Today there was a report of another horrific murder of an American Journalist. Steven Sotloff was the victim of a gruesome assault carried out by ISIS terrorists. And just as with the previous murder of James Foley, the media reacted by serving the interests of the terrorists by repeatedly showing pictures of the assault. Such a reaction has a disastrous effect. It is also egregiously hypocritical, but more on that later.
What needs to be mentioned with regard to these pictures is that they serve only one purpose. They were distributed by ISIS in order to advance their mission of terror. Their goal is to spread fear in the west and to promote recruitment to their cause among extremist Muslims. And like every other public relations campaign, the more the pictures and videos are shown, the better for ISIS.
The American media is providing free advertising for these cretins, and they must stop it. While it is reasonable to report on the brutality that is being engaged in throughout the Middle East, and particularly in Iraq and Syria, there is no useful purpose in blanketing the airwaves with images created by terrorists for their own benefit.
The murder of Sotloff is certainly a tragedy, but it is no more tragic than the hundreds, thousands, of others, many of them Americans, many of them journalists, whose names we were never told because they were killed in more “conventional” ways. The spectacular method of Sotloff’s execution wrenches our hearts, but leaves a corpse that is not one bit more dead. We have to stop assigning an artificial significance to the tactic, because that is exactly what the terrorists want us to do. Why are we accommodating them?
The United States has conducted hundreds of bombing missions against ISIS in the last few weeks, with over eighty yesterday alone. We have driven ISIS back from cities they boasted about capturing. These actions have resulted in the deaths and injuries of untold terrorist fighters. In response, the impotent whack jobs of ISIS choreograph a horror show that takes the life of a single man and we’re supposed to tremble with uncontrollable fright? Hell no. We continue to pursue our interests, bring aid to victims, and get on with our lives. It would probably be advantageous for President Obama to go golfing after every killing of this type that occurs. Don’t validate their tactics by reacting in precisely the way they hope.
It’s ironic that the media is so supportive of the ISIS PR effort. Not too long ago some of them were blasting reporters for going to Ferguson, Missouri to cover the shooting of an unarmed black teenager. In that case media critics like Howard Kurtz of Fox News asserted that “The journalistic invasion of Ferguson is absolutely inflaming the situation on the streets.” He wrote an editorial titled “What if we just pulled the plug on Ferguson?” that suggested the press should pack it in and leave town. Bill O’Reilly said much the same thing about coverage of another murdered teenager, Trayvon Martin, when he asked “Is the media now inciting racial violence?”
Isn’t it interesting that when the media is covering the murders of unarmed African-American kids they are accused of being accomplices to an escalation of hostilities, but when it comes to Americans executed by terrorists thousands of miles away, there is no similar implication of incitement even though that is the indisputable objective of the killers? The real question is: What if we just pulled the plug on ISIS?
There is a demonstrable purpose to reporting on the overly aggressive behavior of American police officers. Such publicity, and subsequent reform, can have an impact on their future behavior and improve relations between law enforcement and the public they are pledged to serve and protect. The same cannot be said of reporting, or more accurately advertising, the behavior of terrorists. We are not going to dissuade them from committing their crimes by publicizing them. Quite the contrary. They will only increase their deadly plots when they see the attention it brings them.
So the only way to react to these events is to acknowledge that they occurred and then stop obsessing over them. Then we can conduct our retaliatory response calmly and decisively. But by no means should we panic, tear out our hair, and give the enemy the impression (and satisfaction) that they have crushed our spirit and won a victory. They haven’t won a damn thing by exposing themselves as savages and taking the life of a single, innocent victim. Rather than helping to advance their PR, we should be publicizing their barbarism, impotence, and desperation. And a big part of that requires the media to refrain from furthering the marketing goals of the terrorists.