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On Point

The CBS Ambush


by Austin Bay
September 20, 2006

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.

In September 2005, the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten published a series of editorial cartoons featuring the Prophet Muhammad. The cartoons attracted political protests and several violent threats, but the cartoons were no international cause celebre. In fact, an Egyptian newspaper published several of the cartoons in an article condemning the Jyllands-Posten.

But in January 2006, waves of orchestrated, coordinated violence broke out in predominantly Muslim nations and in Muslim neighborhoods. The terrorists and political operatives promoted a "clash of civilizations" propaganda line, with the cartoons as the "grievance trigger."

Pope Benedict's Regensburg ruminations provided another CBS ambush trigger.

Benedict -- in a speech that examined historical relations between Muslims and Christians -- quoted the Byzantine Emperor Manuel II Paleologus, a ruler whose empire consisted of little more than the city of Constantinople. Muslim Turks had all but dismembered his realm. Manuel II, engaged in a dialog with a Muslim Persian scholar, challenged the Persian to show him "just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached."

An imprudent quote by a man on a global podium? Yes -- particularly since popes blessed several sword-bearing Crusades. It is, however, a defensible quotation in the context of an academic lecture. The pope pointed out the dialog between Manuel II and the Persian examined "the truth of both (religions)." But context doesn't matter when triggering a CBS ambush, only the superficial trace of historical grievance and the energy of emotional slight. The "distributed" violence following the media magnification of the pope's remarks included firebombing Christian churches (in several Muslim countries) and the execution-style slaying of a Catholic nun who worked in a hospital in Somalia. A hospital administrator said her murder was "not a random act."

Executing a CBS ambush requires the implicit cooperation of sensationalist media -- media that delight in emotional slights and rarely probe beyond the superficial. Until that implicit cooperation ends, the Islamo-fascists will continue to exploit this productive stratagem, achieving propaganda victories designed to ignite a "clash of civilizations" and brutally intimidate their Muslim and non-Muslim opposition.

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