July 22, 2004

Paul Johnson Beheading Video: why you should see it

For original post on the Paul Johnson beheading please scroll down past this update section.

UPDATE 10/08: Kenneth Bigley executed in Iraq by Zarqawi terrorist organization. The story is developing, but sources in Fallujah claim Bigley beheaded. For the latest information, links to video, and images on the Kenneth Bigley murder please go to the MAIN PAGE or by CLICKING HERE for the 10/08 report.

For the latest information, links to video, and images on hostages in Iraq please check the main page by CLICKING HERE.

Here is a list of all the victims of Islamic Beheadings since late July this year.

10/08 Kenneth Bigley Executed in Iraq Images and Video Here.
10/02 Iraqi Victim Barie Nafie Dawoud Ibrahim Beheading Video and Images Here
9/22 American Hostage Jack Hensley Beheading Video and Images Here
9/20 American Hostage Eugene Armstrong Beheaded on Video Here
9/13 Turkish Hostage Beheaded on Video Here
9/08 Three Muslim 'Informants' Beheaded by the Religion of Irony
8/31 12 Nepalese Hostages Killed, 1 Beheaded Here
8/26 Italian Hostage Enzo Baldoni Murdered Here
8/25 Alleged CIA Agent Beheaded in Video Here
8/13 Another Alleged CIA Agent Beheaded on Video Here
8/11 CIA Agent Executed: Another Beheading Video
8/09 Another Bulgarian Beheading Video
8/02 Turkish Hostage Murdered
7/28 Bulgarian Beheading Video
7/27 Kashmir Rebels Bomb Hospital, Behead Three
7/27 Paul Johnson Beheading Video and Images Here
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Begin original post:

Paul Johnson's beheading video is now all over the place. Amanda Doerty has some stills from the video and a link to it. Especially disturbing is vidcap #5.

I know it was released 5 days ago, but I was on hiatus then, so I wanted to throw in my two cents. Better late then never.

What should the proper response to this video be?

Outrage. Disgust. Anger.

As many of you know, I advocate watching these videos. Why? Because there is something in the human psyche that connects 'knowing' with 'seeing'. Our emotions are intimately connected to what we view as reality.

I was very pissed off after 9/11. But that kind of anger cannot be sustained for a long period of time. Sometime in the months following the attack, my feelings began to temper. After awhile, it was not the feelings of the moment that sustained my willingness to fight, but rather the memory of the feelings I once had.

Even though my resolve to fight never wavered, it certainly was not with the same intensity. My resolve to fight was sustained by written accounts of our adversaries. But these written reports, as convincing as they may have been, just can't connect to people in the same way that pictures can.

My worldview was utterly changed by the events of 9/11. I'm not sure, though, that just reading accounts of those atrocities would have been enough to turn my world upside down. Watching video of people jumping out of the Towers did. Hearing the sound of their bodies hitting the pavement did. It utterly devastated me.

I assume that most people felt the same way as I did. But something has happened in the months following 9/11--many have lost their resolve to fight. Part of this might be explained by differing predispositions and worldviews. Liberals are generally less willing to see American casualties, hence the post Iraq invasion syndrome. Lefties, well, their worldview predisposes them to believe that somehow we brought the whole thing on ourselves--and oddly religious stance, not too much different than the right-wing theology that preaches that there is an invisible shield over the US and God removes that shield when we sin.

But I don't think these predispositions completely explain what is happening. We all shared an initial experience that martialed us to war, but somehow over time my resolve has not been shaken while others grow weary. They began as hawks but somehow became doves.

What explains the difference? Media influence. Back in the good old days this was called propaganda.

I surround myself with constant reminders of 9/11. I consume media that is nearly uniformly unflattering of the terrorists or their goals. The people that I surround myself with (when give a choice) all share my disdain of the Islamic state. I have deliberately chosen the propaganda I am exposed to.

As I've thought about why WWII remains 'the good war' and why that generation was 'the greatest' a number of factors seem to account for their stoic resolve to fight, even as hundreds of thousands of their friends and relatives died. I think many of those factors still remain.

I don't believe they were inherently 'braver' than our generation. That seems like utter romanticism to view past peoples as somehow endowed with superior moral qualities.

One major difference, pointed out by a reader commenting on a previous post (who was that?) was that WWII was so large that it involved nearly everybody. Every one was personally affected in ways that we are not today. I agree, and that was a brilliant insight.

But we shouldn't be so naive as to believe that that is the only thing different. To a large extent, the discourse of the time was different. That discourse was deliberately shaped by propaganda. Constant reminders of the morality of the war effort shaped peoples opinions. All the major media were on board with the war effort. And when I say all, I mean all. Not just the news media, but in all forms of artistic expression and in popular entertainment. Even Bugs Bunny fought the Nazis and the Japs.

But where is the media today? In an effort to be 'neutral observers' the media forgets that they are Americans first. They treat foreign policy and war as if it were an election and the two opposing sides Democrats and Republicans. They equivocate between terrorists targeting civilians and American soldiers accidentally killing civilians (which the terrorists use as human shields, knowing that we try to avoid such casualties and rejoicing when we kill civilians because they understand it's propaganda value).

In short, the events of 9/11 and Pearl Harbor martialed our country to war. I assume that my grandfather's generation was just as shocked as the images coming out of Honolulu as ours was of the images from New York. In fact, it seems to me that the images from New York were much worse and that the grossly immoral nature of the 9/11 attacks dwarf that of Pearl Harbor. Yet, 3 years after Pearl Harbor our country continued to fight and suffer great casualties--3 years after 9/11 a good portion of our country wishes to retreat from the world stage toward a new isolationism.

The events galvanized both generations, but it was propaganda (to a large extent) that gave the previous generation the will to continue the fight. The media was a willing participant in bolstering home front morale. The leaders of the nation were not so duplicitous as to pretend that bolstering support for the war was not official policy. They drafted Hollywood actors and put them to use making propaganda films. Posters were put up in workplaces to give people constant reminders of why their loved-ones were dying. This propaganda effort gave people the courage to see it through to the end.

So why see this video? Call it a revival of sorts.

If you were once for the War on Terror, but find your resolve wavering you need to see this. No, you MUST see this. It will remind you of why we fight. It will remind you of what we are up against. It will be an experience similar to 9/11. It will change you, once again.

If you are already resolved to fight, I say to you look at the video anyway. It will affect you in ways you are probably not prepared for. It will make 9/11 real again, not some fuzzy memory. It will stiffen your resolve.

The terrorists released this video for their own propaganda purposes. Let us use it for ours.

By Rusty Shackleford, Ph.D. at 04:30 PM | Comments |