As we are filming “One Life to Give,” the Battle of Long Island, which took place at the beginning of our Revolutionary War in 1776, and the dramatic story of Nathan Hale, ISIS has come knocking on Brookhaven’s door in 2017. What? You may say, ISIS from the faraway lands of Syria and Afghanistan, those violently troubled, war-torn places in the Middle East reaching out to our serene little township?
So it seems. This past Sunday, an extra page was found to be on the official town site. This page, from a group called Team System Dz, conveyed some unpleasant pro-ISIS thoughts through Facebook and, according to Brookhaven, not directly from the town website.
Why are we on the group’s radar? Who knows? But they have been sending messages like the one we received here throughout the country to 76 municipalities all told, according to town Councilman Dan Panico. Along with these assaults, similar messages were found on several Ohio government websites, including that of Gov. John Kasich. This particular group has hacked into many government websites around the world in recent years, according to a story in Newsday.
As we know, these terrorist groups are looking to spread fear, and the internet enables them to reach across the globe even as their physically occupied territory shrinks from allied military efforts to defeat them.
Homeland Security officials are actively investigating the event, but for us the timing is particularly meaningful. Here we are, filming the story of the birth of our nation, some 240 years ago, and realizing most meaningfully the values and freedoms under which we live. Those we hail as Patriots gave their lives and fortunes, in some cases, so that these inalienable rights of our society might come down through the centuries to us. We don’t live in fear of being gassed or dismembered by our government. We have the right to criticize our leaders without disappearing. We live under the rule of a Constitution that was forged in democracy, and none of these facts are lost on us as we film the events and the people who made it happen more than two centuries ago. Approaching July Fourth, we are profoundly grateful for our nation, warts and all.
As we covered the story of the town’s hacked website, we needed to decide how to run the article in our papers. We briefly considered putting the ISIS event on the front page, then immediately chose instead to lead with one of the values that make us who we are: our educational system. As you can see, we have given prominence to graduations. We are the hometown papers and we prize our students and their accomplishments. We wouldn’t dream of destroying schools and slaughtering teachers. Our educational system makes democracy possible, and that is what totalitarian regimes fear. Our residents know how to read and write and, we sincerely hope, tell propaganda from real news.
From the battlefield of Long Island and the campsite of George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, Benjamin Tallmadge and Nathan Hale to the backyard barbecues and rockets’ red glare of our fireworks, have a Happy Independence Day!