There's A Reasonable Debate To Be Had About Showing The James Foley Beheading Video, But Claiming Its Illegal To Watch Is Ridiculous

from the name-the-law dept

By now you've probably heard of the barbaric and tragic beheading of journalist James Foley by the extremist group ISIS. There's an ongoing debate happening as many people sought to have the video (and screenshots) removed from the internet. Twitter and YouTube are actively removing such things, and even shutting down some accounts of people who are sharing those links. Mathew Ingram has a fantastic discussion about whether or not it's the right thing for these companies to be removing those images and videos, and our own Tim Geigner has been weighing whether or not to write about the subject.

However, I wanted to do a quick post about this ridiculous claim from the Metropolitan police in London that it's a criminal act merely to view the video. I have no interest in seeing the video, but I think it's crazy that someone deciding they do want to see the video might face criminal charges over it.
The MPS Counter Terrorism Command (SO15) is investigating the contents of the video that was posted online in relation to the alleged murder of James Foley. We would like to remind the public that viewing, downloading or disseminating extremist material within the UK may constitute an offence under Terrorism legislation.
However, when reporters from Buzzfeed asked the UK government to elaborate, no one will say what law would actually be broken:
The Metropolitan police are unable to currently name the law that citizens could be arrested under for watching the video that depicts the beheading of photojournalist James Wright Foley, despite earlier releasing a statement that said any British nationals watching the video could be committing a criminal offence.
They did get a police spokesperson to say that they're not intending to pursue people for merely watching the video, but that "viewing it could be used as evidence as part of a wider investigation." That seems fairly questionable in many ways, even as we're used to UK officials stretching anti-terrorism laws in dangerous ways.

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  1. icon
    Mason Wheeler (profile), 20 Aug 2014 @ 2:55pm

    Re:

    No one heeded his warning because it didn't apply. Do you even know what Orwell was trying to warn people about in 1984?

    The first thing you need to understand to make any sense of 1984 is that George Orwell was a true-believing, dyed-in-the-wool Communist. He asserted for the record that "The War is inseparable from the Revolution," or in other words that by the time World War II ended, a Communist revolution would have occurred within Great Britain as part of this. He believed this to be obvious and inevitable.

    He'd seen how a few earlier experiments in Communism turned out going horribly wrong, particularly in Russia, and he didn't want to see Britain go that way. Since a Communist revolution was inevitable, he wanted to make sure they ended up with a good one, so he wrote out (separately) the ideals of English Socialism, and the things that The People would have to do to make their revolution go off successfully and end up with a happy English Socialist government.

    1984 was the cautionary tale of how Britain would end up if these principles were not followed. In the backstory, England ended up doing everything Orwell warned against, and they ended up in a system they called English Socialism, but which was a ghastly parody of Orwell's ideals at every point.

    But a funny thing happened on the way to the inevitable Communist revolution in Britain: they never had one. The problem is, most people don't understand this context. 1984 ended up overshadowing everything else he ever wrote (with the possible exception of Animal Farm, which is another cautionary tale warning against making the exact same mistakes as 1984,) and especially in the USA, where his ideas about inevitable English Socialism never got much press in the first place, most people don't understand what he was talking about. If you ask most people who have read 1984, they'll tell you it was an anti-Communist tract!

    And so for decades now, 1984 has been distorted completely out of context and used by a propaganda piece by corporate interests to scare people away from supporting much-needed regulations and reforms. Recent NSA scandals notwithstanding, Jennifer Government is still a far more realistic dystopia than 1984.

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