The very name “Islamic State” sounds like a map label from a textbook on eighth century warfare. In reality that’s not far off, as crucifixions and beheadings crop up across the large swath of Syria and Iraq under ISIS control.
ISIS presents a myriad of challenges to the West. Indeed, they may constitute the purest distillation yet of the end-times fundamentalism and barbaric cruelty that characterize our greatest enemy: radical Islam. One challenge involves reporting the brutal facts of ISIS cruelty to a Western audience wholly unaccustomed to the sight of decapitated children.
How should we handle the graphic images detailing ISIS’s gruesome atrocities? Blake writes that alerting a nation to action in the face of the ISIS scourge doesn’t require the widespread publication of graphic images. He presents briefly the arguments for this course of action, indicating radicals’ recruitment tactics and respect issues as further reasons for keeping the most disturbing images from the headlines.
I disagree, in part, with this conclusion. For one thing, the accessibility of such images is unquestioned in the internet age. The images are out there because ISIS delights in the carnage and because these atrocities are news. Failing to expose them at this juncture seems oddly detached from this fact.
I agree that respect for families and victims must be considered. But it is not clear that the respect accorded to a victim’s family by hiding such photographs outweighs the injustice of ignorance of these events, especially if raising awareness (and fury) could result in action against ISIS. Put yourself in the shoes of a villager walking past a row of crucifixions. Would you prefer that the world’s superpower fully grasp the gravity of the situation, or that the families of the dead glean cold comfort from cautious Western sensibility?
If only it were true that the American public, much less our foreign policy intellectuals, could be spurred to action by emphatic arguments alone. Evil is most correctly presented when it is presented in the light of blistering scrutiny. Blake is absolutely right that ISIS deserves annihilation. I think he underestimates America’s disillusionment with international leadership. If the crushing blow to ISIS that all civilized people desire is to be dealt, it must be dealt by a nation confident in its mandate to meet evil with arms. Perhaps military tacticians can do the job alone, but we’ve tried winning wars without the people behind us – and it fails.
The grim reality of ISIS and our long war with its kin cannot be withheld from view as long as we are serious about the truth. The media should not filter the vile consequences of the Islamic State through a sieve of misplaced propriety – not when the very values that allow a free press are under direct assault by a medieval death cult.
—John Henry Thompson is Editor-in-Chief of THE ARCH CONSERVATIVE
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