To Air is Human


The news networks were promoting another installment of the Osama bin Laden show Thursday. As one talk radio caller put it Friday, the man’s most powerful weapon is a video camera.

Which poses the question of how much it is playing into his hands to give his tapes such an elevated place in the public psyche.

There isn’t an easy answer. Clearly what his followers want is attention and impact. So far they have been unable to repeat the devastating success of their 9/11 attack, unless you believe this country overreacted and that that reaction is the larger impact of the terrorism attack.

Should media outlets air the Bin Laden tape when and if it appears, obviously timed to the Sept. 11 anniversary?  It has become a more frequent dilemma in a world where there are cameras everywhere, capturing virtually everything we do. The temptation to show everything to a world that appears to want it is great.

It was the same cost/benefit question that NBC faced when it received the video from the Virginia Tech shooter. NBC defended the airing of select clips from the tape–which virtually al the other networks picked up and ran with–saying it was a window into the mind and motivations of a killer. The same might be said of the Bin Laden tape.

NBC had public support for its decision, with 49% of those polled by the Pew Research Center supporting its decision.

If anyone else has any thoughts, feel free to weigh in.