My news network of choice is CNN because, as much as possible, I want my news straight, untainted by the political opinions of the news anchors. I figure I am opinionated enough to add my on political slant to the news that I see and hear.
Of course I have been aware that CNN has refused to show any portion of the ISIS video of the burning of the Jordanian pilot as ISIS militants celebrated. I understand that most responsible new sources also made decisions not to show the video. I assure that I am not the least bit squeamish, but I have no need to see someone in a cage burned alive; the narrative description provided by CNN was quite sufficient for me to understand the savagery of those that would commit such a heinous act.
This morning I learned that Fox News showed graphic images of the ISIS video on one of their special report broadcasts and then posted the video on their website in its 22 minute entirety. According to CNN so far 7 million people have viewed it.
What possessed Fox to provide easy access to a disgusting video which ISIS produced, filmed and distributed as propaganda? According to a BBC article I found on line, a Fox network executive explained the network’s rational. “After careful consideration, we decided that giving readers of FoxNews.com the option to see for themselves the barbarity of ISIS outweighed legitimate concerns about the graphic nature of the video,’ said John Moody, the executive editor of Fox News. ‘Online users can choose to view or not view this disturbing content.”
My interpretation of the Fox’s reasoning is that the network is playing to the need of its conservative audience to continue to spread the use fear as a mechanism to achieve political objectives. In this case the access to the film has the objective of galvanizing the citizens of the United States to take more direct military action to combat ISIS such as “putting boots on the ground”. The use of fear and hate has long been favorite tactics used to push conservative agendas. A less charitable explanation might be that Fox is using this sick video to increase traffic on their website.
However, the question that begs to be asked is what are the unintended consequences of Fox’s decision to make this video readily available to the general public. After all, one no longer has to seek out some shadowy terrorist website to see the Jordanian pilot burned alive. Well, I’m sure there are sick individuals who get some kind of sexual thrill seeing the suffering of others who are applauding Fox’s decision. Even more disturbing are those who will actually be inspired by the video to travel to join ISIS or emulate their actions by performing terrorist acts at home.
Of course the vast majority of those seeing the video will be sickened by the cruelty of ISIS, but if only a tiny percentage of the viewers are predisposed to being inspired by the video, that is still a lot of people. Let’s take the 7 million views already recorded on Fox’s website as a base. If only 1/100 of one percent are inspired by the video, that equals 700 people. If only 1/10 of those 700 are actually spurred to action we are now dealing with 70 individuals living in our midst that are potential terrorist. If only one out of ten of those 70 individuals actually carry out their aspirations, we will be dealing with 7 additional individuals dead set on our destruction. I think we all can agree that is an unintended consequence we would rather not deal with.
Fox and other news media need to show responsibility; just because they have access to media does not mean that it should be distributed to the general public if it has the potential to strengthen our enemies. ISIS has been very successful in recruiting individuals who have a predisposition to join their organization. One of their prime tools has been heinous execution videos. Given the recent cases where American citizens have been inspired by ISIS to commit domestic terrorism or travel, or at try to travel, to the Middle East to join their ranks, we would naive to believe that there are not still others among us with a similar predisposition.
Of course this is not the first time that an attempt by Fox News to use fear to promote a political agenda has produced adverse unintended consequences. Nor, do I suspect, that it will be the last.