Saturday, September 25, 2004

War photography is essentially antiwar

If people see photos of the horrific human destruction in this war they'll be angry.

Solution? Simple, don't show too many harsh war photographs.

A rigid system of image control was imposed in Grenada, Panama and the Persian Gulf war. Though the Pentagon's experiment with embedding loosened some of those controls, there were still limits. No soldiers bleeding in the sand, please. No body bags. No coffins.

The Pentagon image-mongers had learned from Vietnam that all great war photography is essentially antiwar photography. Too often their goals are assisted by squeamish editors, with generally honorable intentions, far from the killing fields.
Pete Hamill, NY Times

Editors don't want to seen hiding the truth; they give lots of other rationales for why they don't show the photos. Privacy. Not supportive of the troops. Bad taste. Possible desensitizing. The children might see. Embolden the enemy. Bad for morale. All good reasons, but also all dancing around the truth. If we were exposed to the images of the limbs ripped off children, soldiers with brains spilling down their worthless body armor, a lot more people would say, "Enough! This must stop!" The press understands the simple act of showing an image is antiwar, so in any attempt to be "fair and balanced" about the war they must NOT show real horrific images.

This administration is selling a product that no sane person would continue to buy if they knew the horrible truth about it. They might tolerate it for awhile if they can hold in their heads either fear for their own safety or good, noble reasons to kill humans and bomb children. But if the fear doesn't really exist and the noble reasons are shown to be a sham, a steady diet of gruesome images will quickly weaken any residual resolve.

Bush and Cheney keep the focus on abstract "truths" like freedom and independence. The media will use numbers, bar charts, and still photos of people in uniform to symbolize the dead. But you will never the image of their faces contorted from a violent painful death.

Can an image change your mind about how you feel about something and then how you act? Yes. That is deepest reason real war photos are not printed in the mainstream press.


Anonymous said...

It is extraordinary how hostage and terrorist dramas are played out front page in the media but the daily carnage of war is screened out. The main problem is the media's pretence at objectivity - they are playing a political role specifically not to undermine military policy by showing upsetting images. And voters don't want to pay for all that military hardware only to be made to feel sick at seeng it being used, so they are happy with this state of affairs !

I wrote about this a bit at:


10:05 AM  
spocko said...

Will. I commented on your blog about your post listing.

And voters don't want to pay for all that military hardware only to be made to feel sick at seeng it being used, so they are happy with this state of affairs ! You bet! But we LOVE seeing those 1.3 million dollar smart bombs fly into buildings from 10,000 feet. Or via the in bomb cameras. Cool! Just as long as we don't see any dead children we are fine.

I have to believe that if the media showed more real photos or video the people would scream. But of course the politicians would yell at the media and the war mongers would claim that the media was hurting the war effort,
EVEN IF THE WAR IS A BAD ONE. They then will cloak their supression as "we need to support the troops!"

10:50 AM  
Anonymous said...

By that light, Photos of atrocities against one people by another are pro-war.

6:59 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home