Mumbai ‘mesmerised’ the world’s media

800px-Mumbai_attacks_vinu_image01-crop.jpgPretty obvious I suppose but there are some interesting bits and pieces in this RAND report into the terrorist attacks on Mumbai back in November 2008. Most of it concerns the implications for security strategy but there’s a few observations about media coverage and its relationship with terrorism.
1. The nature of the media event

‘The prolonged nature of the episode, which went on for 60 hours with the steadily mounting death toll, made it a slow-motion shoot-out and siege that mesmerized the world’s news media.’

2. Attacks designed to guarantee foreign news coverage

‘The attacks on foreigners guaranteed international media coverage. The message to India was, “Your government cannot protect you. No place is safe.” And the international publicity would inevitably result in travel to India being cancelled or postponed with consequent damage to India’s economy.’

3. Recruiting through publicity

‘Terrorist attacks are intended not only to cause fear and alarm but also to inspire terrorist constituencies and attract recruits. By succeeding — and here “success” means humiliating the Indian security services, causing large-scale death and destruction, and garnering global media coverage for days — terrorists hope to attract both Pakistani and Indian recruits to their cause.’

4. Misinformation hampers the authorities’ response

‘The multiple attacks at different locations prevented the authorities from developing an overall assessment of the situation. Media reports consistently overestimated what we now know to be the actual size of the attacking force. The security forces probably had similar difficulties, complicated further by the inevitable erroneous reports that accompany the response to any terrorist event.’

5. Attackers call the editors

‘They also talked to the news media via cell phones to make demands in return for
the release of their hostages. This led Indian authorities to think that they were dealing with a hostage situation, which further confounded their tactical response.’

Image: Confusion characterised the initial stages of the security response; Vinu Wikipedia Creative Commons Sharealike 2.0