SCARCELY HAD ISIS posted its video showing the grisly beheading of American journalist James Foley than the rush to stifle it began.
"Don't watch the video. Don't share it. That's not how life should be," entreated Foley's sister Kelly in a message on Twitter that was heavily retweeted. Thousands of social media users, some of them journalists, called for an #ISISMediaBlackout — the hashtag quickly went viral — and Twitter CEO Dick Costolo announced that the company was "actively suspending accounts as we discover them related to this graphic imagery." YouTube removed versions of the video posted on its site, invoking its policy on "gratuitous violence, hate speech, and incitement to commit violent acts."
Most mainstream news organizations chose not to show or link to the sickening videos, or to publish still photos showing Foley being beheaded. One exception was the New York Post, which ran a front-page picture showing the journalist just as the knife was put to his throat, with the one-word headline: "SAVAGES." For doing so, the paper was vehemently criticized. Buzzfeed editor Adam Serwer echoed the widespread view that to publicize the gruesome image was to give the terrorists more of the notoriety they crave. "Pretty sure ISIS could not be happier with the New York Post's front page today," he tweeted.
Would that have been Foley's reaction? Would he have clamored for self-censorship and a media blackout? Or would he have wanted decent people everywhere to know — and, yes, to see — the crimes being committed by the ruthlessly indecent killers calling themselves the Islamic State?