There seems to be no shortage of opinion following a Fox New decision to post the unedited ISIS video of the cruel torture and death of a captured Jordanian pilot.
First, to counter a fairly lame framing of the question from Tony Maddox at CNN, “So you got to ask, first of all, do we need to show this video? Is there content in this video that we cannot in any way explain to the audience short of showing the video itself? In this case, no. ”
I would point out that it was CNN who also chose not to show the cover of Charlie Hebdo when it came out after the attack. In a sense they were at least being consistent in their editorial cowardice.
While I do not agree with showing egregious violence, or gore or serving a sick voyeur’s fascination with death. Sometimes there is a point.
In the difficult days following 9/11 when most of us had been on the air non-stop, a ruling came down from the front row at CBS that we were to stop showing the video of the planes hitting the building. I thought that was a wrong call. The suits said it might upset people further, make them mad. I felt at that point that America pretty much had a point to be mad, and withholding that video in a sense of knee-jerk sensitivity was wrong.
I think there is similar reasoning here. This video (which I have not seen, I’ve seen enough such in my time.. including btw, people setting themselves on fire during the Vietnam War which was shown with some frequency on the evening news) is of an atrocious act. It should not be run on open air, because the viewing is less controlled than on the web, but it should be shown. Fox was right, if you want to find it you can and will. If it pisses you off and convinces you that this group is barbaric.. then I believe that we have the right to frame our own decisions and thoughts about an enemy that we are engaged in fighting. We have seen the film of those who survived and those who perished at the Nazi camps. That is and should be shown because we need to know Evil.
This is not different.
This decision is also consistent with Fox’s decision to show the Charlie Hebdo cover, for which they (and CBS) should be commended.
Journalism requires the courage of convictions, not the temerity that seems to go with these times.
And btw, Brian Williams, jfc.