In his remarks in Bangladesh on Monday, Secretary of State John Kerry explicitly asked the media to cover terrorism less, so “people wouldn’t know what’s going on.” The line also drew applause from the audience.
While discussing terrorism, Kerry said “it’s easy to terrorize … you can make some noise.” He then suggested, “Perhaps the media would do us all a service if they didn’t cover it quite as much. People wouldn’t know what’s going on.”
Here is the context of his remark (from the official State Department transcript):
Remember this: No country is immune from terrorism. It’s easy to terrorize. Government and law enforcement have to be correct 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. But if you decide one day you’re going to be a terrorist and you’re willing to kill yourself, you can go out and kill some people. You can make some noise. Perhaps the media would do us all a service if they didn’t cover it quite as much. People wouldn’t know what’s going on. (Applause.)
In emphasizing the difference between government and terrorists, the secretary of State made a good point: that it is easier for a terrorist to grab people’s attention than for the government to do so. The reasons for this are obvious: terrorists threaten life and limb, while government should not do so. In reality, government does abuse its citizens, but since its primary aim is to serve them, such scandals are comparatively rare.
Terror attacks happen nearly every day around the world, however, and they more easily draw media attention. But here’s the rub — they deserve media attention.
The media’s job isn’t to ignore these events, no matter how much the terrorists want the media to focus on them. Indeed, the job of the press is exactly the opposite of what Kerry is explicitly calling for — that “people wouldn’t know what’s going on.” Journalism exists to let people know what’s going on, even if the events in question were caused by an insane radical.
Kerry’s speech had positive moments: he condemned the Islamic State (ISIS) for killing “people because of who they are,” and he acknowledged that “it kills Christians because they are Christian.” But his suggestion that the media ignore terrorism is quite frankly beyond the pale.
Perhaps it would help for people to know what’s going on, so they can figure out how to react, how to protect themselves from terror threats, and how to defeat radical Islamist terror in the long run. Kerry’s strategy, it seems, is merely to make sure people don’t “know what’s going on.” God forgive the people who applauded that line.