged to attract the kind of attention that Paris got in the socialmedia. An Indian blogger reported to the ignorance of Beirut bombingswith a poem that has gone viral since. He says that we should notonly pray for Paris but the world. She continues to say that thatworld is in Beirut is reeling from bombings and not covered by themedia. After the Paris attacks, President Obama made a speech andsaid that Paris attack was an attack on all the humanity and theuniversal value that people share. However, he never made officialstatement concerning Beirut attacks (Freedman & Thussu, 2012).
Duringthe time of Beirut bombing, (October 23rd, 1983) Ronald Reagan wasPresident of the United States. And after what happened then 30 yearsdown the line, there has not appeared anything on the television.There were 241 people dead at Beirut Airport at Marine BLT Barracks.
Whenthe 30th Anniversary was held in 2013, people expected something toabout Beirut attack but nothing was shown on television to rememberthose losses. There was not even a single word on the network news orthe remarks shows. The same media that failed during that time hascontinued to fail. Many questions on why the media covers the storyremain unanswered. The Paris attack was all over on the television,radios, and social Medias but Beirut was nowhere despite the factthat they appeared at an almost same period (Freedman & Thussu,2012). These killings were connected to revenge for the Muslims theterm "retaliation" is more suitable for the Muslims. Therewere four means of transportation of bombs that ended up killing 398people. The attackers wanted to take revenge since Ronald Reagan wasusing the offshore guns of the U.S. Navy to defend Lebanese villages.Those bombardments left more than a thousand people dead,indiscriminately slaughtering Druze and Muslims. The bomb technologycame from the Iran. Reagan had overturned Jimmy Carter`s ExecutiveOrder that had been given for the Iran war and taken to providematerial support for Saddam Hussein. Saddam used nerve gas to killthe high numbers of Iranians not leaving behind the civilians and thecorporate media avoided mentioning of the Beirut, Lebanon"peacekeeping" attack (Cohen-Almagor, 2005). .
Theterrorists like not only the reporting of major terrorists attack butalso the minor and those that have failed. During that time Parisattack was reported but Beirut attack did not. Could that mean thatthe terrorists did not want the reporting of that incident? Otherscame up with questions on whether Paris mattered more than Beirut.There were claims that Beirut story appeared on 13th November but wasnot in the headlined like the Paris story. Some people have blamedthe readers in that they tend to tune out the reports of violencefrom the Middle East and the other poor countries and so does themedia. This can be termed as just an excuse. Beirut attacks happenedbefore Paris attacks yet should have been published in widely justlike what was done to the Paris attacks (Freedman & Thussu,2012).
On14th November the New York front page headlines were “PARIS TERRORATTACKS KILL OVER 100 FRANCE DECLARES STATE OF EMERGENCY, “butBeirut attacks were not on the front page. Though there are claimsthat Beirut attack news appeared on the front page of TIMES, therewere not prominently featured as those of the Paris. “Dozens Killedin Beirut Attack,” appeared at the corner of the page together withblurb that directed the readers to turn to page A6 for more detailson the story. By Saturday morning, the Beirut bombings had entirelybeen dropped off the front page. Since then people talk about Beirutbeing critics and are left wondering why the westerners care aboutParis as compared to Beirut. Though the media covered both stories,they did not cover it in the same way. Institution giants such asFacebook encouraged flag filters in solidarity with one attack butnot with the others. That makes it difficult to say that the media isequitable. It is also difficult to deny that white people are morehumanized more than the Arabs. It is wrong for the media to be bias.It should cover all stories despite the places they have happened(Freedman & Thussu, 2012).
Effectivestrategies to counter terrorism cannot be designed without firsthaving a clear understanding of the compelling logic that drivesterrorist violence. Not only does terrorism thrive because itinstills fright in target groups, but because it prompts governmentsand individuals to react in ways that aid the terrorists’ cause. Inthe case of Beirut attacks, yes the government responded and thepublic felt deceived in that the news did not hit the headlines. Evenif the media failed, it means the terrorists still achieved theirgoals of attention since the public speaks of the act up to today.Both Paris and Beirut attacks gained fame despite that the former hitthe headlined and the latter up to today has not received bigattention from the media despite the fact that both involved killingsof many Americans. From that one can say that the public can alsocause satisfaction of the terror groups. Individuals were furious onthe failure of the media and that made them make ill comments on theunrecognized Beirut attacks. There are many theories that people cancome up with trying to defend the media from Beirut attacks (Freedman& Thussu, 2012).
Itis possible to say that, many complaining voices on the fact thatattacks in Paris received more attention as compared to those inLebanon and in Iraq have been ignored since the story has not yetbeen widely published in the media as the public expect. Thus it hasbeen assumed that the agenda of global news is more concentrated onthe loss of western lives than on the lives of other people.Technically that is a sound voice. Freedman and Thusu (2012) arguethat ideally, there is a need to care equally about the deaths, butthe human do not. The media covers stories not out of someinsensitive disregard for the lives of other people, but thestraightforward limitations of what people can care about, itsnearness to home, and how it grabs the attention of the public .
Itmay be said that that the media is skewed, but the readers are alsocomplicit in the fact that gone are days when media was top-downaffair, transmitting information to immobile watchers and readers.The readers and watchers are now more capable of determining the newsagenda far more than in the past. Social media and, more critically,the ability of upcoming organizations to determine the stories thatwill get the highest numbers of hits , those that will circulate mostand those that will get most attention, mean that the readers shouldbe guilty of deciding what the outline of the editors are, if notmore. There is something smug, maybe even insincere, about leavingthe responsibility purely on the media since often they only reflectback readers’ chatter and activity back at them. Actually, TheBeirut bombings got high coverage though the news stories about themgot less traction (Freedman & Thussu, 2012).
Also,it is not as neat an imbalance as one might think. The characteristicof the news occurrence is also significant. There is some mixture offactors that make something a news story worth of ultimate interest.An example is something unique out of the ordinaries which might bethe presence of a small evil. An attack in the city of Paris is nota frequent event as compared to a bombing in the Middle East justlike shooting on campus is very common in the United States than anyother place thus the coverage of events of shooting has lately beenrelegated down the headlines due to the recurrent occurrences. Thatmay sound churlish but it is the fact and must be accepted althoughrespective groups can change and call for what they feel is better. Editors have prudence as to what article they consider deserves moreattention that the other. That also depends on the number of peoplethat are likely to watch or read it. Another example is the Westgateattack in Nairobi and Garrisa massacre in that despite being in thesame country and being attacked by the same attackers, the former gotfar more play in the worldwide press than the latter since it tookplace in the heart of Kenya. According to Freedman & Thussu(2012), what makes up news and what does not is difficult tounderstand algorithm. However, that doesn’t essentially fall alongthe lines of bad white deaths’, others indifferent.
Peoplecannot deny that the media in western countries is hard wired tocover the stories in the western countries. More obviously, thewestern media outlets enjoy the benefit of more resources. They dotheir broadcasting in English, lingua franca which is internationaland they highly benefit from the cultural hegemony that amplifiestheir concerns deeply than is rational. However, CNN has the right toconcentrate on material that originates from their culture. The newsconsumers or the journalists can do better in projecting the globalevents, information broadcasting, and making the victims feel thatthey are not alone. There is a need to pay attention to the upcomingevents that have high impact and even those that are not of comfortzones instead of cherry picking those are of the best of theirinterests and leaving behind others. Otherwise the two parties justweaken the sense of cohesion that people claim to be in search of.
Allin all, it is good to remember that the Paris attacks were deadlier,bigger and more sophisticated as compared to the Beirut attacks.Also, the English-speaking journalists could easily access the Parisattacks. Being the owners of the Western media, obviously, they hadto dominate the front pages. Most likely, the western media willprioritize the news that affects the west and that is understandable.There exists a substantive difference between downplaying news ofdisaster in far lands and ignoring to report that news with the samekind of understanding and humankind it deploys when disaster strikescloser to home. And that’s been the actual problem in the media’sreporting of the two attacks—and perhaps an explanation of why suchcoverage disparities continue.
Itwould be better to consider going back to the records and find outwhere the false tweet of Paris attack originated. That will help indetermining whether the false tweet was meant to confuse the peopleor not. If it came from the terrorist or anyone related to them, thennations will learn to provide security to all parts of the countrysince it is not obvious that that the attackers will attack theplaces they have specified. If the threat tweet came from a media,they should be highly investigated so that it is determined if theyare related to the terrorists. Maybe the media did not want to causetense at Lebanon, but then why did they have to cause tense at Paris.There is nothing so far positive on the reason as to why the mediadid not want to report widely Lebanon attacks. That is why peoplewill conclude the Parisians are more human than Lebanese and thatcreates a bad image for the western media. Maybe they should explainthe reason behind to withdraw all the ill thoughts that the publichas towards them. The terrorists still gained fame recognition andinstilled fear. They even communicated their aim of attacking Beirutwhich was to send away the American soldiers. With less mediaattention, they still achieved their goal.
Inconclusion, the media and terrorists mutually benefit. Mediaadvertise news that will help them get more public interest and earnthem good money. They are trusted and relied upon by the terroristssince the main aim of terrorists is to get recognition. The mediasomehow fails the public as in the incident of Beirut attacks wherethey did not publish news concerning it but Paris news went viral thenext day leaving the public with questions on whether Paris matteredmore than Beirut. There are people who try to defend that by sayingthat the readers also ignore occurrences in the remote areas and sodoes the media. Others try to convince public that the western mediacould easily access the Paris attack as compared to Beirut attacks.However, that does is not satisfactory since up to today, the Beirutnews have yet not been well published and during the 2013 memorialday of the occurrences, the Beirut attacks were not mentioned. Thewrong tweet of Paris attack instead of Beirut attack also leavespeople with questions on whether there was possibility that the tweetcame from the attackers since instead of attack in Paris according tothe tweet, Beirut was attacked. Generally, media can sometimes failthe public and it is good to care equally for deaths of human beingsin order to eliminate discrimination.
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