Maybe you couldn’t resist. After all, what would it hurt? And who would know?
So you clicked and watched that video of an American man in an orange jumpsuit getting his head cut off. Or maybe you clicked on a different site to have a glance – just a glimpse, honest – at one of those glamorous actresses, naked.
In the latter case, it makes you a party to a theft.
In the former, it makes you the audience for mass murderers.
You can watch all the online porn you can afford, and play all the realistically violent video games you can stomach. This is different.
Of course people are curious. I’m curious about what heroin would be like; that doesn’t mean I’ll be gratifying that curiosity. The videos of the beheadings of journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff are both indecently intimate invasions into the last moments of each man’s life, and propaganda. “Don’t watch the video. Don’t share it," Foley's family implored us. "That’s not how life should be.” YouTube took it down, but like a hydra, it sprang up in many other places.
The naked celebrity images are stolen as surely as if someone swiped them out of an Hermes purse. The much-Googled phrase “celebrity nude photo leak” wrongly implies the celebrities or their agents released them. The cheeky web gossip Perez Hilton posted some of the photos, and was shamed by his followers into taking them down and apologizing to actress Jennifer Lawrence.
When we click on the links to these pictures, we implicitly endorse the means used to get them, and encourage people who make money or reputations from the hits to go do more of the same.
The British publication the Spectator calls the Islamic State images “beheading porn.”
And there’s no shortage of them, thanks to the Islamic State and its propaganda effort. They may inflame, they may titillate, they may intimidate, but inevitably, they coarsen and degrade. And isn’t that giving the Islamic State what it wants?
Follow Patt Morrison on Twitter @pattmlatimes