American journalist James Foley was violently beheaded this week by Islamic radicals and the whole thing was videotaped and broadcast online for the entire world to see. The act, which has garnered outcry from almost every civilized nation on earth, was the end of a near two year manhunt for Foley, who was on an assignment for the Global Post, a news organization out of Boston, Massachusetts when he was initially abducted in November of 2012.
This murder is heinous in every way, but James Foley understood the risks when he took the assignment. As a journalist in a foreign land besieged by conflict, telling the story–seeking out the truth–became more important than his own life. And Foley paid the ultimate price. His death serves to highlight just how radical ISIS/ISIL is, and how far they are willing to go. And if any American was on the fence about ISIS before Monday’s video hit the internet, it is safe to say the truth is finally out there. Frontline journalism is the most dangerous of all reporting, as to get the truth, the reporter must witness firsthand what is happening. And as Newsweek reports, after James Foley, frontline reporting may be a thing of the past.
The day after the video was released was a dark day for journalists. Foley, who had been kidnapped before, was much loved and respected. His death, like the death of other reporters before him—such as the American Marie Colvin, who died from a bomb blast in Homs in February 2012; or the legendary Reuters war reporter Kurt Schork, who was murdered by Sierra Leonean rebels in 2000, resonated widely. It shakes the very core of what we do and what we believe.
A world away, the town of Ferguson, Missouri burns. The shooting of 18-year old Michael Brown by Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson caused the citizens of Ferguson to protest. Those protests quickly became riots and looting that far exceeded the scope of what the Ferguson Police Department could handle and then, as the world watched, the entire town erupted into a war zone. Cops carried military-grade weapons and drove tanks. Rioters burned down buildings, over turned cars, and fired live rounds at the authorities.
Social media took sides and the only clear thing to come out of what was happening in Ferguson was that the small town of about 21,000 citizens were about to be declared a state of emergency and the National Guard was called in to help restore order. What had started as a peaceful protest became so much more, and the heart of it all–the day after the rioting and the looting–two journalists in town to report the truth of what was happening were manhandled and detained by Ferguson police when they refused to leave a McDonalds and they themselves became part of the story. As reported by Politico, Wesley Lowery, a reporter for the Washington Post and Ryan Reilly of the Huffington Post were both arrested and detained, but were released almost immediately. Both men reported that officers slammed them up against the glass or the soda machine and made sarcastic comments after they didn’t “pack their bags fast enough.”
It was the rage and anger generated by the arrest of these two men that further escalated the events of ferguson and led to the Missouri State police coming in to take over the situation as it was quickly evident that Ferguson PD was outmanned, outclassed, and now outed as gestapo-like thugs with delusions of military grandeur.
— Robert Cohen (@kodacohen) August 14, 2014
Sadly, the abuse of journalists continues in Ferguson. As reported on The Inquisitr, Al Jazeera correspondents were threatened which physical violence just yesterday.
Both stories: James Foley’s murder, and Lowery and Reilly’s arrest and release in Ferguson serve to highlight the dangers that come with reporting the news from the front lines. It’s easy to sit at a posh desk in a studio wearing cake makeup, and spray on tan, flashing chemically whitened teeth and reporting the news before the local weather and sports segments, but to find the real story, the truth, sometimes journalists have to go out into the danger and give all that they have. Sometimes they have to pay a price.
Lowery and Reilly were arrested and detained, but not before being physically abused. James Foley was viciously mutilated in front of the world. We now have a better understanding of the events happening in Ferguson, Missouri because of journalists like Lowery and Reilly, and we now fully comprehend the unmitigated evil that is ISIS/ISIL, and further shows why they must be confronted with prudence as they are a clear and present danger to the interests of peace, thanks to James Foley. These brave men, and so many other men and women risk their lives to give us all a better understanding of what is going on in the world around us.
And as the murder of one journalist still rings in our minds and hearts, another journalist, Steve Sotloff, who was abducted in Syria sometime in 2012, was shown in the video by the ISIS/ISIL animals after Foley was murdered. Will he be the next journalist to give his life for the truth? We, as a race of free-thinking, sound-minded people, should hope not. And for James Foley, his job is now done. The truth is out there. In industry terms, his story has been put to bed. We hope he can forever rest in peace knowing that.
[Images courtesy of Marquette.edu, Press Emblem Campaign (PEC), AP Photo/Hadas Gold, and Google]