It is mind boggling to me why we tolerate the duplicity of Al-Jazeera television. Here is a network dedicated to Arab Islamic programming with distribution in major Western democracies. Here is a network that is the platform of choice for radically evil Arab Islamists. Here is a network ready and willing to protect its “sources” upon receiving a tape from hostage takers. But while Al-Jazeera is the worst offender most other Western media outlets are ready and willing to report on every heart wrenching moment in a hostage taking saga. Such reporting needs to stop. Hostage tapes, aired and reported on across major news networks, gives radical terrorism a political platform it does not deserve. The very essence of what they demand, that either Britain, the US or any other coalition partner cede to their wishes or else, is contrary to the very essense of political discourse. Politics is conversation, a means of civil dialogue and debate meant to avoid the winner takes all approach of violent conflict. Politics is not what these terrorists would ever seek to uphold.
But the terrorists know how to use Western liberties to their advantage. They use freedom of the press to soften Western resolve and to decieve popular opinion into taking them for reasonable men: “Leave Iraq and we will free this hostage and others. All we want is our country back. The choice is yours.” What washed over lies from evil zealots who sense our spiritual weakness. But while our spirit may be weakened, its true strength lay in our passionate regard for the human spirit itself. Human dignity matters, and freedom of the person allows for transcendental ends beyond anything radical Islam can match. We are trying to establish a liberal democracy in Iraq, establish a democracy where the individual is privileged because the transcendental significance of his soul, equally among others, is recognised. Iraq is not for the taking by radical Islam because radical Islam does not share our faith. It is unwilling to submit to the humility required by true faith in God, a faith that is manifest in the freedom of the individual to not always follow it by diktat.
Consider the case of the tortured and tormented Ken Bigley. Here was a man who watched his own friends beheading, only to wait in a cage for three weeks until maximum damage could be exacted on British public opinion, then receiving his turn under the knife. What allowed the Bigley saga to drag out was that Western news media were willing to report a.) that he was taken hostage and b.) every twist in the saga. The terrorists know they are making news, they are banking on the full effect their actions will play on public opinion. If they can weaken public resolve in the West to finish the job in Iraq their assumption, mistaken or otherwise, is that they will win Western governments less willing to stay the course.
The terrorists seem to sense that public opinion in the US is less likely to be swayed than in Britain. Bigley was killed three weaks after his American friends, giving him a three week goodbye splashed across frontpage news. And Margaret Hassan, the last hostage, is a high profile middle aged British charity worker. The terrorists are counting on public sympathy for Hassan to stir outrage at Blair and even Bush. And while having sympathy for her is a prerogative of any decent person, knowing about her in the first place is not. Our knowing about her captivity only makes her captivity worse since we can never give in to terrorist demands. Our knowing encourages more hostage taking. The time has come for Western media to pledge never to air any tape made or procurred from a terrorist source. Western media should never again report when a hostage has been taken. Such coverage does not help to win their release, it only it assures their death. Hostage taking in Iraq is no longer news but terrorist electioneering.