Death video of Daniel Pearl as political commercial…

An editorial in The New Republic today argues that we should all watch the video of Daniel Pearl’s murder. It has been available on the web despite efforts by the FBI to convince webmasters to stop offering it. I found this section of the editorial intriguing:

“The squeamishness of some critics of the video’s distribution is certainly not owed to any mixed feelings about what it depicts, or about American policy in Muslim lands. No, it appears to be a more generalized squeamishness about the reality of the universe that the video shows: about the facticity of evil. This fear must be fiercely resisted, if we are to have clarity about the struggle in which we now find ourselves. For this reason, a viewing of this hideous video is as instructive an experience as it is a shattering one. But then there is the other shocking thing about this little snuff movie: It is a commercial.”

I think it is certainly possible to understand the “reality of the universe that the video shows” without actually seeing it. I am disturbed that its availability tantalizes our baser interests rather than our better natures. At the same time, I vigorously defend the free flow of information. What intrigues me about the TNR argument is the characterization of the video as a “commercial”–meant to persuade or sell and idea–and not just a hideous “snuff movie.” In other words, by considering the images, words, and production of the video, TNR says we may come to a better understanding of who we are up against. Yes. This is true. I will, however, continue to resist watching it. I can feel its pathos from the power of this editorial. As TNR concludes:

“Once the genre of what you have seen begins to sink in, so does a sickening feeling of just how twisted is the environment in which these enemies of ours prosper. And what remains in the mind once the “credits” have rolled is not merely disgust, but also the conviction that the only right and proper response to this variety of anti-Americanism is American power.”