“Who watches..” and “Why people watch…”

Terrorist Murders: Beheadings

This is a truly gruesome topic, but – given the time in which we live – it is a pertinent topic. I will ‘not’ provide links to these videos. I have never watched these videos. I will never watch these videos.

But, in our discussion of ‘online multimedia’ – particularly in regard to ‘news sites’ – this is a very real issue that news organizations must address.

The questions (for which I do not have any answers, really) are:

  • Why would anyone want to watch a video of the beheading murders of hostages in Iraq?
    1. The only anecdotal reference I can offer is this.

      My brother lived in Los Angeles. He once told me of a man he met. The orignal producer of the ‘Faces of Death‘ film/video. (Note that there are 26 listings for the title at Amazon in VHS/DVD.)

      I remember my thoughts then, “Why, in the world, would someone ‘think’ of producing such a horrific video? Let alone – watch it.”

      I’ll hazard a guess that ‘Faces of Death’ is a popular video rental, in some parts of the country. It is still available. I have seen it in video stores. I would never rent it.

      And, for example, see this Amazon.com listing of the ‘boxed set’ – Faces of Death Box Set (1996). That link contains ‘Customer Reviews’ – ranked with ‘stars’.

      # Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars Based on 26 reviews.
      # Amazon.com Sales Rank in Video: #19,042

      The reviews will speak volumes about [a] who watches and [b] why they watch.

      Incidently, the top 5 videos at Amazon now are:

    1. Shrek 2
    2. Garfield – The Movie
    3. The Passion of the Christ
    4. Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban
    5. Cinderella (Disney)

    Well, thank goodness for small miracles. There is violence in the top 5, but nothing like our present topic.

  • Should sites provide links to these videos?
    1. There is a discussion of that question in this BBC story: “Who watches murder videos?” It covers the ‘reasons’ some sites provide the links.

      I don’t see any reason for a site to offer a link. Why would any news organization feel a need to provide a link in order to ‘prove’ that it really is happening?

      One US site (Douglas J. Hagmann’s, Northeast Intelligence Network) offers this rationale for the links. “In accordance with our policy that the American people need to know the tactics of our enemy, we are making the video available.” The site is homelandsecurityus.com. See their list of analysts.

  • Should news sites host, or link to, these videos?
    1. I don’t see any reason for a news site to offer a link – and certainly not to host the video on their servers. Some might say that they are giving aid to the terrorists. Others would say they are performing a service in the ‘public interest’. Where has the ‘trust’ gone from ‘news’? Why would any news organization feel a need to provide a link in order to ‘prove’ that it really is happening?

      But, we cannot forget the San Francisco incident where “Web hoax fools news services: S.F. man fakes beheading, proves need for verification“.

This whole discussion was prompted by Steve Outing’s article at:

Poynter Online – E-Media Tidbits
Posted by Steve Outing 11:38:01 AM
Why People Watch Web Beheading Videos
I’ve been noting this week the controversy about South Africa’s Mail & Guardian website linking to a beheading video from Iraq. (Also see this article which discusses the linking-to-controversial-content dilemma.) A worthy addition to the discussion comes from BBC News, in its article, “Who watches murder videos?”

My statements above are solely from personal reactions to the idea of promoting this violence.

If it were my decision, the links and videos would not be provided. But, such is the nature of the internet and the nature of ‘news’ today.

If you can remember this far back, Phil Donahue, sued on the theory that journalists have a First Amendment right to broadcast executions.” (Slate.com) “In 1994, Donahue tried unsuccessfully to televise live the execution of a convicted murderer in North Carolina.” (ellenhume.com’s “Talk Show Culture”)

Donahue hoped that televising the execution would awaken the public to the brutality of the government. Terrorists want you to know about it, even watch it, to emphasize their determination in their fight. And, they do it to – frighten us. Terrorize us. I would not be the least bit surprised to learn that terrorists want us to think, “This could be you.” That may well be their message.

What do you think? Blog about it.

UPDATE: Well, really not an ‘update’ but something else I found. I was going through my old ‘draft posts’ …. you see, I have this habit of finding things and ‘drafting’ them so I can write about them later. Some I leave for my own personal thoughs … others I just …. oh, forget? So, I found this post on this same topic from long ago… As you will see, I didn’t have any ideas back then, either. So, here goes:

This is an old, very old, discussion.

Would events happen if journalists did not cover them?

Example: Would the March from Selma to Montgomery have ever been planned, let alone carried out, if it wasn’t known that journalists would cover it? Would the Civil Rights era have been successful if the press didn’t cover the brutality?

Here are some questions to consider:

[a] Should media outlets broadcast, print or publish online the video posted (or released) by terrorist groups?
[b] What is their ethical ‘baggage’ for having done so? (i.e., Do they share responsibility for the effectiveness of these actions? Would the terrorists continue to do these things if no one knew they happened? It is realistic that ‘no one’ would broadcast, print or publish online these acts?)
[c] Should bloggers post links to these sites/videos?

Some online readings: Google.com search for ‘journalism ethics’

ADVOCARE (Blog Bloke) A Bloggers Natural Resource – Mediation, Conflict Resolution, Negotiating, Commentary and more
A War of the Mind
All of us by now have heard news of the three hostages in Iraq. Two of whom have already been beheaded (Eugene Armstrong, Jack Hensley), and Kenneth Bigley who may be in the process of being butchered as I write. Horrific thought isn’t it? But that is the point.

When the first beheading of Nick Berg took place, like many of you in a fit of emotion I rushed to take a peek at the video. My thinking was no matter how awful it may be it would be a good dose of reality to see the horrors of terrorism for myself. Well, I have to admit that I had to turn it off. And after reading the posts of others who saw it, most agree that they wish they had never viewed it.

You know, after reading this I’m giving Kevin Donahue’s post second and third thoughts.

The coverage, however horrific (and on the right channels at the right times) might be justifiable in my mind. And, I think it could ‘wake up’ a lot of people.

I’ll continue to think about the topic.


2 thoughts on ““Who watches..” and “Why people watch…”

  1. Kevin Donahue

    I have a very confused opinion on this topic. There is a SUBSTANTIAL part of me that thinks that it is something that needs to be seen – at least once – by the vast majority of us. Why? I’m of the side of the aisle that thinks most Americans don’t have the stomach for a long fight against terrorism. I think if we’re permitted to see exactly how passionate some people are about killing us, maybe we won’t be so hesitant to take the fight to them.

    Another side of me thinks that seeing this makes all of us less human somehow.

  2. Robert

    I appreciate your viewpoint, Kevin. I agree that some people might be awakened by the experience. And, the ‘long fight’ is a reality that most people don’t want to take on, IMO. I really do mean ‘most’, too. But, I’m often wrong. I hope I am now.

    Anyway, I’ve posted a lil’ rant on my ‘feelings’. It certainly isn’t directed at you or anyone, really. Just me ‘venting’…

    This topic has just ‘gotten to me’ … it goes beyond these videos.

Comments are closed.