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Who are the best friends of terrorists?


Boko Haram fighters

Marshall McLuhan provides a reflective assertion on terrorism with his cogent conviction that without communication, terrorism would not exist. Thus, the overall effectiveness of terrorists largely depends on communicating their activities for public consumption to strengthen their ego.

The core and intended messages that terrorists desperately communicate are diverse. They unleash profoundly psychological afflictions such as extreme fears, severe pains and intense panic. Their dreadful messages also include coercing the political behaviour of governments, communities or specific social groups to corroborate with their political objectives. They wreck colossal havoc to establish their relevance, and so on. In essence, their modus operandi is exclusively and psychologically traumatizing via the scenario of mass economic and human devastations.

We are horribly bombarded with the news of wanton terrorists’ atrocities in the mass media. We are fed with the information about mass killings of innocent lives by the deadly terrorists. We are treated to the onslaught of the terrorists’ enormous brutality. We are presented to the tragic narrations of how terrorists create hell for their defenceless victims. Through the mass media communication, we capture the state of fatal despair, unconstricted pessimism, social affliction and emotional deprivation torturing the mammoth crowd among whom are orphans and widows.


The mass media are the tragic theatre where we hear, read and watch terrorists’ production of very ugly episodes. Over the years, terrorists have gained sound knowledge and understanding of how the media inadvertently function for them thus, exploiting them to aggrandize their publicity. When terrorists prudently select targets for the execution of their attacks to generate the best media coverage, they do that for boosting the art of effective communication and its adverse effects on the audience. We can recall how the killings of worshippers at the Kano Central Mosque and Madalla church attack among others solicited wide media coverage.

We must painstakingly scrutinise and evaluate the terrorists’ psychological make-up and discover how it conspicuously unmasks the communicational element of terrorism which is substantially elevated by the media. Some scholars unanimously contest that media are indeed doing terrorists’ work for them due to their coverage and the choice of language in the aftermath of destructive attacks. This resulted to observational study culminating into the conceptual evolution of what is called symbiotic relationship between the media and terrorists. Though this relationship may be equated to a forced union, one of its prominent and harmful signs is the phenomenal “media-oriented strategy” which suggests that terrorists are conscious of and manipulate the media to propel and enrich their messages.

Terrorists and media experts are aware that with the media as promoter and custodian of news, terrorism activities are amplified by the media to reach broader and global audience. Thus, a domineering perception of media and terrorists’ relationship emanates, exposes and castigates the media with unreserved apology. The piece published in The Peninsula, a Qatari daily of the 26th May 2014 on the topic, Terrorism and Media: A Symbiotic Relationship is a typical example. The writer, Dr. Mohammed Kirat simply and critically
observed:” Modern terrorism is media terrorism.”

There was a proposal that if the media could be halted from reporting terrorist events, terrorist acts could be brought to an end. Consequently, attempts were put in place to limit or completely ban media access to terrorist organisations. Margaret Thatcher who described media as the “oxygen” of terrorists requested for the enactment of a law which would deny terrorists publicity. Similarly, the Republic of Ireland also banned any interview with IRA spokespersons under Media Law of 1960.


A popular argument has it that it is not reporting terrorism that matters but HOW it is reported is what makes it detrimental. This is consolidated by the fact that terrorists are mainly and fundamentally interested in the spectators who are the ultimate target of their messages and not the casualties themselves. In this case, the prime motive of terrorists is solely embedded in our responses which are as significant as the terrorists acts themselves. How we react to teenagers’ suicidal bombings readily comes to our mind here.

For whatever reasons, we should never under rate and diminish the psychological order of the terrorists’ operational mechanism. For instance, when General Yusuf Buratai was disseminating a message laden by security risk, little did he know that he sounded ignorant of the terrorists’ psychological dynamism. I am referring to the 40 days ultimatum for capturing Shekau dead or alive. When threats are thrown at the face of terrorists, they (terrorists) grow more terror driven. To counter and sack that particular threat within few days, we were psychologically tormented by the tragic occurrence of the ambush on soldiers, oil workers, lecturers and civilian JTF in Maiduguri where heavy casualties were recorded.

Obviously, terrorists have no headache propagating their evil designs. The mass media are ever ready waiting for any attack today and the next day, hour or minute is promising for the terrorists as such an attack must effectively be communicated to the world by the media. With these cheap services rendered to the terrorists by the mass media, the big question is: Are the media the best friends of terrorists?

Abdullahi wrote from Galadanci quarters, Jigawa State.


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