I’m not a big fan of beheading videos, either, but if Jones really believes that watching one on the Internet “amounts to complicity in a terrorist act” [“The Media and Modern Warfare” by J.R. Jones, June 22], I think he would be an excellent advocate for the Patriot Act’s mission and would be well-qualified as a mouthpiece for the Bush administration’s exploitation of terrorism. Indignation is fine, and watching grisly snuff films is an odd pastime, to say the least, but equating the activity with terrorism is a cavalier, irresponsible, and potentially dangerous statement. I know: he’s just a film reviewer, not the press secretary. But if logic holds in a nightmare world where Jones’s statement is the law of the land, it would mean that Mariane Pearl is a terrorist, an enemy of the United States, and should be held in Guantanamo Bay without a trial.

I was more interested to read his admission that the movie itself would not have been made had it not been for this abominable video. And that the movie’s tension–i.e., its success as a policier–depended equally on the specter of this video. That means, sadly enough, that everyone in the audience is spellbound by the risk/possibility/temptation of having to see a ghastly media-distributed execution. In other words, it foments interest in the subject.

There are plenty of widows and widowers of slain journalists, and each one has a dramatic story to tell. But this one got filmed (twice, as Jones notes). We are all complicit. This is not an indictment; just something to remind us that we can’t be self-righteously indignant without implicating ourselves.

Greg Giles

Oakland, California

J.R. Jones replies:

Your argument rests on the fallacy that everyone participating in a wrongful act is equally culpable.


a Lawrence Bommer’s review of Major Barbara [Section 2, June 22] misidentified the actor who played the Greek professor. He was played by understudy Greg Poljacek.