. . . Monday November 8, 2004

Invitation to a Beheading

Where do we cross the line between celebrating a free, for profit press and becoming a P.R. firm for terrorists?

In the latest Atlantic Monthly, Mark Bowden explores News Judgment and Jihad.

Newspapers play the wrenching stories on the front page, often above the fold, and the networks feature them prominently, often as lead news items. Good taste has, thank goodness, banished the videos of the beheadings to obscure regions of the Internet, where those who must see such things can find them, but editors and producers have yet to display any equivalent exercise of judgment.

It’s dangerous to limit the press in ways that don’t truly add to our national security. But there must be some alternative to encouraging the media to be so blatantly used by terror groups. After all, the very purpose of video-taped beheadings is to terrorize. It’s frustrating that we seem to have decided to give terrorist groups this benefit with very little debate.

Of course, the use of media by terror groups is part of a larger whole; the ability of the terrorists to hurt us in many ways precisely because of our freedoms. Giving these freedoms up is a loss on any scorecard. That’s what makes this a tough issue.

In almost every situation, we’ll find trade-offs. But I really wonder if making grainy images from gruesome scenes the top news stories of the day is worth the downside.

Concentration is important!