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While I agree with Digby that early coverage by our media of the American-centric aspect of the Mumbai terror attacks was rather shameful, by now it looks like whoever planned and executed this terror attack aimed it at America — specifically, at Western media feeding Americans on holiday around our televisions on a long weekend with less shopping planned.

That’s fairly sophisticated and fairly scary too.

The hotels that were attacked were central to the American expat/tourism experience in Mumbai; most Western companies that are now firmly ensconced in that south Asian financial capital began their Indian incarnation in a small hotel suite in the Taj or the Oreboi. Some that haven’t yet built or leased their own office towers now occupy entire floors. And the Taj Palace and Towers was readying for an influx of Westerners, especially Americans, for Thanksgiving celebrations.

We’re told that Westerners — Brits and Americans — were singled out, and tragically some have been listed among the dead.  That’s one way of extending the coverage in Western news media beyond the initial attacks: isolate and focus on specific victims with whom the American audience may, for better or worse, more easily identify. 

I’m not saying this was an attack on America — simply that the strategy and tactics of the attack were aimed at stretching the coverage in the West to cater to a media starved by a vacuum created by the long no-news weekend. Taking hostages, killing hostages when commandos attempted a rescue, continuing shootouts with government forces when completely outnumbered — all these serve to stretch the terror, enable the cablefests to develop a storyline, font-up a graphic, and punch in some scary Garageband intro music. Americans can now see the Mumbai terror attacks every time we turn on the television.

It wasn’t simply a single terror attack — it is an ongoing effort to engage our media’s attention at a time they had very little else to talk about. Were our cable stations really going to air more mindless speculation about which hypoallergenic dog would be best for the Obama girls when there was blood spilled, Americans dead, and hostages still at risk? 

Someone with knowledge of the American newsmedia landscape plotted, planned, timed, and executed this attack. While the faces of the young lawbreakers make them look like college students with long hair and backpacks, they were managed by somebody who knows the insatiable appetite of the American media — and that this appetite needed filling very badly over our Thanksgiving weekend.

Again, we’re not at the center of this terror. The horror-stricken people of Mumbai are. But we are a critical part of its masterminds’ very carefully selected audience.

UPDATE: Wolf Blitzer  breathlessly reports "shots fired moments ago at the Taj Palace and Towers Hotel" (2:30 pacific time) while Barbara Starr speculates pointlessly about possible Pakistani involvement.  Pakistani Ambassador to the United States Husain Haqqani refuses to be baited by Blitzer, saying that "democratically elected governments don’t go to war against each other" and decrying "non-state actors who perpetrated this terror."

UPDATE II: Larry King now interviewing folks all over the globe via satellite: eyewitnesses to the Taj attack, neighbors who saw the commando raid where the Jewish center residents were discovered dead, and Deepak Chopra in the studio, who is again talking about stifling the weapons trade and the financial support for terror.  But, as previously, when he gets too close to the truth for comfort, Larry King goes to a commercial.