I call it ISIS Porn.
That’s the online stream of public beheadings, mutilations and stonings.
Then there are the online videos of kneeling victims shot in the back of the head and hangings in public places.
And rows of victims of mass executions, often by machine gun fire.
Add to that the murder of gay men by stoning or throwing them off buildings to baying crowds of men and boys.
With rare exceptions, these Islamist killers are masked. Sometimes, victims are blindfolded. ISIS-adoring Libyan Islamists were careful to show fully identifiable Ethiopian and Eritrean Christians they decapitated or shot.
The videos are addictive in their gore.
Apparently, the videos also are seductive as young men and women by the hundreds or thousands travel to Syria, Iraq and Libya to join ISIS and like-minded murderers.
News media quote young Muslims who leave their homes to join ISIS in Syria and Iraq; often they’re drawn by the ISIS’s sheer boldness and homicidal in-your-face contempt for Western societies.
I know that calling it ISIS “porn” was playing fast and loose with the literal definition of that word, but I leave it to others to say whether the chance to watch ISIS violent videos provides a frisson of erotic excitement.
For the rest of us, the images can be frightening and that’s not wasted energy by ISIS; they want to create fear if not terror.
I’ve seen repeated amputations of suspected thieves’ offending hands and masked killers tossing accused homosexual men off tall buildings. In each of these, crowds of men await the amputation or falling victim.
Justifications for the executions range from adultery to same-sex relations to theft to being Christian or insufficiently pious Muslims.
Victims sometimes are uniformed POWs captured as towns and military bases change hands.
Anti-ISIS military and militias aren’t innocent of extra-judicial killings; there were death threats against Reuters journalists who reported an Iraqi roadside execution in the retaking of Tikrit.
In Libya, it appears that Christian captives — probably guest workers in that failed state — are marched to the beach and shot or decapitated there.
So far, those anti-ISIS videos appear to be from cellphones rather than staged video productions with real killings.
Americans and nations with whom we are allied also execute people convicted of serious crimes: Saudi Arabia, China, Indonesia, Thailand, etc. Hanging, firing squads, lethal injections and beheadings rarely raise an international fuss.
So it’s not capital punishment that distinguishes the ISIS executions but the relative brutality, sheer numbers, almost liturgical performances and frequent public settings.
Almost from the start of western attention to ISIS videos, observers have noted the high production quality. ISIS has talented producers and good equipment. They understand the Internet and social media.
That matters to today’s young adults who can be described as “digital natives.” ISIS knows what it’s doing. British and European news media report that less gory online videos are credited with recruiting young women and families to travel to Syria to join ISIS/ISIL fighters.
What they offer goes beyond Saudi judicial beheadings and whippings, or Egyptian hangings of convicted terrorists, or the more familiar black African ethnic killings and mutilations with machetes.
We see little of this explicit gore on mainstream American TV or in print; that’s consistent with the tradition of seeing ourselves as guests in subscribers’ and viewers’ homes.
Not surprisingly, that doesn’t restrain Britain’s tabloid news media. For gore, no one exceeds dailymail.com.uk, the world’s most popular English-language news media website.
Even the dailymail.com has its limits, however. Screenshots and links to the videos usually exclude actual blows from executioners bullets and swords but it’s no trick to move on to the ISIS sites for unedited videos.
For all of that, what strikes me as a reporter and reader is how relatively few people prove to be susceptible to the draw of ISIS videos. Some college students protest showings of the movie American Sniper, but I see no surge of Fair Play for ISIS committees on campuses. Unlike some earlier, deadly movements, there is no international call to support ISIS and its claim to recreate the caliphate in pre-colonial Ottoman territory in what is now Syria and Iraq.
Soviet Communism, Nazi Germany, Fascist Spain and Communist China all had idealistic international fellow travelers in high and low places.
Then, what we knew was from word of mouth, laudatory books and newspapers, magazines and newsreels in movie theaters. What those media didn’t know or tell us was how deadly those revolutions were. Or, if they did, Americans didn’t care if Russian kulaks, Chinese landowners, Spanish leftists and clergy, or European Jews were murdered in incomprehensible numbers.
It rarely was executed on camera.
• Once again, a pope has proven himself to be fallible on matters other than church dogma. In this case, Francis said the Ottoman empire’s lethal campaign against Christian Armenians “is widely considered the first genocide of the 20th century.”
Embracing that conventional wisdom is a mistake.
Why more reporters didn’t challenge his premise is a mystery.
As David Olusoga states the case clearly in London’s Guardian, “That grim distinction belongs to the genocide that imperial Germany unleashed a decade earlier against the Herero and Nama, two ethnic groups who lived in the former colony of South West Africa, modern Namibia.”
From my studies in London and work in Africa, I knew of the genocidal massacres in colonial German South West Africa; I once worked for a man who emigrated from Germany after World War I and began to build a new life and fortune in “SWA.”
Also, I lived and worked in Northern Rhodesia/Zambia, which was linked to SWA by the Caprivi Strip where and anti-colonial fighters sometimes hid there or used it to move around in relative safety.
I never really believed my boss’ stories of plucking diamonds from the sands on Atlantic beaches, but he knew his nation’s bloody history there.
That was no secret. Germany has formally apologized. What struck me was how few news media corrected the papal error in their stories about his comment on the Armenian genocide.
Olusgoa in the Guardian continued, “The Namibian genocide, 1904-1909, was not only the first of the 20th century; in so many ways, it also seemed to prefigure the later horrors of that troubled century. The systematic extermination of around 80% of the Herero people and 50% of the Nama was the work both of German soldiers and colonial administrators; banal, desk-bound killers.
“The most reliable figures estimate 90,000 people were killed. In the case of the Herero, an official, written order — the extermination order — was issued by the German commander, explicitly condemning the entire people to annihilation. After military attempts to bring this about had been thwarted, the liquidation of the surviving Herero, along with the Nama people, was continued in concentration camps, a term that was used at the time for the archipelago of facilities the Germans built across Namibia.”
• Even the Namibian genocide might not be the first. By 1904, during the Second Boer War in South Africa, the British had undertaken a scorched earth policy and retaliated against Afrikaner/Boer rebels by herding their families into concentration camps.
Given the colonial British desire to eradicate Boer culture and resistance, that was an attempted genocide. Almost 30,000 women, children and noncombatant men died in those British concentration camps.
• Oh, great. The Enquirer opinion page has become Joe Deters’ echo chamber. Deters too often demonizes men and women he will prosecute. Now, Enquirer editorial board has used its opinion page to call accused child killer Andrea Bradley a “monster.”
That’s a perfect way to poison a potential jury pool if Bradley goes to trial.
Having lost all sense of decency, the Enquirer editorial board asks, “What will we do now? What can we do to limit the chances of this happening again? What needs to happen at the Department of Job and Family Services? What do we as taxpayers need to do? What should we do as neighbors? What now? We'll continue to demand answers with an eye to solutions."
• In the name of gender equality and political correctness, let’s hope the news media begin to pay attention to Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s wild hair. It just isn’t presidential. Maybe Mitt can recommend a hair dresser.
• It’s hard to improve on C. Trent Rosecrans’ response to Reds’ manager Bryan Price’s tirade over Rosecrans’ accurate Enquirer reporting about missing and/or injured players.
Video and transcriptions of Price’s rant went viral and became news because of his 77 variations on “fuck.”
Forget that. The real problem was Price’s misunderstanding of the reporter’s role: ”Your job is not to sniff out every fucking thing is about the Reds and fucking put it out there for every other fucking guy to hear. It's not your job.”
To which Rosecrans responded in a column, “That is precisely my job.”
• My least successful, least enjoyable years at the Enquirer involved covering Hamilton County Common Pleas Courts. I also was covering federal trial courts on both sides of the river and the federal appeals court in Cincinnati.
The problem wasn’t overwork. It was the Common Pleas cases I had to report: usually homicide or rape. I was bored. I found little fascination in jury selections, opening statements and closing arguments. Only occasionally did witness testimony catch my interest.
I never understood what readers could learn from these cases. In short, I was a failure.
So it was with admiration and curiosity that I’ve followed Amanda Van Benschoten’s Enquirer coverage of the Shayna Hubers murder trial Newport. Amanda is a good story teller with a command of the legal language and issues. That’s not the problem.
Rather, it’s the page 1 coverage that befuddles me. People assault or kill nearest and dearest all of the time. Other than their families, who cares if a pretty young grad student shoots her attractive lawyer sometime-boyfriend in his apartment with his pistol?
• Let’s bury the cliche, “service revolver.” In unintentional irony, The New Yorker gets it wrong in the lead column, “What Videos Show.” The magazine — once the model of accuracy and fact-checking — says the cell phone video shows Officer Michael Slager firing “eight rounds from his service revolver.”
There is a lot wrong with that. Modern police don’t carry revolvers. They carry semi-automatic pistols. Even traditional police revolvers — like that carried by my policeman grandfather in Minneapolis — couldn’t fire eight rounds without stopping to reload. The video shows Slager firing all eight rounds without reloading. It wasn’t a “service revolver.”
I shared that with the New Yorker and the magazine sent me an email saying it corrected the online story.
Every reporter hates writing a correction. Worse is correcting a correction. Here’s the latest from the Washington Post online as reported on jimromenesko,com:
“Correction: This post initially attributed the song ‘Barbara Ann’ to The Beatles. It is, in fact, a Beach Boys song. The author of this post would blame his relative you but as a fan of the oldies, this would be dishonest. He would instead like to extend his sincerest apology for this egregious error and promise that it will not be repeated.
“Clarification: As Ed Morrisey notes, the song was originally written and sung by The Regents and later covered by the Beach Boys. So the author of this post is clearly having one of those days.”
• Tuesday’s More Local section of the Enquirer has a major cover story and photo bewailing the loss of youth baseball in Cincinnati’s West End and OTR. The story continues inside with more photos. Editing was sloppy even though it’s obvious this was an enterprise project that took time to plan, write, photograph, edit and lay out.
Little League wasn’t capitalized; it’s not a generic. In the text, Will Patton was named as “coach.” of the West End Reds but so was Fred Carnes. In the cutline under one photo, Fred Corns was identified as CEO of the West End Reds. Carnes? Corns? Same guy with different titles? Inept editing or was something missing that would have explained how men with similar names ran the team?