Should US media outlets play ISIS execution videos?

Fox News recently played the video of ISIS murder-by-fire of the Jordanian pilot. One Fox News talking head says they shouldn’t have done so, while another says they should, likening it to having the opportunity during the Holocaust of playing video of gas chamber murders.

I disagree with the comparison, and feel that Fox News (and others) shouldn’t play ISIS or other terrorist execution videos. There’s a big difference in the comparisons – Hitler and the Nazis would have been terrified over the release of any video inside a concentration camp. They were desperate, especially at the end, to keep the Holcaust as secret as possible. On the other hand, ISIS very much wants the US to play their murder videos. Their aim is to spread fear, and I think it’s highly irresponsible for media outlets to cooperate with the plans of terrorist groups.

Watching MSNBC this AM (well, I had it on in the background, so I wasn’t actually watching and can’t say who it was), someone suggested that news sources NOT show the video, but provide a link on their web sites that people can go to and see it if they feel they must. That seems like a sensible policy to me.

But, I disagree with your premise about ISIL. They may THINK showing the video will spread fear, but it will actually do the opposite-- it will incite rage and up the support for military action against them. Remember, Obama didn’t start bombing until they beheaded two Americans. And look what is going on in Jordan right now. I don’t think we set our policy based on what ISIL thinks or wants. I think we should set our policy based on what is best for our interests.

I think it’s likely that big publicity for these videos encourages ISIS/ISIL to make more of them, whether or not it enflames opinion against them. Further, I’m not sure if the sum total of the reactions, including the reactions it might have on younger potential recruits, hurts ISIL more than it helps them.

The MSNBC policy seems reasonable, considering that it’s not realistic that the videos could just be ignored.

That’s not so clear. The same action can have two effects and something can have the affect of spreading both fear and rage at the same time, especially if it’s in different people.

In addition, ISIL has been recruiting like mad, and apparently a lot of Muslim youth are attracted by the projection of strength (or whatever) that’s in this brutality.

In sum, it’s possible that this type of thing provokes counteraction from Western or moderate Muslims, but is also helpful to ISIL among their target audience.

This seems fairly straightforward and I don’t think anyone would disagree with the sentiments. But the notion here is that ISIL has been pretty successful, which would suggest that they may know what they’re doing and they probably understand their target audience better than Westerners do. So if they do something with a specific purpose in mind there’s a pretty good chance that it will be helpful for them if that purpose comes to fruition.

All that said, I imagine the target audience of ISIL has access to the videos anyway, and we’re only discussing what Western media outlets should do, so a different set of considerations may prevail.

It will do both, of course. It will instill fear in the people most likely to be subject to their brutality, allowing them a significant force multiplier. It will also enrage others. What isn’t clear is whether enraging others hurts them or not. It seems to me that the more they can cast the conflict as Daesh vs. the West, the better for them, since Daesh vs. Syria and Iraq was always going to have limited sales potential.

Of course, if US and Jordanian efforts are successful in ending the insurgency, then they will have miscalculated. What do you think the odds of that are?

Few, if any, Americans will be “subject to their brutality” so I don’t see the fear thing being a factor. Remember, we’re talking about US media outlets.

I don’t think we will end the insurgency, but we can contain it. Again, it was rage at the beheadings that got us into this military action. ISIL was spreading across Iraq quite successfully until we stepped in.

Then why are you talking about recruits? Have any Americans joined up?

We’ll see. I doubt very much that US airstrikes made much a difference in the long-term. They may have saved some lives, but Daesh will rise or fall based on many other factors outside US control, the outlook for some of which improved as a result of the US making them Public Enemy #1.

I wasn’t aware that I was. Which particular post of mine are you referring to?

I agree. Except for the last part. Showing the videos does not make them public enemy number 1. It seems to me that Daesh (I like the use of that term to refer to them, btw) made a big mistake by killing a Muslim in this manner. Beheading a few westerners doesn’t seem to rile the Arab/Muslim world all that much, but burning the Jordanian alive sure does. Perhaps they are on their way to becoming PE#1 in at least a part of the Arab world.

Obviously I misread one of the above posts as yours. I agree that Fox News decision to show these videos doesn’t much affect the people of Kirkuk. But then, it doesn’t much affect the people of America either, IMO. I think the impending genocide of the Yazidis and the fact that American journalists were among the victims were bigger factors than the visuals of beheadings.

I thought your argument was that videos of beheading led to US action. And my argument is that US action legitimizes and advertises for them in a way that might offset any short-term success of that action by making them the go-to organization for those with a beef against the US and what it represents.

I was kind of sloppy in that first post, because there are really 2 separate things:

  1. The beheading of American journalists.
  2. Videos of said beheadings.

I don’t think we needed #2 in order to spur the US into action. It’s the action, much more than the video that is eliciting the emotions of fear and/or rage. The videos might stoke the flames a bit more, but the fire is already raging without them.

Not showing the videos is, in my mind, more a matter of respect for the victim. We don’t splash the images of dead bodies on the front pages of (respected) newspapers for good reason. But I see no harm in having the videos available on the news outlets’ web sites. You can’t hide this stuff from Americans these days. And it’s more than adequate to cover the story with words, so it’s not like the media is self-censoring by not showing the videos on air.

Does anybody has an idea why they burned this man to death (I mean did they state the reason)? Is it purely for the shock factor, or is it some kind of justice (because airstrikes resulted in people burning to death)?

Because they’re arseholes.

“To heal the hearts of the believers” was one their stated goals. AKA revenge.

Washington Post:

Strategically it seems that they want to goad Jordan into invading, inspire IS sympathetic Jordanians to attack from within, and deter other Arab air forces from participating in attacks on them.

This is what I was going to say. Sure, spreading terror and shock value are one thing, but creating chaos and a schism within Jordan are better. I understood ISIS’ goal is not necessarily taking over land for their own country, buy more establishing a long-term conflict in the region, and breaking down peace and stability in neighboring nations.

I say don’t play the videos on TV; it is only giving them what they want.

They shouldn’t have shown footage of 9/11 either, right?

  • In poor taste, gruesome.
  • Disrespectful to the dead and their families.
  • Spreads terror/anger, inflames militant response just like OBL wanted.

Though in fairness, a dude roasting alive up close is a bit more gruesome than watching pixels jump out a building.

I think that’s faulty logic though. Just as we keep on worrying about what the terrorists will think when discussing what policies we should pursue. Normal people just don’t think like they do and it’s really hard to figure out what they are thinking or how they’ll react to any given situation.

But we do know how we think, and the ISIS video did not spread fear among Westerners. If it would have, Fox wouldn’t have shown it. THe reason Fox showed it was to incite anger. And it worked.

That sounds like what ISIS/ISIL/Daesh wants – they want inflamed opinion and elevated confrontation. The idea that we’re doing exactly what they want ought to give us some pause, at least.

Or, we should not try to get inside their minds anymore once we’ve established there’s nothing rational in there to get at. Sun Tzu never met these guys when he said “know your enemy”. Although I guess knowing they are in the grip of a death cult probably tells us enough.

Don’t assume people are irrational just because they act in ways you consider to be evil.

I consider them irrational because what they want will only lead to their destruction.