Friday, August 22, 2014

Too Much Public Access?


Like the rest of the civilized world, I am horrified by the murder of James Foley.  Not that kidnapping innocent people and holding them for years is a minor thing, but to just outright murder someone, especially in such a terrifying manner, goes beyond what the mind can imagine.

But in this particular case, the mind doesn’t really have to imagine, because the barbaric act—or at least the result of the act—is preserved on film.  I guess it’s not particularly surprising to me that any group that would be so inhuman as to behead a prisoner would want to continue the terror by showing their gruesome act to as many people as possible.  But it does sort of surprise me that anyone would want to watch such a thing.

Though the video has apparently been removed from most of the internet (though “removed from the internet” is just about impossible), I heard some talking heads today saying that it should be available in the interest of avoiding censorship.  I guess I can almost understand that argument, though mostly I think that at some point, the overall standards of society have to come into play.  And, in this case, I’m pretty sure that societal standards have not yet sunk so low that the majority of people would think it’s perfectly okay to show a man losing his life, or even the aftermath. 

And what about Foley’s family?  With every copy of that video that exists, there is a greater likelihood that his family might be inadvertently exposed to it, and surely no one would wish that.  In school one time, we talked about a case where a police officer responding to a fatality accident (also a decapitation) took a photo of the victim, turned it into a particularly gruesome Halloween card, and forwarded it out to a few of his closest friends. Through the power of the great www, the card quickly circulated far beyond the officer’s initial friends, only to end up in the inbox of the victim’s unsuspecting father, who clicked a link expecting some sort of internet frivolity, not a graphic representation of the worst event of his life.  Protecting the Foley family from that sort of terrible possibility should trump the interests of anyone who just wants to argue the rights of random citizens who have a right to be protected from censorship.

As a rule, I can’t imagine it’s more than a kind of sick curiosity that would drive someone to want to watch the video, anyway.  But I hope in this case, basic decency wins out, and that horrible video is banished from existence everywhere except in the offices of whatever officials might need it to bring the ruthless murderers to justice.