Steven Sotloff Photograph


Please don’t unfriend me for posting this photograph of Steven Sotloff caught just before his murder. Yesterday I posted on FB an article from Al-Arabiya reporting on the condemnation of mainstream Muslim authorities in the Middle East against this despicable act. You can read the article here. When I shared the article on FB, the cover image popped up as part of my post. A FB friend with whom I often spar expressed dismay at the photo’s appearance, and, I’m thinking, the shock of its appearance on his newsfeed. The concern he expressed to me had to do with the dehumanization of Sotloff and the urgency not to do the work of murderers by sharing online pictures of their work. These concerns still hold. I won’t go to the Youtube sites to watch the execution. Indeed, my first response was to not even look directly at the still image as posted at Al-Arabiya. But looked at closely, what does the still image show if not a deep human face and gaze? And, yes, a Jewish face too, which might reasonably not matter to many but which matters to me nonetheless. In a peculiar way, the image of the man is a dignified one, a dignity whose expression flies in the very face of the people who took this man’s life and the photo of him. That’s what I’d like to think. So yes, I think we should look at this picture, and to do so with the discretion and tact.


About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish thought and philosophical aesthetics.
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