BROOKE GLADSTONE: We're back with On the Media. I'm Brooke Gladstone.
BOB GARFIELD: And I'm Bob Garfield. As we approach the first anniversary of September 11th we thought we'd consider the 30th anniversary of another September when the Palestinian terrorist group called Black September raided the Olympic grounds in Munich, took hostages and eventually killed 11 Israeli athletes in a horrifying 23 hour drama.
NEWS ANNOUNCER:The scene in the Olympic Village today became the symbol of man's inhumanity to man as an organization called the Black September Movement, a Palestine guerilla organization, scaled the fences of the Olympic compound and with machine guns blazing entered the Israeli housing compound, killed two men, and are still holding hostages.
BOB GARFIELD:Pictures of the hooded gunmen were flashed all over the world. They became the masked face of Palestinian resistance -- the face of terror. It may be that September 5th, 1972 set the template for what happened last September.
BROOKE GLADSTONE:Writing in an on-line publication, Al Anssar, an Al Qaeda activist called the Black September, quote, "the greatest media victory and the first true proclamation to the entire world the Palestinian resistance movement. The Munich operation was a great propaganda strike." And according to a translation provided by the Middle East Media Research Institute -- a group critical of many Arab movements -- the Al Qaeda columnist Abu 'Ubeid Al-Qurashi goes on to observe that, quote, "September 11th was an even greater propaganda coup. It may have been said to have broken a record in propaganda dissemination." Joining us now is Brigitte Nacos, Columbia University professor and author of Mass-Mediated Terrorism. Welcome to the show.
BRIGITTE NACOS: I'm happy to be here.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: So the 1972 Munich attack wasn't the first large-scale terrorist attack by the infamous Black September terrorist group but the coverage of Munich was unprecedented.
BRIGITTE NACOS: That's really true. Actually before 1972, there was a more spectacular attack when four airliners were simultaneously hijacked, and two of these original ones ended up in Jordan, and three days later a Palestinian group hijacked a British airliner and flew that one to Jordan. Now the media coverage was not all that great. Certainly it was extensively reported, but the print press was still leading. Two years later it was very different, because they struck at the Olympics where you had the television facilities built up for that special event. Independent experts have estimated that it was between 600 and 800 million globally, so that was a major, major coup for these few Palestinians.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: And so you think that the publicity coup that the Olympics afforded was very much on the mind of the Black September terrorists?
BRIGITTE NACOS:Well at least according to one of them. Three of them survived. Five were killed. And one of them later on in prison said that they wanted, among other things, to stir up the world. And they were certainly successful in not only getting the attention globally, but I think for the first time many people around the globe learned about the Palestinian cause.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: What impact did the Munich Massacre actually have on the image of Palestinians and the Palestinian cause?
BRIGITTE NACOS:I do not think the image was a positive one. But that really does not matter. The image of Bin Laden in the Western World is not a positive one, but they certainly gained very good image in the world that mattered to them -- that is, in the Middle East. Terrorists do not want to win the hearts of --certainly not of the people they target and even not those who look on in the international realm. They want the attention. And they want people to know what are their causes, what are their grievances. It is true, however, that media coverage is not an end in itself. It is basically a means to a, a larger end. In the case of the Munich Olympics, it was a relatively small end. They simply wanted fellow comrades out of prison.
NEWS CORRESPONDENT: From your vantage point, does it look as though the negotiations will resume or is it a deadlock?
MIKE WALLACE:Well actually the deadline was almost an hour and a half ago. There were three deadlines set -- one at one o'clock this afternoon Munich time; the second at 3; and then again at 5. And while the-- some of the police have moved forward, nothing else has happened.
BROOKE GLADSTONE:I understand that terrorists often postpone their deadlines for authorities to meet their demands till later and later in the afternoon knowing that each postponement increases their TV audiences. Is this a direct consequence of the publicity windfall that was Munich?
BRIGITTE NACOS: I'm not quite sure. I think that given the coverage of Munich where you had this hostage situation, I think that kind of enhanced the eagerness of terrorists to take hostages. Up to Munich basically when we talked about international terrorism we talked about hijackings and bombings as well. Afterwards, you know, you moved towards more hostage situations, and of course then when you had the Iranian hostage situation that fueled even more of those.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: As a media event, how does 9/11 compare to the Munich Massacre?
BRIGITTE NACOS:Well, 9/11 is even bigger. The media is reaching much further today than it did then. After 9/11, a lot of people got the information over the Internet. You didn't have in 1972 global or regional television networks. I believe one CNN manager said later on "Munich came 10 years too early." CNN, if it would have existed or similar organizations, the success would have been even greater.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Brigitte Nacos, thank you very much.
BRIGITTE NACOS: You're welcome.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Brigitte Nacos is a Columbia University professor and author of Mass-Mediated Terrorism. [MUSIC]
"C.P.E. Bach Sonata in G major, Wq. 65/22 (H. 56), Andante"
by Francois Chaplin