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did you hear about the saudi bombing?

Both Jeff Jarvis and Charles Johnson are wondering why the Saudi bombing story isn't getting big play in the media.

I just left these words in Jeff's comments:

I've been covering this story non-stop over at Command Post since it broke. I've been dismayed at how little play it's getting on both television and in print.

This is a big deal. The targets were American. How does that make it different than a terror attack on our own soil, which would get far more coverage?

I've had a hard time getting updates and casualty numbers. It's hard to even find a good quote besides the usual Colin Powell sound bites.

Have we dismissed al Qaida to the extent that we are shrugging this off as them grasping at straws? Or does the death toll have to reach thousands before the media treats it as major news?

I wondered about this last year - what will it take to get the media hyped up about terror attack now that they've covered the biggest one they've ever witnessed? Even the Bali bombing was in and out of the news quickly (in America), too quickly if you ask me.

So is the overall lack of coverage of yesterday's attack simply because the bar has been raised too high and 90 deaths doesn't seem like big news anymore? Have we become so immune to the tragedy of terror attacks that they don't warrant our seemingly endless film clips and soundbites anymore?

Glenn Reynolds says:

I think that this is a desperate effort by Al Qaeda to show that it can still do something. And the target audience is largely in Saudi Arabia and the Islamic world, not here. But the world has changed to their disadvantage. Against the backdrop of (false) security in the 1990s, stuff like this was big news. Now -- next to the war in Iraq -- this looks like small potatoes by skulking losers.

I disagree. It should still be big news. Just because they were able to only kill ninety people this time does not mean it will not be more the next time. This isn't small potatoes next to Iraq - Glenn is comparing potatoes with corn (or whatever the vegetable equivalent of apples and oranges is). If skulking losers can kill 90 people, imagine what they can accomplish if this emboldens them and they are no longer skulking. We need to take this seriously, to cover it as if it were as important as I think it is. We need to give it all the rage and anger we have given to terrorist attacks in the past so they don't think we have become complacent, because that's sure what this coverage looks like to me.

It troubles me that were this to happen here, on American ground, the reaction would probably be different. Ninety deaths would suddenly seem too signficant to throw under the coverage of SARS.

Even though message of the attacks was clearly one sent to the United States, it seems somehow different, or less of an event, if it didn't happen here. That's not my feeling, of course, just the feeling I'm getting from the media.

Have we really become that blase about terrorism or am I missing something vital here, something that would preclude this story from being a big one?


I think Aimee (in the comments) hit the nail on the head:

If we're not focused on what they're up to, what will they do next time to get our attention?

I don't think, like some people do, if we downplay their attempts at terrorism they will give up and go away. I think they will just try to make it bigger and more attention-grabbing the next time. They are nothing if not publicity hounds.


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Over at Michele’s a discussion is taking place about the fact that the Saudi bombings are not getting sufficient media play, Glenn thinks that the bombings deserve little airtime as these attacks are “desperate” and look like “small potatoes” in [Read More]


Hmm. I guess I'm just more tuned in to the news than most people, but it seems like I've been hearing/reading about this story constantly since I got home yesterday. FoxNews was covering it at 6 EST when I turned over with "Breaking News" that really wasn't every few minutes. It was on NPR this morning on the way to work, the front page of WaPo, WaTi, and NYT.... Pretty much everywhere.

Now, clearly, it's not getting the airplay a domestic attack would have had. But that's the nature of the news business, I guess.

Terrorism's old hat, it's been played to death, it's totally yesterday. The audience has moved on to the next big thing, and the news-entertainment industry has to move with them. And die, it also needs to die. Horribly.

I agree with you about it seeming to not be as important as it would had it happened here. I don't think that is necessarily the fault of the media. It's being covered fairly well here in DC, but it isn't being talked about by your average Joes and Joannes in the streets. Most of the people I've talked with about this just don't care. Maybe 'don't care' is a bit strong--they're just kind of unaffected by it. It didn't happen in their backyard or to anyone in their family. I'd like to think that people care about humans in general, but honestly, how many people do you think spend time caring about people they don't know (who aren't in the movies or on MTV) and will never meet in their lifetime?

What happened on 9/11 is immeasurable. It was one of those events that will make everyone remember where they were and what they were doing the moment they heard about it. And being such a horrific event, I think it desensitizes us to a point, mostly because people are still trying to deal with it. Everything else pales in comparison, and that what scares me--if we're not focused on what they're up to, what will they do next time to get our attention?

I'm not sure I agree that getting news coverage for every Islamikazi attack is all that important. It seems that media attention is the primary goal of these cockroaches, as it amplifies the actions of a few small men and perpetuates the notion of a brave Arab underdog taking on the Great Satan in the holy land. Why give them what they want most of all? I'm not saying to ignore it, but it seems that more hand-wringing in the western media only aids their cause. What is important is responding with swift, deadly force to the perpetrators of the attacks, and their supporters.

I just wrote about this a bit ago, and completely agree with Michele. The story is in the news, but it doesn't have the same urgency that I would expect it to have--and none of the people in my office are talking about it. The attitude is terribly blase.

That scares me a touch--this is an important event and people need to realize the implications of it. We have yet to win this war; we've won some key battles, but there is a long way to go before we can declare victory.

I don't think it comes down to people being blase or not caring anymore. I think that the nation has accepted that there are some maniacs in the Arab world who hate us, and it is now expected for them to attack us. Before 9/11, despite years of attacks, the level of hatred never managed to sink in. With 9/11, it finally penetrated. It was America's loss of innocence.

In Glenn Reynolds' defense, four car bombs detonating in a largely unsecure area on foreign soil does indeed have the earmarks of a terrorist organization that has very little wiggle room under the microscope of intense world scrutiny and security.

Although I think you're right that these attacks deserve more media play, I think that, if terrorists do decide to try bigger and more attention-grabbing schemes next time, they're far more likely to get caught.

I'm not sure what you mean by not enough media play, and I'm not sure what urgency you think it should have. I've certainly been reading about it, but Lord help us if it becomes the newest 24/7 obsession.

That is not to denigrate the deaths of I believe now 90 people of many nationalities.

I've seen widespread coverage, on Fox and Sky and many other sites. Al Qaeda is quite likely to launch a major attack to take over Saudi Arabia. They would like nothing better than to control Mecca and Medina. The Saudi regime will, finally, clean house and shut off funding to terrorists. They finally have realized they can't buy them off any more. The Afghan and Iraqi wars make it crystal clear, however, that if the Saudis fail and Al Qaeda does take over Arabia, the US will invade and destroy the terrorist regime. This appears to be a desperation move by Al Qaeda.

Another factor to consider is that these cowards live on attention. If they don't get attention, they fail. Of course they may try harder to get that attention, but like Ryan said, they are far more likely to be caught.

at the risk of sounding like a complete fanatic (as opposed to my usual only mostly fanatic), i wonder if acknowledging this would mean that the liberal media would have to acknowledge every splodeydope? it'd suck to suddenly have to admit that israel has a problem that we need to help fix.

on the other hand, i wonder how the royalty over there would react if we were to say "rein in your psychobombers, or we'll fix this like we fixed it in iraq."

Although its important for the media to pay attention, its more important for our leadership to pay attention.

Al Qaeda has had the President's attention since 9/11. He's not going to wait for CNN to make an issue of it before he takes action.

We should play the hell out of this, not for Al-Qaeda's consumption but for that of the Saudi ruling family. We want Saudi princes looking under every bed and in every closet for Al-Qaeda. We want them to devote their lives to atonement for promoting Wahabbism and to awesome efforts to clean up the mess, lest an angry American people again start talking of regime change.

I've seen a lot of coverage on the news networks.

There is another reason for the lack of details and the small amount of detailed coverage. This happened in Saudi Arabia! This is a closed society that controls what the world hears and sees about events within their borders. We have no access to details because the Saudis don't want us to have the details. They want to find the killers and torture them in private and make this go away.

It's getting a lot of coverage on cable - more than Khobar Towers got in 96. Which means we are more attuned to it here - I've gotta post on this here.

It's not so much the news coverage (that benefits the bombers any how) or the public response (who's not outraged?) or even the statements made by US officials (see USS Cole) that really matter. The important thing will be what will the US do as a result. Clinton killed camels with missiles. The rest is history.

> We want them to devote their lives to atonement for promoting Wahabbism

PROMOTING Wahabbism? The Royal Family is hated by many Saudis for not being conservative ENOUGH. They are not some kind of pro-Islam organization -- their concern is self-enrichment. They are constantly being pressured to be MORE conservative -- the average Saudi on the street has only contempt for the "decadence" of the Royals, and wants a "pure" Islamic state.