Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Rights and Reason: The Public's Right to Know

The son of Paul Johnson Jr. (or someone claiming to be him) has left a series of feedback posts and phone calls condemning CAC’s decision for the Rule of Reason to link to photos on the Drudge Report website showing Johnson’s decapitation at the hands of militant Islamists in Saudi Arabia. Striped away of its profanity, the individual’s argument is that “nobody has rights (sic) to look at that.” The individual then proceeded to threaten legal action against CAC and promised that “[we] will take [the pictures] down.”

Whether this request actually came from Johnson’s son, or just a member of the public masquerading as his son is immaterial. The photos of Johnson’s murder are not private photos or government photos taken because of official work and for which there is an expectation of privacy. They are the deliberate propaganda of a savage and bloodthirsty enemy of the United States dedicated to the usurpation of western civilization and its replacement by an Islamic theocracy. They were released by this enemy for no other reason then to show our impotence and strike fear in the hearts of our people.

I consider it crucial that Americans do not blanch away from confronting the horror of this enemy; in fact, I believe that for America to prevail, our people must look at such images, confront them for what they are and act accordingly. It takes incredible contempt for human life to hold a man who has harmed no one down upon the floor and cut his throat with the indifference in which one would slice bread. It takes even more contempt for life to dance around this victim's lifeless body as if his murder is worthy of joy. A picture may not be a substitute for an intellectual argument, but in this case, it serves as concrete proof of the enemy’s vicious nature; a nature that we at CAC believe is being equivocated away through bromides such as Islam being “a religion of peace.”

It is misguided that Johnson’s son (or whoever is claming to be him) condemns CAC for linking to these images. We respect the desire not to look at images of death, especially if they involve loved ones, but that is an individual’s personal decision and not one that can be made for the public as a whole. We did not produce this propaganda or the savagery behind it; on the contrary, it is our goal to eradicate such acts from the face of the earth. No one has the right to scour the Internet and demand the removal of these images. Such conduct treats this murder as if it did not happen and that it has no larger implication for the rest of us. These are horrific, shocking photos of unmitigated brutality, but they are not private ones. Terrible as they are, they need to be seen and understood.

Today, Johnson’s son (or the person claiming to be him) indicated that he intends to send copies of our website to all the members of Congress in an attempt to pass a law outlawing links such as ours. (I have the sense that his lawyer told him he had no legal case against CAC). I nevertheless respect his decision. Congress will have to confront both the evil of these acts against American citizens and the public’s right to contemplate them.

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