Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

Vester Flanagan Has Made Witnesses of Us All

Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

Vester Flanagan Has Made Witnesses of Us All

Article excerpt

"I've seen enough. I don't want to see any more" - Bruce Springsteen, "Cover Me" When terrorists beheaded Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl in 2002 and posted video of the killing online, I refused to look. I explained my reasoning in this space. To watch that video, I wrote, knowing it was staged specifically to fill me with revulsion and fear, would feel like cooperating with the monsters who killed him. It would make me an accomplice.

I didn't want to see. I didn't want that blood on my soul.

Not long after that column appeared, I did see Pearl die. The video of his killing showed up in my inbox, sent by a stranger. Before I even knew what was going on, a terrorist was on my computer screen holding up the head of this 38-year-old husband and expectant father.

And I learned a sobering truth about murder and media in the new millennium. Increasingly, the decision about what we will and will not see is not ours to make. Increasingly, we are at the mercy, not simply of murderous monsters, but also of our own friends, family and colleagues who act as their henchmen, forwarding, re-tweeting and re-posting their grisly misdeeds as casually as neighbors in another age might have shared recipes over the back fence.

If there were ever any doubt about that, what happened last Wednesday morning on live local television in Roanoke, Virginia, just laid them to rest. It wasn't just that former WDBJ news reporter Vester Lee Flanagan II shot and killed two former colleagues - news reporter Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward - as they interviewed local official Vicki Gardner, who was wounded but is expected to survive.

Wretched as it was, that kind of event is ordinary in America, the fabric of any given Wednesday. But Flanagan, who committed suicide as police closed in on him hours later, went well beyond the wretched ordinary. …

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