Terror on the TV

If you’re reading this blog, the chances are you are interested in current affairs and therefore the name ‘Shehzad Tanweer’ will mean something to you. It should do, because his image has been all over our T.V. screens this last week as the country marks the first anniversary of the 7/7 London bombs.

The decision of the BBC and the independent TV networks to broadcast Tanweer’s abject apologia for mass-murder of civilians is, at best, problematic for me. His video (and others like it) recorded in English and released on the eve of the 7/7 anniversary, can serve no other purpose than to propagandize for Islamic fundamentalism and what its fanatical supporters would call its ‘cause’. You make a video for one reason only: so it can be seen. This fact alone would seem to me to provide the strongest argument for not bringing Tanweer to our screens now or ever. We couldn’t prevent his slaughter of innocents, but we can deny him his media platform. And if we can, shouldn’t we?

The counter-arguments are flimsy. A broadcasting ban for suicide-murderer videos is not intended to prevent we in the west hearing the latest sorry excuses pedalled by fanatics who need none. This we will learn from the written media and coverage of broadcasts made in those countries where no bans exist. Nor is this akin to the folly of the Thatcher-inspired ban on broadcasting the speech of Sinn Fein officials in the 80s. In so far as there are any, we need to hear as much as possible about the political grievances that inspire terrorism from whatever quarter. Censoring the performances of the physical instruments of terror doesn’t preclude this. Indeed, the content of these videos is, invariably, so impossibly facile that no concrete motivations can be discerned above and beyond the assertion that their crimes against humanity are in response to the west doing “bad things to Muslims”. We learn nothing from such theatrical deception. Most obviously of all, the suggestion that such censorship makes martyrs of the censored cannot possibly apply in the case of posthumous broadcasts of the already ‘martyred’.

It’s taken me a while to arrive at this conclusion, but any remaining doubts were quickly dispersed yesterday when I learned on FiveLive of a BBC editorial decision to no longer show the scenes of planes hitting the twin towers on 9/11. The explanation offered cited consideration for the bereaved families and friends and a desire to prevent the further anguish repeated screenings would cause. No evidence was presented to justify this editorial decision, albeit I’ve no doubt that some relatives of the 9/11 dead are opposed to further broadcast of events that day. I’m equally certain that there exists a community of victims of terror who could do without seeing images of the pond-life responsible for their unimaginable misery trotting out grotesque excuses for butchery on television stations they fund with their taxes.

If we must be exposed to the nonsensical ramblings of the fascistic murderers of women and children, then let us not be shielded from the consequences of their actions. Let us be reminded, again and again if necessary, of their lack of humanity, of their unconstrained wickedness, and of how objections to the foreign policy decisions of democratic governments manifest themselves in the minds of depraved zealots.

If it is essential we know what the likes of Tanweer want, then it is imperative there is no ambiguity about how he and others mean to get it.

Show the lot, or none at all.