Naming terrorists humanises them, tells their stories and gives them the status of carrying out acts of pure evil – they should be robbed of the opportunity to have their name publicised like they are some sort of celebrity.
This opinion piece is the opinion of the author and not that of UK Defence Journal.
Days, sometimes even hours after a terrorist attack happens, media sources begin to discuss and analyse the lives of those that perpetrated these attacks. There is sometimes an obsession, whether it is on ratings or the rat race to divulge the information first, about who these people were, where they came from, who they interacted with and every detail of their lives is analysed and put on display for the entire world to see. We see these attackers faces plastered everywhere from the 24-hour news outlet that is continuing to cover the attack instead of their normal viewing to social media where their name and faces are advertised like a sick joke that has gone wrong.
Recently, here in Australia and even in the UK, photos of the perpetrators of these terrorist attacks, their names and stories about them have continued to fill all forms of media as investigative bodies search for the truth and try to determine how this has happened. British and Australian media have often spent big chunks of time discussing these people but is it really what we should be doing; should we spend time talking about people who were deranged, misguided and pathetic enough to carry out such attacks and injure those that would seek a life far from that ideology.
These attackers are often humanised by the reporting and praised by those who have a twisted ideological view as they do – but in doing this, we do something even worse, we offer these attackers who are removed from a fundamental understanding of humanity and reason, the death that they want – martyrdom and we shouldn’t allow it. We shouldn’t know where these people grew up and the conditions for which they grew up in, we shouldn’t know where they went to school or what they studied, in fact, we shouldn’t even know their hobbies, where they spent their time or any other details about them – not because it should be hidden from us but because these people don’t deserve it. They don’t deserve to be treated like a celebrity; they are nothing more than cowards and don’t deserve that status.
We often tell the public what we know in order to properly investigate a crime, to have facts flow through to police and intelligence services and help them properly investigate these crimes but does it require it.
The issue with naming these people is simple – they want to be known for the attack that they have carried out, they want people who follow their bent way of life to praise them, they want their name to be glorified and remembered in the history books for carrying out an act of pure evil. When we name them we give them glory, when we name them we humanise them and make them seem like they are one of us and when we name them we acknowledge what they have done, the damage they have caused and fuel a fear that is associated with the organisation that they either claim to represent or the organisation that will claim responsibility for their attack.
Whilst I contribute to the UK Defence Journal, it has had a long standing belief not to publish the names of terrorists that carry out terror attacks and hasn’t, which is the right decision. These people should be denied whatever glory they believe is associated with their attacks and more media outlets should adopt this as well. This is a dangerous activity that we engage in and only allows for groups like Islamic State to help fuel their social media campaign and wider campaigns in promoting their activities.
However, and this is a big problem, media outlets and the wider media feel obliged to help disperse the facts and governments are the same. People would generally feel outraged without knowing such details and that would be directed towards the government, for which they would be accused of a cover up, and the media, seen as not providing all the facts in a timely fashion.
Unless a mutual understanding between the government and media outlets that personal details, including names, of such terrorists would not be published then this could work – we would cut off the only means that terrorists have at glorification. Until then, we continue to allow terrorists to be what they set out to be – martyr’s in the people’s eyes with full knowledge of whom they are and what they set out to do.