The camcorder itself is a neutral technology, neither good nor evil. In the hands of the average consumer, it is an innocuous piece of equipment. In the hand of a hero, it might be the most important technology for truth. In the hands of a terrorist, it is quite another thing.
Osama Bin Laden and his cohorts were shrewd enough to know that releasing a videotape to Al Jazeera television network on the week of September 11th would land him and his cause on the front pages of all of the world’s newspapers and the lead story on the world’s TV and radio news programs. While we have many ways to describe Osama Bin Laden and his cohorts, it is instructive in this case to consider them as "a few guys with a camcorder."
Of course we weren’t be too impressed with their use of video. If it weren’t for their terror, no TV station would broadcast their video. As things are today, even if Osama Bin Laden wrote a poem on a piece of toilet paper, it would be published in Time Magazine.
It is however impressive that on the anniversary of September 11th, we did indeed see Osama Bin Laden once again on TVs across the world, and that is exactly what he wanted. Rather than admiring Osama’s use of camcorders, we should be asking a different question. How could they let this guy get his face on TV during that week? It seems absurd and dysfunctional that an amateur tape of Osama, shot months ago, was worthy of broadcast on TV around the world. I am certain that the families of those who died from the 9/11 terrorist attacks were not happy about it. How much discipline would it really have taken for a TV news organization to decide not to run any of the video, but simply have a news anchor mention that a newly discovered tape of Osama, shot months ago, was aired by Al Jazeera television network. What little I saw of the actual video seemed to have little, if any, actual value to the news audience.
Sometimes I think that Osama is playing the world’s TV industry like a fiddle. TV news, like all broadcast and cable TV, is so highly focused upon ratings, that they can’t seem to recognize any sense of higher duty. Could the TV industry, perhaps elect to not assist Osama in his desire to manipulate the free world by demonstrating, with his camcorder, the fact that he is still a viable threat?
What’s my point? Maybe the TV industry is broken and the only way to fix it is to boycott it by watching less mass-market TV produced by media conglomerates and spend more time viewing special interest TV and other narrowly focused programs produced by small companies and individuals, like us. Perhaps this can serve as motivation for us to produce more of our own television. In a free world, anything can, and often is, broadcast. In a free world, that makes us as content creators more responsible for what is broadcast and, by extension, what we watch.