U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., speaks at a meeting of university officials in Little Rock, Ark., Nov. 1, 2013.
Photo by Danny Johnston/AP

It’s always nice to be noticed

We talked yesterday about Rep. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), who launched a highly provocative new campaign ad that includes footage from an ISIS propaganda video. Many, including me, questioned the propriety of a politician airing footage from Islamic State terrorists to advance his personal ambitions.
To my surprise, this appears to have annoyed a Fox News contributor, who referenced my piece on the air this morning.
“Just yesterday an MSNBC producer for the Rachel Maddow show named Steve Benen wrote a lengthy piece making fun of Arkansas Senate candidate Tom Cotton. He’s making fun of Tom Cotton for calling out and showing how radical ISIS is and so it’s this idea that if you confront it, if you talk about it, you’re gonna inflame it. And I think it’s actually the opposite….”
While it’s certainly nice to be noticed, let’s take a moment to clarify matters, because the conservative who complained about my piece on Fox News may have missed its meaning.
Readers are obviously welcome to read the piece for themselves, but I didn’t “make fun” of the far-right congressman for “showing how radical ISIS is.” Instead, I hoped to make an entirely different point, which may have been too subtle for some of our friends at Fox.
So let’s make this plain:
1. ISIS made a propaganda video, hoping it would reach a broader audience.
2. Americans shouldn’t help ISIS achieve its goals.
3. Tom Cotton is paying money to put excerpts from ISIS’s propaganda video on television, helping the video reach a broader audience.
That’s it. That’s the whole story. When Americans help disseminate footage from ISIS to advance their ambitions, they’re arguably making a serious mistake.
If Cotton wanted to include background video of combat in the Middle East, there’s plenty of footage available for him to choose from, but instead the Republican congressman included ISIS propaganda in his commercial.
If Republicans and Fox News want to defend his tactic, fine; it’s a credible topic for debate. But so far, I haven’t seen anyone offer any kind of substantive defense, which itself says something about the suitability of Cotton’s advertising campaign.

Fox News, ISIS, Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and Tom Cotton

It's always nice to be noticed