November 28, 2008

Mumbai under attack. [Via MeFi]
  • thanks for the link... important images!
  • That picture of all the photographers lined up recording the whole thing is.....weird. While I appreciate access to information it makes me a bit uncomfortable to see throngs of media converge wherever something like this is happening. Recording death as it happens. Recording our reactions to it. Recording each other recording it. It is all so very weird to me.
  • I agree, Darshon. It seems to me that if you're not helping, you should get the heck out of it and stay out. It's voyeurism for the sake of a Pulitzer.
  • Possibly - but I'll play the Devil's Advocate on this one. I _want_ to know what went on. Or at least know that, if I wanted to, I could find some things out. If the photographers aren't in anyone's way (and I assume that they aren't) then they might, just might, be doing some good by showing a small piece of what actually happened. I know that that isn't terribly articulate - I'll try this. India is a terribly important, terribly unstable, place. If there's any chance at all that _not_ having a completely stage managed coverage might help people make better, more rational, choices after the event, then that's a good thing.
  • Is anybody else a little bugged about the "this is India's 9/11" meme? Seems to me that bombings, shootings, and other terrorist acts are not rare in India and that this is far from the worst of them. But because rich white Americans and Britons are the apparent targets, suddenly this particular attack is More Important than when those brown people are killed by the dozens.
  • I see what you're saying, polychrome, but I think the terrorists/attackers/guerillas (whatever their appropriate title may be) will consider the vast media exposure very successful for them. If a terrorist, by definition, creates terror in the name of their cause, then all the better to have a few dozen reporters on hand at all times to help spread the fear. But I know, we all want to be informed and aware. It's sort of a catch-22.
  • I understand both sides of this argument, but my general tendency is to plumb for the third option: yes publicity is what they want, but they're stupid for wanting it. I think that there's a strong reason that lots of people are seeing this attack as being significantly more horrifying than other recent attacks with potentially higher body counts, and I don't think its entirely the involvement of westerners. When a bomb goes off, the images that come out of the explosion are inherently alienating. You see bits of twisted metal, blackened pieces of debris. When you see the victims, they are already in a state of grievous injury which is distressing, to be sure, but which (I think) actually makes it harder for us to identify with them, to see them as proper human beings. With 9/11, and with this latest attack, the world could actually watch it unfolding in real time. We could see the situation as the news came in, see it go from near-normal to horrible. We could hope for deliverance, and see our hopes dashed. We could see that awful transformation from people being like us to being an injured person or a dead person. That's what really gives us nightmares, both personal and collective. A pile or rubble, or the burned out shell of a train, just doesn't have the same psychic impact. At the same time, however, terrorism tends not to be an effective political strategy. By horrifying all of us, they haven't made us less likely to support their opponents. Rather they've just expended their lives in a great big advertisement to persuade us that they're bad, bad, bad and must be stopped. How many Americans would have supported an invasion of Afghanistan before 9/11? Vanishingly few. Afterwards it was basically just a matter of time. There are two main counterarguments, I think, to the view I've just put forward. a) the attacks aren't aimed at us, they're aimed at the terrorists' 'base', and b) they're trying to provoke their enemy into an over-reaction. Both these counterarguments carry some weight, but I think that neither of them are applicable, at least to the strategic theory and psychology of AQ. The conventional view seems to be that Bin Laden was trying to push the Americans out of the Islamic World by triggering what he felt to be the 'weakness' and 'fear' of the American people. While it is true that the American government did overreact and extend the war into Iraq (which was a tremendous boost to AQ and their sympathisers), such an outcome was probably not expected by the AQ leadership ahead of time. There are a number of things about the current attack that make it look as if this was an AQ affiliated operation. The simultaneity, the meticulous planning, the advanced intelligence collection, and the tight coordination and good training, all suggest the involvement of the 're-knitted' AQ network that we've been hearing so much about recently. If this is the case, then perhaps the 'oxygen of publicity' will be just as bad for the terrorists this time as it has been on previous occasions. Disclaimer: IANA Terrorism Expert