There are many reasons to be profoundly disturbed about the beheading videos streaming out of Iraq, yet people are eager to watch.
Dan Klinker runs a Web site carrying Monday's video of a man cutting off the head of U.S. contract worker Eugene "Jack" Armstrong. More than 1-million users had clicked those images into their computers, he said.
Six Internet servers, Klinker said, are "barely able to handle the traffic" of 50,000 visitors an hour angling for a peek at the grisly death of Armstrong. More than half of those are U.S. residents.
Experts in post-traumatic stress disorder are familiar with the morbid curiosity of the human mind. At the Palo Alto, Calif., VA hospital, Fred Gusman helps veterans deal with the visceral horrors of war. It is natural to be curious about the grotesque and awful, but the value of satisfying that curiosity is another matter. "There is absolutely zero benefit to seeing it," Gusman said .
The closest parallel to this dark quirk of human behavior is the tendency of people to slow down on the highway to see a gruesome accident. "It is this feeling of wanting to look, when part of you says 'I really shouldn't be looking at this,' " Gusman said.