James Foley died so that we could know the truth about a region where unfathomable human suffering and cruelty are everywhere.
He had been captured before and released. Most recently he was kidnapped in Syria around Thanksgiving 2012. It’s a place where Foley knew all too well he could be kidnapped, killed in the crossfire or worse. Much worse.
Yesterday, ISIS released a video of Foley kneeling in the dusty desert one moment, and in the next, his head was chopped off by a man in a black hood, too cowardly to show his face. The man who killed Foley spoke in a heavy British accent, something that tells us he too was probably very far from home. In a moment it was over.
Since its release, there has been much debate about whether watching or sharing the James Foley beheading video on social media only serves to embolden ISIS. ISIS wants us to be horrified. ISIS wants the world to know they can spark fear in the hearts of Americans even from their remote desert outpost. ISIS was looking to get America’s attention. Murdering one of our very best and brightest is certainly one way to get it.
Looking away is one way to go, and there are certainly plenty of people on Twitter and other social media who are vowing to not watch the gruesome images of Foley’s final, horrific moments. Foley’s family, including his sister Kelly, is asking people to not watch or share the video:
In the U.K., according to reports from The Independent, police are warning that public viewing of the James Foley beheading video could be considered a crime.
But to look away betrays why Foley was there to begin with. Foley was a photojournalist working in a war zone. He dedicated his life to bringing us images that are hard to capture and even harder to see. He thought the work of documenting the horrors of war was worth dying for. To look away now seems cheap and far too easy. Foley’s career was spent in search of the images we would rather not see but should. Foley’s final brave moments are horrific and violent, but looking away doesn’t make them disappear.
While we won’t provide a link to the video in this space, it’s not hard to find with a quick search. It’s heartbreaking to see Foley’s final moments. It’s unspeakable for ISIS to try to score viral media points off his death. But ISIS wants to do to every single one of us what they did to James Foley. Maybe it’s time we all take a long, hard look at our enemy. That’s exactly what Foley died for, and that’s the sacrifice we should all remember him for. May he now rest in peace.