Republicans angry over lack of coverage, not outrage

by on May 16th, 2004

Today, Colin Powell expressed that he “would like to have seen a much higher level of outrage throughout the world, but especially in the Arab world,” to the now-controversial Nick Berg beheading video tape. The “high” right-wingers of the blogosphere have expressed similar disdain; take Paul at Wizbang, who composed a partisan list of “all the right wing blogs who straight-linked the video” versus “lefties who won’t even mention it.” As a Libertarian, I have more than enough dissent with staunch members of either major party, but I assure you there is no lack of outrage over the beheading of an American citizen from either side of the aisle.

Neocons, let’s be real for a minute. You’re not angry over a lack of outrage toward this video, unless you count a willingness to critically evaluate its content as “lacking,” that is. The only difference I can see across lines is how members of either side are expressing their outrage. The left knew and acknowledged that this beheading was disgusting. They don’t need five posts, ten paragraphs, and ninety-nine mentions of the “F” word to express outrage at what took place on that tape. The right, on the other hand, might as well put animated GIFs of the beheading in their sites’ headers; abundant links to the video are now almost as convenient to find.

When FOXNews refused to grant coverage to (or air any photographs of) flag-draped military coffins returning from Iraq, the right praised them as being “sensitive” and “patriotic.” Because obviously, the left just wanted to use these men’s coffins for political gain against the invasion. Yet when major media outlets will not obsessively cover the video of a beheading — the circumstances of which are still unknown, even to the extent of the victim himself being involved in al-Qaeda itself — you scream “liberal media bias” and “ignoring an important story.”

No, it’s not lack of outrage that bothers you at all. You’re angry because it’s not the new front-page story of every major media outlet. You’re angry because it did not eradicate every significant trace of coverage Abu Gharib is recieving from the press. You’re angry because the disgusting content of this video — for which the United States government has no immediate control or responsibility — did not turn every citizen of the United States into a Bush-praising neoconservative sympathizer.

While there seems to be more to Berg’s killing than is readily apparent, it is only a continuation of the unprovoked violence with which we are already dealing. We already know Al Qaeda hates us, wants to kill us, and will kill American civilians to further their agenda; assuming you haven’t forgotten that whole “9/11” thing, that is. Honestly, Nick Berg’s beheading adds nothing new to our situation’s equation. Should we be disgusted? Yes, and emotional outrage is certainly appropriate. But shouting “Al Qaeda killed an American” from every blog and mountain serves no purpose, unless you’re looking to manipulate people’s emotions via sensational reporting. We know Al Qaeda has killed an American; heading toward 3,000 Americans now, actually.

And what happened to “respecting the families” during the flag-coffin controversy — my best friend’s brother’s coffin should not be shown for respect of his family, but a screaming young man’s head being severed with a knife can be shown because his father is anti-Bush? I’m confused.

There is reason to focus on abuses by our military: because abuses by our military end up being the corporate responsibility of our entire nation. These are our soldiers representing our interests, and when they present us as cruel and unjust, it is a very serious problem. We must let the Arab world know that we intend to rectify this situation and never let it happen again, lest we lose that “moral high ground” card we so often enjoy playing come international spotlight.

I’ve lost count of how many right-wing articles and blogs complain of “they’re still covering Abu Gharib” in an editorial that’s supposedly about outrage over Nick Berg’s death. I’d almost accuse the right of wanting to “politicize” this Berg tape; they seem upset that “berg_video” did not trump, if not at least cancel out, the impact of “prisoner_abuse.”

Nor should it. The wise citizen will know the difference between what is due in outrage and what is due in the informative coverage of a war.