Written in blood

on . Posted in English texts


After carrying out 16 letter bomb attacks that killed three people and injured another 10, the Unabomber decided to come clean in 1995. He sent a rambling letter explaining his position and promising that if it was published in two authoritative newspapers he would stop.

Despite the US Justice Department's pleas for the manifesto to be published in the hope that some member of the public would recognize the writing style and provide some clue as to the bomber's identity, many newspapers refused to do so. They argued that: a) the letter was too long and of no interest, and b) that the press had sole discretion over what it will publish or not.

In Greece, our terrorists have become editor-in-chief for a day. They have demanded that their letter be published in full, without editing, just as November 17 did in the past. What is strange is that no Greek paper has ever published any other 9,000-word text, no matter how important it was. The factor that is at play here is not about the quality of the writing itself, but the fact that it is written in blood.

The secret lies in circulation figures. A few years ago such a text would boost sales significantly, not because readers have the patience to go through the puerile ramblings of terrorists, but because terrorist manifestos have the same effect on people as a car crash: everyone slows down to take a look at; it's the draw of blood. But, looking at the crash does nothing to make people change their own behavior behind the wheel and, in this sense, the lengths to which some people go to get their letters published, and the blood shed in the name of this objective, are in vain.

There is also a question of ethics that arises with the publication of the manifesto and this is because every serious newspaper requests that all letters be signed if they are to be published. So, it seems that in the Greek press not only have we made terrorists editors-in-chief, but also allowed them the privilege of anonymous letter-writing.

KATHIMERINI English Edition, 16/01/2009