Daniel Pearl

The United States of America is a “special nation”, with a manifest destiny to become the “protectors of the free world”. And so the ironic battle begins here as we began to realize that the free world is in a paradox of itself. As protectors, this ideological thinking has grown into a foreign policy, and freedom is no longer just a gift but instead every human’s right and a moral of society. Since 1776, when America had declared freedom its almost as if “freedom” became a never-ending battle to fight for. And as if on a crusade the United States has enforced their ethics creating an ideological illusion to be enforced globally by the most powerful individual and in turn protected by the most powerful country in the world. This never-ending war for individual freedom has resulted in an inevitable Yin Yang, conflict of values, a creation of heaven vs. hell, and thus concluded to an ideological battle of Good vs. Evil. This disagreement of Good Vs. Evil is taken upon as a war for individual freedom fought at all costs even if the “ends justify the means” along with the theory that violence outside the law to achieve justice is acceptable. This “above the law” status created by American ideals has sunk into the blood and veins of the people. Other myth such as technology, being the protector and savior of the people, is demonstrated by the status of the United States as a world “super power”. All these myths help to form a culture of individuality and heroic mindsets. These ethics grow out of myths and transform into reality as Americans witness, its government policies leap into international waters to take action, through their “technological savior”: the media. The ideology of America has created a visible paradox making it evident of a glitch in its media, culture, and society. By analyzing the ideology of the American individualistic culture that is appraised in Society and in fact practiced by the American society in its foreign policies of a “holy war” can in fact become hypocritical of itself. Through a Micro Level prospective, a media case study of an Investigative Journalist arouses issues of ethics that make it evident to find the paradox in the so called free world. Long before September 11th Anti American Terrorists existed all over the world. But on September 11th the United States uncovered a new enemy. President Bush described this new type of enemy as one that America’ has never faced before. Terrorism is growing to become an enemy so difficult to face because the American people need to personify their enemy in order for an Evil to exist. And the man without a face was given one when the United States, shortly after September eleventh, unveiled Osama Bin Laden as the Evil. September 11th displayed the horrors of terrorism on such an enormous scale that 9/11 becomes an abstract to the American Public. The fact that it is hard to connect and personalize with such a disaster makes it an abstract. People in America due to its ethical ideology of individualism find a need to identify with single beings. However, during the September 11th media coverage, a decision to not take pictures of body parts being scooped up was done so in the best interest of the American public. September 11th already being of such great impact in American society, making even the image difficult to bear, proves that shocking and horrifying are not the best way to achieve an impact on the American public. This demands an inevitable need for moral and social responsibility for journalists who are responsible, as public figures, to deliver news in a fair, well prompt, and articulate way which obliges the media because it has such a power, given by the people, on impacting and shaping events that occur. Good vs. Evil is in a paradox of itself because what is Good in America is actually Evil in the eyes of its enemies. The American public had categorized what Good and what was evil. Good became associated with democracy and Evil became associated with terrorism. And Journalism served in the free world as a watchdog of democracy. The line of duty, as journalists, is to try their best to get news to the American public in a method that follows ethical standards. Journalists often get caught standing behind the first amendment, “freedom of speech” which unintentionally conflicts with the ethics of journalism. This conflict in the media helps to prove the paradox in the free world. Through CBS and Boston Phoenix news coverage of Daniel Pearl’s kidnapping and murder, there is evidence of journalistic ethics being broken by the media in order to preserve freedom of speech. This issue at hand involves specifically the Boston Phoenix’s decision to provide a story, pictures, and a link to the abduction and assassination of Wall Street Journalist, Daniel Pearl. The release of this video and Government’s eagerness to ban this information brings to attention the paradox of the free world. Good vs. Evil is in a paradox of itself because what is good in America is actually evil in the eyes of its enemies. Through this issue and conflict the limits of democracy and simultaneously the limits of journalism are being tested. The facts are: Investigative reporter Daniel Pearl is kidnapped in Karachi, Pakistan. He is held captive and told to speak about his ethnicity being of Jewish American. He is obviously forced to mouth hateful words against Americans while images of human suffering flash in and out. He speaks on behalf of the militants’ goal to release prisoners from Guantanamo Bay, by comparing himself to those held in captivity. Daniel Pearl was held captive until the demands of the militant group were met. They were not. Then a video tape is produced of the kidnapping, murder, and decapitation of Daniel Pearl. The video is delivered in the name of NRMSP to the U.S consulate in Karachi, Pakistan. There is, without a doubt, that this video must be taken into serious consideration before revealing its contents and making sure to expose it to the public in a responsible manner. The Government finds its hands tied behind their backs in quite an irony when the Boston Phoenix as a Alternative Newspaper claims its right to freedom of speech in providing a link to view the murder of Daniel Pearl. While at the same the Media find themselves in a political frenzy not only with the government but within the journalism Code of Ethics which encourages reporting news in a non-bias fashion. This comes to involve another major factor in this issue which is the Parents of Daniel Pearl that represent all those that would be harmed by public viewing of this video also implying the breaking of the Journalism Code of Ethics. The American people rely on public enlightenment but how much can be revealed that can be responsibly acknowledge? Is there a limit? The root of the dilemma begins with the paradox created by the “protectors of the free world” ideology which is evident in the American government global relations as depicted in the article from Time magazine “In This Case, Might Is Right”. Through the debate of Boston Phoenix’s’ publisher Steven Mundich and his opposition Marvin Kalb we can discover the conflict from both sides of the story and then in turn pay attention to the voice of the American people. Steven Mindich’s strongest argument stands behind the first amendment while Marvin Kalb’s (Executive Director of Harvard Press Politics and Public Policy) macro vision of the war on Terrorism is a battle to be won at home by protecting the American public from the insecurity that terrorism aims to reach. As publisher of an alternative newspaper, Steven Mindich does not doubt the fact that his newspaper is opinionated and holds a personal view. Which immediately throws out journalistic ethics as it is not an objective reading but more opinionated. Thus it is very crucial to understand, that Mindich infuses opinion with journalism rather than being objective like a daily paper. In the WBUR’s broadcast of The Connection, Steven begins to voice his opinion about the need for people to be reminded about the war. He strives, with his right to freedom of speech, to get people disturbed and aware about what kind of threat terrorism is. This immediately shows how journalism is not always a social and moral responsibility because it can be one-sided and biased. On the other hand, Marvin Kalb calls for a need of social and moral responsibility for journalists because American’s depend and rely on journalism. Backed by the Journalism Code of ethics in order to prove his point, Marvin Kalb simply stands behind his right to the first amendment. These two directly oppose each other especially when Marvin states that shocking and horrifying are not the best way to achieve impact on the American public. Managing the outrage is more important than managing the hazard is part of the responsibility for these journalists. So rather Kalb refers to Mindich’s method as specifically being propaganda in everyway. But on the other hand, Steven directly disagrees to this classification as he believes that this is News and so being that people need to be constantly reminded of the seriousness and horrors of terrorism. There is no doubt that these two oppose each other but there is doubt from the American people. Some feel that people in general ought to be more aware of terrorism because September 11th has become such an abstract. While others take Marvin’s side and see this as spreading terrorists’ propaganda. Never the less understanding the role of the Boston Phoenix in media and Kalb’s stress of social and moral responsibility of journalists, according to the ethics of journalism, is most important. Eventually a conclusion about this form of media, the broadcast of pearl’s death on the Internet, cannot be judged because of the oblivious paradox in American ethics. The role of the Boston Phoenix as a weekly alternative newspaper has always been opinionated. As far back to the roots of journalism and some of the earliest Public Relations, in fact it was Poison Ivy Lee who first made it aware that “facts are open to interpretation” and at the same time “people’s opinion are based on own self interest.” Boston Phoenix is known to be an alternative newspaper that clutches a belief in accordance with the first amendment and that honesty and directness is the best form of journalism. Publisher of the Boston Phoenix, Steven Mindich an Israeli born American had personal ties to this case and began to show evidence of his own self interest during the broadcast. Mundich is often accused of selling “manufactured news” as a commodity making it difficult to abide by the journalistic code of ethics. The values have changed in such a way that journalism must be differentiated from Public Relations in today’s modern world. In today’s world Mindich stresses the importance of graphic pictures being much more effective than words. Mindich is guilty of spreading propaganda as he does admit to it himself but however he supports the public right to know the “evil” that happened to Pearl and the “Evil” that the United States is up against. In fact he promotes the viewing of this video despite international leaders who have not given it any attention. This is where crossing the boundary of journalism can be the price to pay for supporting a belief. The Code of Ethics stresses on minimizing harm when truth is delivered yet at the same time the first line of the Code of Ethics reads “public enlightenment as the forerunner of justice”. The inevitable paradox is buried deep into the Code of Ethics also as I referred to before, thus making it hard to depict if the Boston Phoenix has violated this code. There is no doubt of signs of yellow journalism and proving that in contemporary America anything sells. The paradox continues to unveil itself, when the government tries to impose a sort of censorship on its “media watchdog”. When the link to the video was first offered on Phoenix .com the FBI had made a call to Steven Mindich demanding the link to be taken off. The FBI had no case up against the first amendment. People overlooked the harm this video would bring to the country as a whole and outweighed it with the importance of understanding the enemy. But in fact the only face the public can identify with is Pearl as one of their own. Looking for a face to put on the war, this video is not it. It violates the consent of the widow family and their wishes, which is protected by the Code of Ethics but is overlooked because of deep personal and political implications. Although the showing of this video displays sound journalism it still was irresponsible as Marvin put it. He was arguing the fact that the general public does not have the background information to make judgments about this video, which is why it is irresponsible for the Boston Phoenix to provide a link. Kalb makes an argument that these are extreme militants who have decapitated Pearl and furthermore would be a political judgment that should be made by the government and not shaped by the media. The paradox lies in the Code of Ethics in contrast to the ethical values of America. “Bad taste and judgment was used” as Kalb stated about Boston Phoenix decision in providing a link to this video. Is it possible to “act independently” and at the same time “minimize harm”. How can it be possible that the media shapes the news when people are encouraged to draw their own conclusions? The paradox lies within itself. As many people falsely believe patriotism can be the justification for anything. I believe that Steven Mundich did violate the Code of Ethics in many more ways than one but I also believe he has a right to free speech. My reasons are simple. Although this conflict is inevitable, it is evident to find a paradox in media and especially the Government. But the issue at hand is not the FBI calling to refuse Mindich’s first amendment right the issue at hand is the journalist’s judgment and intent that needs to be checked in as a coat on the way in. Otherwise the public finds itself bombarded with a sort of saturated advertising; call it propaganda, which is almost impossible to escape. Personally, I felt the video had a great impact on my thoughts about Individuality. I am not American and I felt that my individuality was threatened. Watching these militants, men without faces, ready to cause insecurity over the world had me thinking twice. Although I condemn this act or any other act of terrorism, the irony of both sides fighting a “Holy War” makes me hate war altogether. How is this paradox going to be solved? This individualistic ideology is laid down on a glamorous silver platter as obvious as the one with John the Baptists’ head on it. This is the biblical illusion that came to my mind when watching the Daniel Pearl video. The United States needs to keep its ideologies in media and society within its borders and allies but at the same time keep as the World’s Policeman to watch over the other nations as one, under God. To avoid the paradox would be to extreme because then the American culture will begin to loose its values. For example the on going debate of removing “In God We Trust” imprint off the United States currency. Where must a line be drawn? It has been drawn, and one side is Good and the other Evil.