Where Is the Outrage Over James Foley’s Beheading?

We need to be as angry about the journalist’s killing as we are about Michael Brown’s.


There have been two weeks of outrage over the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. The details of the shooting are still fuzzy, but the anger is crystal clear and exposes a still deep and ugly divide in America.

In sharp contrast, the beheading of James Foley by Islamic State extremists did not prompt the same outrage or protests. The details of the beheading are on video for anyone with the stomach to watch (WARNING: GRAPHIC). The international divide it exposes is equally ugly and far more dangerous. It should unite us as Americans, as the Islamic State on the other side of the divide wants to kill us all, regardless of color or class.

And yet the growing threat of the Islamic State is a secondary story to Ferguson. It speaks more to our national media than the greater population. Ferguson is easier and much less expensive to cover. The growing threat of ISIS — the greatest threat to America and the civilized world in recent history — is more dangerous and more expensive to cover.

And besides, stories that divide us rather than unite us make for better TV. Two sides yelling at each other is the formula for cable news success. The importance of a story and journalistic responsibility lost in the battle for ratings and revenue long ago.

President Obama reacted to the media coverage of Ferguson when he took a break from his vacation and addressed the nation about the death of Michael Brown from Martha’s Vineyard. Attorney General Eric Holder was then dispatched to Ferguson. Obama took another break from vacation to address the killing of James Foley. There were strong words but then the president went back to playing golf.

The question that always follows any criticism of the administration is “what should we do?” It is a question that comes two years too late. It should have come before the impotent red line in Syria and the withdrawal from Iraq with no stay-behind policy.

And now that we are in crisis, it is obvious that ignoring the problem only makes it worse. We must act. In the very short-term, that means sending the Special Forces already in Iraq to kill the animals who beheaded James Foley while freeing their other hostages.

We should also do everything to take out Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the new and more dangerous Osama Bin Laden. Baghdadi should be priority No. 1 on President Obama’s drone kill list. The elusive terrorist gave a speech in Mosul to claim his leadership of the jihad and the Islamic State last month. We had an opportunity to take him out and we missed it.

The military believes they had Baghdadi in custody during the Iraq war. But we let him go, because President Obama stopped the deportation to Guantanamo. When he was released, he told soldiers “I’ll see you in New York.” Baghdadi and ISIS are now actively recruiting those with Western passports.

It is important we keep up the fight in Iraq with continued air strikes. We also need to arm the Kurds and pro-democracy rebels in Syria. Strengthening the new Iraqi government and re-supplying its military should also be a priority. And most importantly, we need to revisit and insist on a United States military base in Iraq.

I am in no way attempting to promote a new Iraq war. The truth is we are already at war, we just have not engaged yet. The Islamic State is fully involved. James Foley was the first casualty in this new war. We just need to care as much about him as we do Michael Brown.

Follow @LarryMendte on Twitter.

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  • Yep

    Go ahead, be angry. You know it, you sense it – everyone else has pretty much just quit caring anymore and empty handwringing, outrage, emotionalism etc still does not annihilate the Islamic State and never will.

    Why bother when you only get hate and attacked by the Democrat party and the Golfer In Chief. Why bother when there is no press, only extremely corrupt and nakedly partisan MSM that attacks opposition with a vengeance but has gone out of their way to protect this administration?

    Good luck finding enough male warrior ethos in today’s feminized West, to deal with this. Why would anyone who still has a pair want to die for the statist, totalitarian Left? They are just as much a threat to those who don’t agree with them as IS. Don’t whine Dems – YOU mitigated all this cause and effect.

  • Jennifer Looney

    As Larry said on Facebook, we need to wake the hell up. It is a travesty that the cable news stations still lead with Ferguson when an American is butchered by our enemy on video. I want to know about the life and death of James Foley and how we are going to avenge his death and protect America.

  • mariazankey

    I think it’s irresponsible for Philly Mag to link to the video of James Foley’s murder. It seems counterintuitive to the point the writer is making, and is not vital to telling this story. It’s problematic in numerous ways, but it’s especially disrespectful to Foley and his family. I hope the editorial team at Philly Mag will rethink including the link.

  • dork

    Here’s the issue with comparing these two events (both of which are tragic and horrible and resulted in the death of Americans): one of them happened in America, where we live, committed by another American employed by the state. The other happened outside of America, and was a murder that was committed by non-American non-state actor. We have the power and responsibility to fix things in our own country and we’re attempting to exercise that power. Let’s change things where we have the power to change them and not pointlessly rally against evils that we don’t have the power to change.

    • Dick_Wolf

      I agree with your sentiments dork but let’s take it a step further.

      One of these deaths deals with an issue rooted in American culture, stemming from centuries of divide.

      The other death deals with a vacuum of power in a country where the U.S. never should have been in the first place and where the American public never wants to go again.

      In much simpler terms: One deals with an alleged abuse of power by an American authority figure (a law enforcement officer) who is supposed to represent the “good guys,” while the other deals with a war zone death by a “bad guy” (a terrorist) who is an admitted enemy of the U.S.

      The execution of James Foley is awful and a tragedy, but it happened in what is currently an active war zone. Comparing it to what some believe was the execution of an American on an American street in the heartland of America is unfortunately not comparable.

      • Larry Mendte

        Dick, it is comparable in the reaction to the two events by the media, the White House and the public. On the day that Foley was beheaded CNN was still leading with Ferguson. I thought that shameful.

      • Larry Mendte

        I agree with you Dick that the incidents themselves are different and not comparable.

        But we can compare the reaction to the events from the media, the White House and the public. For instance, CNN, on the night of the James Foley murder, was still leading with Ferguson, which is shameful.

  • VirginiaJeff

    1. James Foley wasn’t beheaded by one of our own government agencies. 2. Americans are actually very outraged. 3. Mendte’s attempt to promote himself by using Foley death is obscene.

    • Larry Mendte

      No your accusation is obscene. 1. The facts of Foley’s beheading are clear, the shooting of Michael Brown is not. 2. The Networks shamefully ran it as a second story even on the day it happened. 3. Many Americans are outraged. Others are watching Ferguson, pouring ice over their heads or playing golf.

      • BigI Mike

        Thank God yours are only one man’s opinions.

  • phillysportsfan

    i wonder if there would be the same amount of outrage had mr. foley been shot, off-camera? i think a lot of the outrage surrounds the method, no? anyway, i found this little factoid that may or may not be of note: the last person guillotined in France was Hamida Djandoubi, on 10 September 1977.

  • Whatwhatwhat?

    Larry, this article is incredibly lazy and only reinforces the divide you are trying to address by insinuating that the public and the media have to choose which death is more important than the other. They are both important, both of their deaths are tragic, and both of their deaths should make reasonable people outraged.

    I know conservative folks want to assume that the coverage in Ferguson is part of some larger liberal conspiracy, but an unarmed black teenager being shot 6 times by a white police officer only for suspected activity, the details of which the local police department STILL have not been able to clarify despite a national outcry, is a very serious problem that has been seen in numerous instances throughout the country. That’s why this story is leading the news cycles and a national dialogue about the mission creep of local police departments is one worth having.

    It doesn’t diminish the significance of Foley’s murder, but he was voluntarily working in a war-torn country in a specific part where the terrorist threat to Americans is generally understood. He died giving his readers important information and that’s a sacrifice we should respect, but he also understood the risk he took by going there. Michael Brown was walking down the street in his own neighborhood in broad daylight and was shot and killed by the very people his community’s tax dollars pay to protect them. Our country sent the Special Forces in to try to rescue Foley but tragically, they were unable to. Our country is in the process of firing missiles at the homes and military assets of the organization responsible executing Foley this and the “golf-playing” President you so quickly look to blame is sending more military assets to a country he campaigned on removing us from, b/c unfortunately it’s what needs to be done.

    Journalists like you are the issue here; making our readers believe that you can only pick one side and that you can only prioritize one event.

    • Larry Mendte

      I am not comparing the deaths, but the reaction to them, which is fair.
      I am also not claiming some conspiracy, nor am I assuming the police officers guilt or innocent.
      But we have not seen the same coverage, the same outrage or the same concern for the deeper problem from the networks and most of the cable news stations.
      While the chasm of race relations is not as narrowed as we had once hoped, and is important to deal with. The death of Foley underscores and clear and present danger to the United States that we willfully want to ignore for fear of involvement.
      We need to engage. We need to be outraged by the killing and the threats, I would like to see at least an equal amount of concern.
      It is worse than lazy to be willfully ignorant at an inconvenient reality. That a threat has grown and will continue to attack.
      That’s why I want the same outrage.

      • Dick_Wolf

        So you are mad at the networks? Otherwise you cannot gauge a society’s outrage based on the coverage of a for profit media.

  • Dick_Wolf

    “The military believes they had Baghdadi in custody during the Iraq war. But we let him go, because President Obama stopped the deportation to Guantanamo. When he was released, he told soldiers “I’ll see you in New York.” Baghdadi and ISIS are now actively recruiting those with Western passports.”

    That would have been when he was released and described by the soldiers there as unremarkable and not one of the particularly bad ones? In less you think all 26,000 prisoners would have been able to be deported to Guantanamo?

    • Larry Mendte

      No, but Baghdadi, the head of al Qaeda in Iraq probably should have been held. He is the new Osama Bin Laden and we let him go.

      • Dick_Wolf

        The moment Bin Laden died, there was a new Bin Laden and unfortunately, there will always be new Bin Ladens. This has been going on for more than a thousand years. It was Christian, Jews and Muslims fighting then and low and behold, it’s Christians, Jews and Muslims fighting now. Invading Iraq did nothing but make it worse and everyone in the world knows that. It wasn’t and never was our fight and unfortunately thousands of good Americans had to die for Vietnam Part II because someone wanted to avenge threats against their daddy.

        I am sorry for the Foley’s loss and the horrific way he died, but that doesn’t mean his death should be used as some rallying cry for another chapter of a war that has been going on since the Crusades.

        Fear mongering is fear mongering no matter how you paint it or tack it on to a current event.

        • Larry Mendte

          True that invading Iraq made it worse, but we were a target before that. You forgot 9/11. They have the same goal with or without Iraq. It is not fear mongering it is reality. We just don’t face it until after we are attacked.

          • Dick_Wolf

            Stop. Nobody forgets 9/11. You are smarter than this act.

            Iraq created an unstable society where these lunatics could set up shop unchecked and you know it. It’s fear mongering because there will always be an enemy, whether it be Russia, Iran, North Korea etc. Americans were beheaded in Iraq before and during the Iraq war, so clearly carpet bombing it for a decade and losing more American lives didn’t work as it just happened again with Foley.

          • Larry Mendte

            No one forgets 9/11 except you when you conveniently left it out. And we never “carpet bombed” Iraq. Allowing Isis to grow and fester unchecked is what led to Foley’s beheading and now we face the most dangerous enemy of our time. That’s not my opinion. It’s defense secretary Chuck Hagel. Please read the letter that ISIS sent to Foley’s parents before he was beheaded. It spells out what we are dealing with. If we do nothing we will be attacked.

          • Dick_Wolf

            Yes Larry I forgot 9/11 and clearly forgot that you are incapable of an adult discussion.

            We were in Iraq for the better part of a decade, did it help? Did it change anything? Or as many predicted did it create even more instability in the middle east? By all means then, let’s go back in and risk more American lives. Let’s drone strike the heck out of them. Any innocent people who might be left in Iraq, too bad. Wrong place wrong time.

            You referenced Guantanamo where we supposedly rounded up the worst of the worst. Yet low and behold, here comes someone else to be the new biggest threat.

            There will always be people who don’t like us Larry. There always has been.

          • UnitedStatesCitizen

            Well considering Iraq had absolutely nothing to do with 9/11 I’d have to ask how is it even possible that in 2014 people are still refering to Iraq and 9/11 in the same sentence knowing what we know.

            Because we brought up the subject let me just reinforce what Wolf is saying.

            9/11 happened we knew it may happen maybe not the scale but that an attack was possible, we knew it would be backed by Osama Bin Laden and that it would be carried out by Al Queda. It happened and then we go after Iraq and Saddam Hussein? We devote almost all of our resources to Iraq on a false war fueled by a tragedy. All the while sending a small percentage of our resources to Afghanistan where Osama is based and of course accomplish nothing.

            The result is today’s Iraq. And the leftovers from the war in Iraq are strengthening Isis.

            So please can we not refer to the Iraq anymore when speaking of 9/11 I at least feel like its disrespect to all those who died that day.

  • BigI Mike

    I don’t know if your Philly Union Busting Scab politicians keep this Philly Rag Blog informed but the rest of the nation is outraged. I know you FOX viewers only hear about our fairly elected president being born in Kenya still, or how he is supportive of the Muslim Brotherhood, but those were all proved to be hoaxed perpetrated by the Ko0ch Brothers and the John Birch Society now known as the Tea Party. Life goes on and if you’ll turn off the Nazi Propaganda Channel and tune in a real News station you might share in the outrage the rest of the country knows all about. Get a life.

  • ObjectivityIsDead

    I try to steer clear of extremely strong words and statements, because more often than not, they’re a product of emotion rather than logic.


    In this case, it’s an understatement to say that ISIS and everybody associated with them are just insects. They deserved to be bombed from top to bottom, and for once, I actually agree with an aggressive US response.