So we asked on Twitter, how you, our listeners, wanted mainstream news outlets to treat material released by terror organizations. Now we’ll hear from three of you: Nathan Hankins, a hospital security officer in Jackson, Wyoming; Scott Wessman, a lawyer from Atlanta, Georgia; and Karen Hagan, veterinarian from Louisville, Kentucky. Hi, everyone, welcome to On the Media.
ALL: Hi, Thank You, Hello...
BOB: I'll poll you individually first: What images have you seen.
HANKINS: I've seen the beheading videos and the two lectures.
BOB: How 'bout you Scott?
WESSMAN: I have seen the Sotloff and the Haynes beheading videos.
HAGAN: I have seen stills of the beheadings and the Cantlie stills. I do not want to watch any of the beheadings.
BOB: Any of you face any obstacles in trying to see any portion of this material that you did decide to view?
WESSMAN: This is Scott. I think I probably would have watched the Foley video when it initially came out but by the time I sort of realized that it had happened. It had been scrubbed from Twitter and basically every other mainstream news outlet.
BOB: What do you think, Scott, that news organizations should do with the video. Should they air them, come what may. Should they hold them? What?
WESSMAN: I look at it as a questions somewhat of the broadcast type. If it's something that is going to be shown essentially indiscriminately to anyone who happens to pass the TV for example. Nightly news. Then I think that there's a different standard that is in order from a site where you have click to decide whether you want to watch it.
BOB: So that you think that if a social network of a beheading from it's site it's acting paternalistically and to your disadvantage.
WESSMAN: Very much so. They don't know why I want to view it. Or why I've chosen to at least. And to make a blanket decisions that no one could benefit from this or that society is better if this video is not viewed is to jump to all kinds of conclusions about what the video does to people, what it is meant to do, and essentially who wins when the video is displayed or not.
BOB: You said that because the videos are online, you wanted ordinary news outlets to report on them to provide you the context that you need to process the images. What did you mean?
HANKINS: Well I guess I want news to provide context. Not just for me but for anybody viewing them. What ends up happening is - it ends up being pushed to the farthest reaches of the internet and then when I go looking for it I end up finding -- it's case in sort of a conspiracy light. Or something along those lines. And I wanna see it - I wanna get context from the professionals.
BOB: Karen, I want to ask you -- you only saw still from the videos. You felt you'd seen enough. Can you tell me why you limited your consumption just to stills.
HAGAN: I feel like we're actually playing into the extremists hands by propagating the message that we've become a messenger for propaganda by showing these videos. Just by over and over having these on YouTube or Twitter or anything like that. I feel like they're availability is allowing their message to become more available. We've become part of the propaganda machine.
BOB: Now that of course sets up directly apart from Scott, who doesn't want paternalistic news organizations making his consumption decisions for him.
HAGAN: And most of the time I would completely agree. I definitely don't want to live in a nanny state. But in this case I feel like they want us to show everyone the violence that they're capable of. And the more people that see it the happier they're going to be of about it. Why should we make them happy?
BOB: Nathan I want to bring up something that is maybe a little confrontational. And it has to do with that context that you describe before you're desire for news organizations to sort of help sort this out for you. There's also another phenomenon and that's kind of human bloodlust. Whatever the impluse is that makes you turn your head to see the wreckage on the highway in case there's some gore there. That makes us look at beheadings videos as a sort of terror porn. Having viewing some of this stuff. Do you ever feel personally, I don't know, dirty.
HANKINS: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. To some degree it's what Karen was saying about whether I'm playing into their hand. Or whether I'm giving into baser instincts. I guess I just wanna see it for myself. But if I'm getting it from you know what other people said they saw. Or the site that says that it didn't really happened. Or that it was some kind of a government conspiracy, they get their way. I think bloodlust is going to be used by somebody so I want news agnecy that I have more faith in to be able to provide context to better inform people.
BOB: Some of what we've witness is just unfathomable on every level. Do you think that experience that you've had over the past couple of weeks looking at this material has actually added to your understanding of the geopolitics of radical Islam particularly in the Middle East and of religious doctrine versus just plain extremism. Do you know more than you did before for having viewed this stuff.
HANKINS: Obviously I want to say 'yes.' But no, I didn't. I don't think specially watching those videos I gained anything.
WESSMAN: Oh, I definitely think that I did. As horrifying and unpleasant as it is to witness something like that I think that I learned to see a propaganda video for what it si. From my view anyway, there was a certain clumsiness to the videos that I would not have been able to see if I had simply taken a CNN anchor's description at face value. There's a certain ham-handedness to the speech that the victims are required to give. And what I'm left with of course is the horror of this evil act. But at the same time a sense of the humanity that pervades the entire scene. In some ways it tempered some of the instinctive fear that I had when I thought about ISIS. And the horrible thing that they're doing.
BOB: Karen, your patients are absolutely out of control. What kind of operations are you running there?
HAGAN: Uh...can you hear them barking. I'm so sorry.
BOB: Let me ask you on the flipside. Not have looking at the most gruesome images do you feel somehow deprived of nuance, texture and kind of a visceral reaction that might help inform your understanding what the hell is going on in the world.
HAGAN: Gosh no. I don't feel deprived we already know that these people are barbarians. Do I need to see a beheading to know what happened in a beheading? No. I dona't need to see it. We already know that they're capable of all kinds of terrible acts. Just because it's happening to Westerners now doesn't mean they haven't treated women terribly now that WEstern journalist have become targets, now we're all paying attention.
BOB: It sounds to me like we've played to a draw. I can draw a triangle of your positions. Is the answer that there is no hard and fast answer? And what do you say to my assertion that we just have to call them as we see them as the stories erupt.
HAGAN: This is Karen. That's why you get the big bucks, I supposed.
BOB: (Laughs)No, ma'am I'm in public radio.
HAGAN: Yes, I realize that.
NATHAN: Absolutely. And I appreciate you providing me with that cop out.
BOB: (Laughs). Thank you Nathan. I'm here to serve. To protect and service. Thank you one and all.