October 30, 2004

The Technology of Terror

This column is usually dedicated to advanced media technology. We focus on the art and science of moving images, sound and graphics, consumer touch points and the many ways that brands, advertisers, creatives and producers can get their messages out. The goal is usually to aggregate as many like-minded people as possible and sell them something - an idea, a product or a service.

Today, we watched a very disturbing demonstration of technology. Advanced Media in the wrong hands, absent leadership or common sense, is extremely dangerous.

Osama bin Laden made a videotape - 1960’s technology, no big deal. Every news organization in America ran parts of it in every possible format yet conceived by man: television, Internet, broadband, graphics, stills, .mpg, .mp3, .avi, .wmv, .mov, .doc, html, xml, newspaper, outdoor Times Square display, wap, mms, sms, text pager, you name it … it was served.

Here’s my problem. Without appropriate leadership, this astonishing dissemination of information is remarkably bad for the good guys. The media often works for the wrong team in an emergent news situation, its part of the problem of the commercial television business model. But today was simply absurd. No change in national alert status, only a minor mention of the ubiquitous tape from the President, no mention of it from any other department. The pundits and talking heads say that both candidates are scared of the tape because taking a stand could backfire just moments from election day. But, don t worry while the politicians were running for cover Osama got his message out. He scared a lot of people today and the news media helped him do it.

Today we fell for the technological equivalent of “watch this hand.” If you let terrorists terrorize you, they win. Perhaps we can keep this in mind as we apply our craft. The American public deserves better from our industry.