Showing the horror of war
May 15, 2008 11:15 AM   Subscribe

People can handle the truth about war. Veteran White House correspondent Helen Thomas reflects on how the media's willingness to show the horrors of war has changed since Vietnam.
posted by homunculus (52 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
That picture truly is horrifying, and so is war. If more people understood this then maybe there'd be less support for the war, I hope.

Also

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posted by Vindaloo at 11:59 AM on May 15, 2008


Willingness to show, or ease of image distribution?

In the pre-internet days all the war images were controlled by media outlets, who could make a decision as to whether they should be withheld for whatever silly reason. There is no control over their release anymore. Yet another journalist waxing nostalgic about the days when the networks had complete control over voters' perceptions. Thankfully that time is over. The information is there for anyone who wants it; let them make their own judgement.
posted by infinitefloatingbrains at 12:08 PM on May 15, 2008


Helen Thomas is hilarious. Funniest Black grandma ever. I love it when she talks about reefer.
posted by Eideteker at 12:09 PM on May 15, 2008


That picture truly is horrifying

Come on, I know Helen is old, but let's not be rude!

Sorry, yes, it is horrifying, I should be ashamed of myself.
posted by Pollomacho at 12:14 PM on May 15, 2008


waxing nostalgic about the days when the networks had complete control over voters' perceptions

I have to admit that leading up to the Iraq War, I expected to hear that the WMD's, or at least a weapons program, had indeed been found and rendered harmless. Because I watched network TV. That being said, I've learned my lesson, but remain doubtful of many of my fellow Americans. Especially when I hear about invocations of the "9/11 laws".
posted by jsavimbi at 12:20 PM on May 15, 2008


infinitefloatingbrains writes "In the pre-internet days all the war images were controlled by media outlets, who could make a decision as to whether they should be withheld for whatever silly reason. There is no control over their release anymore. Yet another journalist waxing nostalgic about the days when the networks had complete control over voters' perceptions. Thankfully that time is over. The information is there for anyone who wants it; let them make their own judgement."

You mean like images of soldiers in coffins?

Anyway, we're talking about the media, not about availability of pictures. You can get a lot through a FOIA, but not everyone is going to bother. Most people still get their news from the major networks' nightly news, and they have shown none of this. Why is the media so reluctant now, when it wasn't back in the days when it did control the release of these pictures?
posted by krinklyfig at 12:22 PM on May 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


Yet another journalist waxing nostalgic about the days when the networks had complete control over voters' perceptions.

I'm not sure we read the same article.
posted by Jpfed at 12:27 PM on May 15, 2008


The Canadian news broadcasts the death of just about every Canadian soldier and it doesn't really seem to have dampened anyone's taste for our war in Afghanistan. Now, we have a lot fewer soldiers so it doesn't take as long as it would in the US. I don't know why the US media thinks it will be so bad. Probably the figure people won't buy newspapers with depressing news or if the cover page lacks a picture of scandalous celebrities.
posted by GuyZero at 12:32 PM on May 15, 2008


krinklyfig wrote:You mean like images of soldiers in coffins?

I don't mean to single you out, because the refusal to show pictures of dead soldiers is a common complaint, but why do you want to see those pictures? Maybe you don't but you think other people should see them? Doesn't that amount to using those photos for their propaganda value?

The reason no one shows these photos is because no one wants to see them. In other words, they'll stop buying newspapers or watching the news. Take a look at TV news ratings and newspaper circulations--they are all on a steep decline. These industries cannot handle losing customers over an editorial choice.
posted by Pastabagel at 12:50 PM on May 15, 2008


dear media,
more war gore, less Britney twat.
thank you,
q
posted by quonsar at 12:55 PM on May 15, 2008 [2 favorites]


Why is the media so reluctant now

It is a really tough question to answer, but I think it has a lot to do with human nature. We can look at pictures of tanks and fighter jets all day long because they only represent violence against humans. A picture of a dead body is so arresting because it depicts death in such a raw fashion. There is no disconnect, no abstraction.

Here is a child. No voice in all this, no political will, no involvement other than being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Something deep within us rejects the crime on display. How can we not? All those letters that the Washington Post received about such and such reason for why they shouldn't have run the picture, those letters are full of personal dishonesty. People don't want to see it because it gets under their skin, plain and simple.

Why don't we see more of these from major media outlets? Certainly they shy away from their responsibility. Maybe it is the news is no longer an institution. It is a business. And dead children don't sell newspapers.
posted by infinitefloatingbrains at 12:55 PM on May 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


infinitefloatingbrains writes "Why don't we see more of these from major media outlets? Certainly they shy away from their responsibility. Maybe it is the news is no longer an institution. It is a business. And dead children don't sell newspapers."

Well, that's true enough, but it's rather glib, and you don't explore any further than that. I think there are probably other reasons as well.
posted by krinklyfig at 1:04 PM on May 15, 2008


The reason no one shows these photos is because no one wants to see them. In other words, they'll stop buying newspapers or watching the news. Take a look at TV news ratings and newspaper circulations--they are all on a steep decline. These industries cannot handle losing customers over an editorial choice.
posted by Pastabagel at 3:50 PM on May 15 [+] [!


Utter bullshit. Every day this week, I've been treated to images of dead Chinese children on the front page of NYT.com. Every single day. How are those horrifying, emotionally distressing images categorically different from the image of the little Iraqi boy? only one reason: politics.

Apparently, gawking at dead babies in the rubble is perfectly fine, so long as we don't have to think too much about how and why exactly they got there in the first place.
posted by Chrischris at 1:05 PM on May 15, 2008 [8 favorites]


Pastabagel writes "I don't mean to single you out, because the refusal to show pictures of dead soldiers is a common complaint, but why do you want to see those pictures? Maybe you don't but you think other people should see them? Doesn't that amount to using those photos for their propaganda value?"

Once you start going down that road, you close the door to showing news as reality. Why doesn't the government want those pictures to be shown? Out of respect for the soldiers and their families doesn't really cut it, because they're not typically concerned about those things, and this is a new policy. Why didn't it matter before?

Any images can be used as propaganda. That's not a valid reason for censorship directed by the government.
posted by krinklyfig at 1:06 PM on May 15, 2008


And dead children don't sell newspapers.

Actually, I think dead children do sell papers. We just don't see pictures of the war dead because they might make us feel guilty. Perhaps even make us question why we're over there. And we wouldn't want that, now would we?
posted by longdaysjourney at 1:16 PM on May 15, 2008


Why is the media so reluctant now?
One of the reasons listed in the ombudswoman article was that someone's kid might see the photo. So, yet another repeat of "OH MY FUCKING GOD THINK OF THE FUCKING CHILDREN WE HAVE TO PROTECT THEM FROM EVERY GERM AND EVERY IDEA THAT MIGHT EVEN MAKE THEM A LITTLE LESS HAPPY MUCH LESS FUCKING SAAA-AAAAD!!!"

I stole my great-aunt's History of Comics when I was ten. There were stories of people getting blown up in war. Made me a fucking pacifist on the spot.
posted by notsnot at 1:35 PM on May 15, 2008


I refuse to feel guilty about collateral damage that occurs while we try to kill people that routinely STRAP BOMBS TO CHILDREN AND SEND THEM TO THEIR DEATHS IN THE NAME OF ALLAH.

It's sad. But I'm not feeling guilty over it.
posted by tadellin at 1:45 PM on May 15, 2008


The reason no one shows these photos is because no one wants to see them.

Where the hell have you been living for the past 5 years? Look, here's a quick google search link since apparently you can't do it yourself. iraq coffins pictures. The reason no one shows these pictures is that there has been an active campaign by the pentagon not to show those pictures. It's not a secret.

Also, while we're on the subject of pictures of dead Iraqi civilians, why don't we count civilian deaths in Iraq? The army says that's not their job, but it seems to me that we just don't think their lives are important. There is an office in the pentagon for someone who is trying to limit civilian deaths, but apparently he'll never know how well he's doing his job since we're not counting. Apparently only American deaths matter, and then not even that month since we're supposed to ignore them.
posted by lumpenprole at 1:48 PM on May 15, 2008



Utter bullshit. Every day this week, I've been treated to images of dead Chinese children on the front page of NYT.com.


The difference is obvious. Dead earthquake victims is okay, dead Americans is not. Did we really see a lot of the dead bodies from Katrina? By extension people killed by Americans are unacceptable also.

If newspapers wanted to take pictures of soldiers in coffins, they could do so easily. Airbases and Arlington Cemetery are visible in detail with zoom lenses. They don't ask people to take the pictures because they have absolutely no interest in running them.

It's not that the reader or viewer has to think about how the body got there, the headline tells you. Ever see a headline in a US paper that read "5 killed by American soldiers" or "10 Americans dead in attack"? No. It's almost always "Gunfight in Mosul, 5 dead" or "Embassy bomb kills 10."

The logic is simple. People have enough stress and tension in their daily personal lives. They aren't going to buy paper or watch TV that adds more stress and tension. Whether coverage was different in earlier generations doesn't matter, because the audience was different then too.
posted by Pastabagel at 1:49 PM on May 15, 2008


It's sad. But I'm not feeling guilty over it.

Boy, if there's anything guaranteed to stop an insurgent army fighting a foreign invader, it's telling them you don't care whether you kill civilians.

Really, you should have your fucking head examined.
posted by lumpenprole at 1:52 PM on May 15, 2008 [5 favorites]


I'm of two minds on this issue. One mind says that information needs to be free. Every American should have access to see the actual consequences of a war that they are financing and that their government is supporting. But I think access is different from promotion

The other mind says that images of victims in war tell us absolutely nothing about that war. It is axiomatic that in every war people die horrible, gruesome deaths. In every war innocent people are killed. If the point of the photos is to show that "war is hell," well, OK. But a picture of a dead child doesn't provide any information about the (for lack of a better word) "validity" of the particular war (unless one takes the position that all war -- or all wars that kill children -- are automatically invalid). The problem, therefore, is that the pictures are valuable primarily as propoganda (which Thomas's column essentially admits), and propoganda is, or should be, the enemy of journalism. Five years into this war, a decision to prominently feature a picture of a dead child is an attempt to editorialize, not report. And maybe that's OK, but I think it's disingenuous to claim that the media has a greater obligation to feature these images more prominently.

Here's another way to think about this: there are thousands and thousands of devastating pictures of car crash victims, some more graphic and disturbing than you can possibly imagine. But newspapers don't put them on the front page because its not news that people are killed in car crashes.
posted by pardonyou? at 1:58 PM on May 15, 2008


I refuse to feel guilty about collateral damage that occurs while we try to kill people that routinely STRAP BOMBS TO CHILDREN AND SEND THEM TO THEIR DEATHS IN THE NAME OF ALLAH.

What about when we kill people that don't do that, like in Iraq and Afghanistan?
posted by Pollomacho at 1:59 PM on May 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


People talk as if there's a choice between "filtered images" (the old network model) and "unfiltered images" (the Truth).

The reality is that there's no such thing as an unfiltered image. Even when nothing's filtered, everything's filtered. It has to be, there's just so much to process. If CBS or the White House doesn't do it for us, we do it for ourselves. Not to be too obvious, but if my media diet consists of glorious fonts of liberated, democratically-upvoted, user-generated reality like Reddit, Metafilter, and Daily Kos -- I'm seeing the world through a filter just as surely as is my misguided friend who relies on newsmax and foxnews.com or whoever else is out there with the guts to reveal the stuff the Drive-By Media Doesn't Want You To See. You can argue that the networks were a better filter, even, because they at least strived for nominal objectivity. Few of us consciously do that. We're content believing that our Truth is The Truth.

So to think that if the White House would only let photographers onto the tarmac at Dover, people would turn against the war -- that's as big a fantasy as believing that suppressing those photos will maintain support for the war. The White House is just one screen, get rid of it and all the crap just falls down into the next one underneath it. People consume/credit only what their worldview will accommodate.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 2:03 PM on May 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


People can handle the truth about war.

But Grand Theft Auto gives me nightmares.
posted by three blind mice at 2:03 PM on May 15, 2008


The reason no one shows these photos is because no one wants to see them.
Where the hell have you been living for the past 5 years? Look, here's a quick google search link since apparently you can't do it yourself. iraq coffins pictures.


When I wrote "No one", I was referring to news media. Not a single one of your links is to an American news media source showing the pictures. In fact most of the links are to stories about the controversy of not showing them.

You can accuse the government of not wanting the pictures shown because of negative attention it would draw to the war. But most of the people want these pictures shown precisely because it will draw negative attention to the war. The notion that propaganda is only bad when it comes from the government is simplistic.

but it seems to me that we just don't think their lives are important.

We don't think their lives are important. Certainly not as important as our own. About 30,000 people are dead in Burma from a storm. Do we really care that much? What do you think would be happening if 30,000 Americans were dead from a storm? In that situation, I doubt the news would be covering anything else (though the news still wouldn't show you any bodies).

Finally, what is the great importance of seeing dead civilians or knowing how many we killed? Moral justifications are not measured in body counts. If a war is not morally justified, then its morally wrong even if there are no casualties. If a war is morally justified, then it is right despite the body count. The fact of dead civilians simply shows the cost of war, not whether or not the war is justified. Would it have been ok to kill all these people if Saddam had been involved in 9-11 and had WMDs? If not, then what is gained by showing these particular images of death to the American people?
posted by Pastabagel at 2:04 PM on May 15, 2008


Finally, what is the great importance of seeing dead civilians or knowing how many we killed?

I agree with your points Pastabagel, however I think the ability to see the images in the mainstream media provides the people with more "informed consent" in making the decision as to if the cost of the war is morally just. If you invision war as just some version of Halo happening to fictional people somewhere else. When you see that bombs kill real people, you must confront this aspect when weighing the moral justification.
posted by Pollomacho at 2:11 PM on May 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


Not a single one of your links is to an American news media source showing the pictures.

Uh, genius? I was referring to all the news stories in that link about the pentagon forbidding the American media from printing those pictures?

You can accuse the government of not wanting the pictures shown because of negative attention it would draw to the war.

See above. I'm not accusing. They're admitting.

About 30,000 people are dead in Burma from a storm. Do we really care that much?

Well, I contributed to storm relief, so I do, as do thousands of Americans. We tend to give heavy in these situations. But there's one huge damn difference here. We didn't kill them. That's a big difference, don't you think?

The fact of dead civilians simply shows the cost of war, not whether or not the war is justified.

Yep. And if we ignore the cost of war, as we are currently being encouraged to do than we cannot do the kind of cost/benefit analysis' that should have kept us out of this in the first place. Your straw man about 9-11 aside, we need to have our eyes open in these situations. I'm not a hardcore pacifist and I strongly believe military force is sometimes necessary, but it should be a last resort. And as horrible as an American pullout is going to be, I don't see any way we can keep Iraq glued together without a draft. So, if we're going to make those decisions, it might be nice to have some information about oh, say, who's paying the price.
posted by lumpenprole at 2:13 PM on May 15, 2008


I think the "news as business" angle is the correct one.

The Founding Fathers placed "freedom of the press" very high on their agenda for a reason. The watchdog function of a free press is crucial to a transparent and democratic system. All dictatorial systems place heavy restrictions on the press.

Until relatively recently, though, news was never a huge money maker. Sure, it sold newspaper advertising and television spots, but news integrity was important to the outlets disseminating the news. News was a losing proposition for television and pressure was always applied to make it a more entertainment (read profit) driven pursuit. But real newsmen like Edward Murrow and Fred Friendly and Walter Cronkite fought publicly against that. They didn't always win, but they fought the fight.

It was always an uphill battle. The powerful newscasters with integrity have, by and large, gone by the wayside. The suits and bean counters- who have no problem climbing into bed with anyone who'll line their nest - have won, and the public has lost.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 2:26 PM on May 15, 2008


I grew up understanding that one of the reasons that we left Vietnam was that people didn't have the stomach for it anymore. Part of this was that they could see on their televisions what was going on over there, and it affected them.

We have public access channels like c-span which show us the inner workings of our political system, I think it should be mandated that a channel shows the war footage. For better or worse, people would be drawn to it. And in time, they may come to realize that they don't agree with the things that are being done in our name.
posted by quin at 2:52 PM on May 15, 2008


Pastabagel writes "Finally, what is the great importance of seeing dead civilians or knowing how many we killed? Moral justifications are not measured in body counts. If a war is not morally justified, then its morally wrong even if there are no casualties. If a war is morally justified, then it is right despite the body count."

So, this means we can wipe out every man, woman and child in Iraq, or just one Ba'athist soldier, and both are the same, and the only difference is if the war is morally justified?
posted by krinklyfig at 3:06 PM on May 15, 2008


Pastabagel writes "You can accuse the government of not wanting the pictures shown because of negative attention it would draw to the war. But most of the people want these pictures shown precisely because it will draw negative attention to the war. The notion that propaganda is only bad when it comes from the government is simplistic."

Where did the notion come from that propaganda is necessarily bad? Showing the realities on the ground day-to-day of the Iraq war is critically missing for years now - a large portion of the information we should get about Iraq from the media is not there at all. Well, we did have "embedded" media for a while, a euphemism for government-controlled reporting. Lots of propaganda from the government ...

Anyway, the mainstream media will report verbatim what the government says, much of the time uncritically. Should we not see the negative effects, along with the positive spin the government puts on it?
posted by krinklyfig at 3:19 PM on May 15, 2008


I love Helen Thomas, but I worry about the way she's increasingly treated as some sort of oddity for laughs. I'd feel a lot better if there were a couple of others asking the real questions, too, instead of lobbing softballs every day. I mean, what comes after her?
posted by rokusan at 3:27 PM on May 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


Folks don't really want to see dead kids on the front of the newspaper, but if the images pertain directly to a story reporting on the result of a policy carried out by their government, as citizens, they have an obligation to look long and hard. Closing your eyes and putting your hands over your ears and going "la la la" isn't going to make the dead children go away. If you want to stop seeing pictures like that, pay attention to politics, vote accordingly and donate money or manpower to relief agencies. There will always be pain, suffering and dead babies- we have things like disease and natural disasters to thank for that- but the pain, suffering and dead babies caused by war- that's preventable.

The role of the journalist is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. Right now, we are the comfortable ones. A guilt trip is most definitely in order.
posted by TheGoldenOne at 4:50 PM on May 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


In the pre-internet days all the war images were controlled by media outlets, who could make a decision as to whether they should be withheld for whatever silly reason. There is no control over their release anymore. Yet another journalist waxing nostalgic about the days when the networks had complete control over voters' perceptions. Thankfully that time is over. The information is there for anyone who wants it; let them make their own judgement.

You didn't even read the fucking article, did you? Her whole point was that back then they didn't withhold the pictures—they did run the famous napalmed-girl photo, and many others, and there was little questioning of it except from government spokesmen. It's now that they're withholding them, supposedly because people "don't want to see them," a moronic argument that's always good for a laugh coming from official spokesmen but pathetic coming from anyone else. But feel free to spew your preconceived ideas without bothering to glance over at reality.

Helen Thomas is a national treasure, and when she's gone she'll leave a very noticeable gap.
posted by languagehat at 5:33 PM on May 15, 2008


I mean, what comes after her?

Odd and slightly sad as it is, Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart, I reckon, to choose the two obvious ones.

Real efforts to cut through the pervasive bullshit and stupidity and maintain some measure of integrity are displaced into 'comedy'. Gallows humour, maybe, but.

Actual journalism -- particularly when we're talking about 'news', has been so compromised by the market-share beancounters and their (correct) assumption that most folks would rather see Britney's twat than a dead Iraqi child or argue about Obama's fucking lapel pin rather than his health-care policy -- is in such precipitous decline into irrelevance that that's one of the few avenues left, it seems.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:36 PM on May 15, 2008


Helen Thomas is a national treasure, and when she's gone she'll leave a very noticeable gap.

Hear, hear.
posted by homunculus at 5:59 PM on May 15, 2008


The upside to the press complicity in becoming the administration's propaganda mouthpiece is this: we're entering an era where credibility is everything. It doesn't matter if you have a blogspot blog with zero overhead and you're posting while wearing nothing but a thong. If you have credibility, you end up meaning more to the public at large than the NYT. So the mainstream press, day by day, is writing into the history books their lack of critical thinking, their coziness with power, their sense of entitlement to credibility. In between the lines they're writing, "We sold our credibility for favors a long time ago."

In 20 years they won't matter, and you could probably retire shorting their stock. Decentralized news is still a small mammal scurrying between the toes of these dinosaurs, but ubiquitous handheld, video enabled internet devices are the meteor on the horizon.
posted by mullingitover at 6:07 PM on May 15, 2008


McLuhan
posted by hortense at 8:31 PM on May 15, 2008


Iraq/Afghanistan invasions != War

I know it is easy to fall into the habit of using the term 'war' to describe the illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq by the US and UK* forces, but this is another case of having the terms of debate dictated by the war mongers' spin doctors. It is not easy to make to communicate tone via text, so it is better to avoid using the word 'war' in this context, I think. As we know the bombardment of Iraq did not really cease for any length of time between 1992 and the present day, to define the current occupation as war obfuscates this fact.

The reason why this is worth repeating is that the cliche 'bad things happen in a war' is repeated ad nauseum. This is indeed the case, but to apply to this conflict the phrase should be more like 'bad things happen when a hugely superior military power invades another country for profit with no concern for the wellbeing of the population'.

When a bully beats up a smaller child, we don't try to hand wave it away by saying 'bad things happen to children'. We understand that the bully has problems that are causing undue suffering for those they interact with.

Also, as we all know, much of the press is dominated by the military industrial complex, either by direct ownership or by the advertising bought. They dictate what is shown.

The relationship between funding and number of viewers/readers will not cease to be an influence on 'news' propagation and opinion forming. It is possible that the recent London mayoral election was heavily influenced by the Evening Standard's FREE newspaper, which has a big readership and campaigned ceaselessly against one candidate.

*And Poland.
posted by asok at 3:00 AM on May 16, 2008 [2 favorites]


The Canadian news broadcasts the death of just about every Canadian soldier and it doesn't really seem to have dampened anyone's taste for our war in Afghanistan.

Yeah. It is pretty steady at 17% support for a combat role and around 50% for total immediate withdrawal.

It's pretty much in can't fall off the floor country.
posted by srboisvert at 8:49 AM on May 16, 2008


First, I'd like to address the issue of "propaganda" as put forth by pastabagel.

War is not a new thing, nor is bad news. Nearly every major modern war has involved well-known actions that killed innocent people, and these were generally reported as front page news. The firebombing of Dresden and the nuclear attacks on Japan are excellent examples of this. They were reported widely, and it was clear that civilians had been targeted and killed.

The reporting of these mass civilian slaughters was not viewed as anti-war propaganda, but simply as news, as important events relevant to the current situation. It's true, some people were unhappy (to put it politely) with the actions in Dresden and Japan, but such reporting did nothing to hurt the war efforts, because the public looked at the possibilities and simply decided that it was better to fight, and it was even acceptable to engage in these sorts of atrocities in order to triumph.

The reporting of such atrocities in the invasion of Iraq is also just news, information that helps people understand what we're doing as a nation, and what all is going on. The only significant difference is that when people attempt to put these modern atrocities into context, many of them find that it doesn't fit into their moral frameworks. This reaction isn't evidence that the news is "anti-war propaganda". It's simply evidence that people are uncomfortable with the war as it is actually being waged.

Democracies are reliant on the press to present both the cheerful and the unpleasant realities of our nation's choices, so that we as a people may make informed decisions as to what policies we wish to support in the future.

There will always be unpleasantnesses that result from political actions, even outside of war. Some people will always claim that it's partisanship when those negatives are exposed, but I strenuously disagree with that characterization. It's simply truth.
posted by Project F at 9:15 AM on May 16, 2008 [2 favorites]


Secondly, I believe the photos are being withheld from the United States people largely because news is no longer about information, but rather about entertainment.

The fact of the matter is that it's much simpler (and somewhat happier) to ignore that our nation is engaged in some extremely controversial activities. If you take the time to learn about them, to see them, to humanize them, then you risk exposure to some very real sadness.

News outlets know that they aren't going to get high ratings by making their viewers feel uncomfortable, sad or morally troubled. This isn't an indictment of America, it's just human nature.

So now, instead of ranking stories with criteria such as 'relevance to nation's policies and actions', instead the criteria are 'makes people happy, makes people want to know more.' But almost nobody wants to know more about how their nation has done some horrible things, so the horrible things aren't covered.

Sadly, I don't see a way out of this. When it comes to war, I believe much would be solved by using conscribed soldiers instead of volunteers and "contractors", but the same problem would lurk behind other political decisions as well.
posted by Project F at 9:26 AM on May 16, 2008


Apparently, gawking at dead babies in the rubble is perfectly fine, so long as we don't have to think too much about how and why exactly they got there in the first place.

i think dead babies in the rubble are okay to gawk at because we're not responsible for it--it was a natural disaster, so we don't really hold any responsibility.

but dead soliders or napalmed villages or babies rifled with bullet holes are "our fault" as humans or americans or voters or whatever. and so we don't like to see them because it makes us feel guilty.

there were some horrible fucking pictures on the news and front pages during vietnam. i don't think we're seeing any pictures of disemboweld soldiers or soldiers missing their legs on the front pages these days...at least on the mainstream media that the majority of americans are exposed to.

graphic pictures of the violence humans are doing to other humans do evoke a visceral reaction and that reaction--i think--is absolutely necessary to get some people to wake the fuck up about what is going on and why we need to not be involved in any kind of war.

remember the reaction that so many people had when papers around the country printed the picture of the dude falling/jumping out of the burning tower? the reaction was pretty much OH MY GOD. it was horrifying. and then people got on the media's case about showing us such a horrifying image. not the same situation at all really, but...the problem with that is that it evokes such a response and then we blame the media for having to see it. which is probably one of the big reasons that the media doesn't show us these war atrocities--they don't want to deal with the pr bullshit. and i think that's a kind of self-censoring that doesn't really do the public any good. not seeing pictures of it doesn't mean it's not happening.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 11:43 AM on May 16, 2008


Canadian soldiers are always publically recognized and honoured. #22 seems to be a pretty typical showing; I've seen similar photos in the past.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:26 PM on May 16, 2008


Also, I think the reason support for the Afghanistan action is hovering at 50% is because it seems like there's simply no progress being made. It is very disppointing that what had started off as a successful restoration of the country back to its citizens has become a holding pattern.

I really believe Afghanistan could have been radically reformed into a functional fusion of tribalism and democracy if only the majority of soldiers hadn't been pulled away to invade Iraq, and if the fledgling government been given solid support.

Instead we just end up with soldiers who are dying for nothing at all. That's not right, and I want it to stop. Withdrawing seems to be the only available solution. And that sucks, too.

Damned if we do, damned if we don't.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:33 PM on May 16, 2008


News outlets know that they aren't going to get high ratings by making their viewers feel uncomfortable, sad or morally troubled.

Ding ding ding! This actually explains.... oh, everything about the media.
posted by Avenger at 9:55 PM on May 16, 2008


Explains a lot about America. The American citizen does not want to know how his/her lifestyle — a pretty damn privileged lifestyle compared to that of four-fifths the world's population — is impacting this planet. Consumerism to the levels carried out by first-worlders, and particularly by Americans, is simply not compatible with sustained existence on this planet. At least, not in large numbers.

It explains why ethanol is being trumpeted as a solution, and not the problem; why oil is being used so greedily instead of conserved; why the oceans are overfished while Red Lobster dumpsterizes tonnes of leftovers from their gargantuan meals; why third world villagers are picking through poisonous piles of electronics debris; why rainforests are destroyed for cheap hamburgers; why rivers are poisoned with the effluents of waste resulting from the endless, endless consumption of cheap, plastic-y shit that wasn't even needed in the first place. Mega-homes, mega-cars, mega-gadgets, mega-waste and mega-waistlines.

If your average American were to be made to feel uncomfortable with the wanton destruction being caused in his name so that he can have more crap than the guy next door, why advertisers would be pulling ads because they weren't selling as much shit as they used to!

Which doesn't explain is why people in other countries with equally self-interested mass media aren't quiet so over-consuming as Americans. I'll guess that it's probably because they already consumed their country's natural resources to the breaking point, while America isn't quite so tapped-out yet. Still got mountains to strip mine, oil sands to nuke, and despot nations to plunder. On the other hand, the difference is probably moot compared to the horrors of a life not lived as a first-worlder.

It's good to be King the Emperorer Nero. Fiddle on, boys and girls, fiddle on!

Before you get your panties in a knot: North America.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:25 AM on May 17, 2008


Eight civilians have been killed in an air strike by US military helicopters north of Baghdad, Iraqi police say.
posted by homunculus at 9:07 AM on May 22, 2008


Suicide Bombers Kill 20, Wound Dozens in North; Firefight with Jihadis in Tikrit; VP Abdul Mahdi Praises IranP
posted by homunculus at 9:23 AM on May 31, 2008


In Iraq, a Surge in U.S. Airstrikes: Military Says Attacks Save Troops' Lives, but Civilian Casualties Elicit Criticism
posted by homunculus at 9:24 AM on May 31, 2008


Whatever Happened to Iraq? How the media lost interest in a long-running war with no end in sight
posted by homunculus at 1:27 PM on June 4, 2008


What the Family Would Let You See, the Pentagon Obstructs
posted by homunculus at 1:52 PM on June 4, 2008


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