Adding insult to injury
September 3, 2014 11:29 AM   Subscribe

In ISIS-style execution videos, the captives make a speech blaming and condemning the US/West before they are killed. Why?

The statements have obviously been written by the executioners, not the victims themselves. I'm assuming the victims don't actually agree with these statements and they only recite them to avoid torture and/or a more painful death. Can anyone with insider knowledge confirm this, or give other reasons why the victims would comply with their executioners' wishes? Do we know if anyone has ever refused, and did their killers go ahead with the video anyway, sans speech from the victim? Has anyone ever deviated from the script s/he was given, and if so, what happened?
posted by désoeuvrée to Human Relations (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
These videos are not broadcast live. If someone deviated from the script, the video would not be released to the public.
It is unlikely that the video we see is the first take.
posted by Flood at 11:33 AM on September 3, 2014 [3 favorites]

On occasion, the videos are released -- Fabrizio Quattrochi told his murderers "I'll show you how an Italian dies!", and they released it anyway.
posted by Etrigan at 11:38 AM on September 3, 2014 [6 favorites]

We can assume they've been threatened with any number of punishments, including torture, of themselves or perhaps other captives, which would make anyone say pretty much anything. They may have been subjected to previous fake executions in which saying these things would spare them, until the last time. in short, they are under the most extreme duress imaginable, and should not be remembered for anything they say or do under the circumstances. Come to think of it, speculation of this kind is in extremely bad taste. My heart breaks for their families.
posted by Philemon at 11:39 AM on September 3, 2014 [65 favorites]

Here is an interview with a man who was suspected of being an IRA sympathizer, and was tortured by the British authorities. Note that in the context of what we're told ISIS is doing to captives, or what the U.S. is doing in Guantanamo Bay and probably other sites around the world, this is fairly tame, but the guy points out that as his incarceration went on he was willing to do pretty much anything, including killing himself if he had the means, to make it stop.

So, yes, like Philemon said.
posted by straw at 11:49 AM on September 3, 2014 [5 favorites]

They likely have many mock executions and trial runs of these videos. These poor people have been on captivity for a year or more. I'm sure anytime they did refuse, they were beaten up or tortured and when they read the script properly, they weren't. The prisoners have been trained to do this and probably didn't know that this was "the one" where they would finally be killed.

I don't know that will ever know for sure because prisoners being groomed for public execution aren't typically released. But I think it's about the will to live. We now know that American forces did make a rescue attempt to save the second journalist that was killed. The longer these guys can stay alive, the better the chances they will be saved or freed someday. If the prisoner refused to read the script, they probably would've tried again and only release the one that was done properly.

I don't think we can put any stock in the things they say at the side of an executioner and it shouldn't be part of their legacy.
posted by AppleTurnover at 11:58 AM on September 3, 2014 [6 favorites]

Jeremiah Denton was a POW in Vietnam who was tortured by the Viet Cong at the "Hanoi Hilton." His captors paraded him in front of TV cameras and forced him to give an interview to show that prisoners weren't being mistreated; he blinked out "TORTURE" in Morse Code, the first confirmation that US prisoners were, in fact, being mistreated. Small clip of interview, including his blinking, and the part where he went orally off-script (for which he was later tortured more). (He was later released, promoted to Rear Admiral, and served in the US Senate after retiring from the Navy, and died this past March ... so it's a more or less happy ending.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 12:04 PM on September 3, 2014 [10 favorites]

The captives are drugged.
posted by Nevin at 12:29 PM on September 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

I don't think this "speculation" is in bad taste. It is a genuine question about international terrorism and how it works. I do agree that extreme duress is the most likely answer and I also grieve for the victims and their loved ones.
posted by harrietthespy at 4:37 PM on September 3, 2014 [5 favorites]

Thank you very much for the answers, especially the ones with links, and just to clarify: I totally understand that these victims are under unimaginable duress and I didn't mean to imply any sort of judgment, disapproval, or culpability whatsoever on the part of the victims. I'm just curious about what they are told, their psychological state at the time, and what methods are used to force them to say what they say.

Nevin: Are they really drugged? Do you have a source for that?
posted by désoeuvrée at 7:46 PM on September 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

Has anyone ever deviated from the script s/he was given, and if so, what happened?

While not deviating from a spoken script, the crew of the US spy ship, USS Pueblo, discretely gave the finger in several propaganda photographs staged by their North Korean captors. Once the North Koreans discovered what they were doing, the crew were subjected to more torture.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:30 AM on September 4, 2014

I know this question is very old, but when I read this New York Times article, I couldn't help think of this question and the fact that I had previously pondered what James Foley went through because of it.
posted by AppleTurnover at 11:08 PM on November 5, 2014

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