Remember the "Arab street," that riot-in-the-road featuring flammable Israeli flags, Saddam Hussein posters, clenched fists and chants threatening "Death to America"? The street may have lacked pavement and a fire hydrant, but it had beaucoup television cameras.
Flames, clenched fists and death threats -- a heart-pounding collage of sensational imagery and rhetoric. What more could a TV exec need to attract audience eyeballs?
Recall the talking heads who told us in 1990, after Saddam invaded Kuwait, that "the Arab street" was going to rise en masse, as an ur-proletariat, which would support Saddam against the West. If you need documentation, check out a few old PBS "NewsHour" transcripts.
But the mass rising didn't happen. Why? Because the Arab street was, to a great extent, the creation of television cameras. Political operatives -- no doubt many on Saddam's payroll -- knew they could attract the sensation-hungry camera crews and use the media to project the operatives' preferred "image of anger."
Twenty-first century Islamo-fascist terrorists, however, have refined the model and moved beyond an image of anger to a new form of prepared global ambush that integrates murder, terror and instant media.
The ambush technique coordinates blood-spilling violence with sensational imagery and rhetoric using a dispersed network of media operatives, guerrillas and terrorists. Networked, Coordinated Blood-spilling plus Sensationalism -- hence the technique's acronym: the CBS ambush.
Since May 2005, we've seen the CBS ambush employed effectively on three notable occasions, the latest being Pope Benedict's remarks at Regensburg University.
In May 2005, Newsweek ran its phony Guantanamo Bay prison "Koran flushing" story. Violent riots broke out in several predominantly Muslim countries. The riots in Afghanistan attracted particular attention. Indian military analyst Bahukutumbi Raman wrote that those riots were incited by "well-organized agents of the Hizb ut-Tahrir terror gang."
The Newsweek story gave the terrorists an emotion-laden "grievance trigger." The ambush consisted of violent riots and a prepared deluge of anti-American propaganda. The vicious riots not only attracted further global media coverage, but also intimidated Muslims who oppose terrorist organizations and their violent interpretation of Islam.
Austin Bay is the author of three novels. His third novel, The Wrong Side of Brightness, was published by Putnam/Jove in June 2003. He has also co-authored four non-fiction books, to include A Quick and Dirty Guide to War: Third Edition (with James Dunnigan, Morrow, 1996).
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