See No Evil

(published 16 February 2015, MST)

I watched, but I didn’t share.
The world isn’t perfect. In fact, it could be difficult, hostile place. Barbarity occurs. And sometimes, these moments are captured in a video, so that one can play and stop and reload and replay—and all for various motivations.
These recent days at least two horrifying videos made the rounds of the Internet. First, there was that footage of a man clad in orange inside a metal cage. He was Jordanian pilot, 26-year-old Moaz al-Kasabeh who had the utter misfortune of crash landing into IS-controlled Raqqa in Syria.  He ejected himself from his jet; he was soon captured by IS and paraded like a trophy.
Al-Kasabeh was himself a Sunni Muslim. He was devout, according to his father. This confirms that terror knows no bounds and does not attack only a specific group, race or religion.
In the video, a trail of petrol was lit and fire quickly traveled into the metal cage where the prisoner was held. He first struggled but was soon consumed by flames, until he fell to the ground. A truck then poured some sand over the cage to quell the fire when it was all over.
Family members, Jordanians and everyone who could comprehend the barbarity done to the pilot were outraged.  The King of Jordan, acting like a real father, vowed to pursue justice and make the ISIS pay. In retaliation, Jordan immediately executed two IS members in its custody. 
More recently, and in the light of the Mamasapano, Maguindanao tragedy where members of the Special Action Force of the Philippine National Police sought to serve warrants of arrest on Malaysian terrorist Marwan and Usman, another video emerged.
The video shows a SAF member in pain and on the ground, but still able to move his legs. And then somebody came close and shot him twice, killing him instantly. Later reports confirmed that the video was authentic. No less than the brother has identified the policeman shot in close range —26-year-old Police Officer Joseph Sagonoy of Northern Samar. The succeeding minutes showed several other bodies on the ground. And now we hear that medico-legal reports say 27 out of the 44 fallen SAF members were shot at close range.
There is an ongoing debate on whether people should watch or even spread these gruesome videos.
Those who say we must watch do so in the hopes of establishing the malevolence of the people who committed the acts—the IS, and the MILF/BIFF, for instance.
Journalist Piers Morgan wrote in The Daily Mail that he was “glad” he watched the burning video.
“Glad I saw in real time, on professionally-crafted, movie-quality video, exactly what these monsters are capable of. Glad I know they have no limits, no humanity, no semblance of any kind of soul. Glad I saw the undisguised joy in their evil little faces as they perpetrated such a despicable act on a fellow human being...glad about all this because it allows me to feel such uncontrollable rage that no amount of reasonable argument will ever temper it.”
In the same vein, we feel rage at the senseless killing of the SAF policemen who could still have come home to their loved ones after arresting the Malaysian terrorists. In fact, in Sagonoy’s backpack were red roses; he was supposed to go to an Internet cafe after the Mamasapano operation and propose to his Dubai-based girlfriend.
Think of the lives that were lost and the shameless manner in which they were killed, when all they were doing was just carrying out a legitimate operation out of their sworn duty to protect the public. Who in his right mind would not be outraged at the sick deed carried out by the person who executed the SAF troops?
Unfortunately, who the Palace is running after now is the person who uploaded the video to the Internet—not the ones who committed the inhuman act. There’s a big difference.
Those who say that the videos should not be watched, much less shared, argue that doing so would be just helping the terrorists spread their agenda of terror. These terrorists delight in portraying themselves so powerful and so feared.
Watching the videos may also perpetuate the violence again and again on the person of the victim. It should have not have happened in the first place, but every time the moment of death is played and replayed, the person loses dignity.
In the end, there are no clear-cut answers. Different things have different effects on people. Those who cannot tolerate images of carnage, or who know they will be scarred for life from the images, must not torture themselves watching.
For the rest of us - who’s to say that seeing a video of a man being burned or shot to death would make the deed less despicable, or strip him of his dignity, occasion a morbid fear of the enemy or even a misplaced hatred for a specific group?
In an age where information flows freely, people are empowered to arrive at their own opinion after—and only after—a fair appreciation of the facts. We have these facts on our fingertips. We should not be afraid to see what is there, put them in the proper context, and develop informed, enlightened conclusions which shall then be the basis of our words and actions.
Let’s not pretend that the world is as it should be.