Interesting rights/responsibilities/censorship one

Discussion in 'Current Affairs, News and Analysis' started by RiflemanKnobber, Oct 20, 2008.

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  1. We all like Michael Yon's reporting. How about this?

    'Zoriah' is a US photojournalist: credible, with a history of taking some excellent pics in war and disaster zones. He was embedded with US marines in Anbar, and took a set of very graphic pictures of the aftermath of a suicide bombing;

    Blog post

    He waited until the dead marines' families were notified. A US marine general is now trying to have him barred from all US military access worldwide. This raises the issue of access to the reality of what we do - good article here:

    New York Times

    Got me thinking: are we right to keep such images from the public in order to keep the 'war effort' going, or are should we be saying that if we believe in the rightness of our cause, we have no problems with total access?

  2. My immediate reaction is mixed....... I can fully understand, from the families' point of view, why they might not want pictures of their loved ones in pieces up there for the world to see. However, my other equally strong response is, if the people of Iraq and the soldiers on the ground have to endure this (far more graphically than we do) then why should we be protectd from it?

    I feel it also gives some much needed perspective for some of us. I remember, a couple of years ago, feeling particlarly triumphant over something or other (might have been when Saddam was captured) and going on the Al Jazeera website to remind myself of the other view - only to be confronted with a close up of a young boy about my son's age who'd had the top of his head blown off in an American bombing of a building. Needless to say that image and the feeling that went with it is never too far from my mind.
  3. Good topic RK, and relevant right across the board.

    Does anyone remember Rumsfeld going nuts about the Iraqis showing the aftermath of THAT convoy ambush, yet footage was still being shown of dead Iraqis?

    The problem is, when does it cross the line from frontline journalism , to abhorrent war porn? I don't need or want to see images of dead British or Allied soldiers , they're dead, let them be. I have no wish to go surfing the net looking for such images. Perhaps I believe in dignity in death, and the right of our fallen to be held in respect, not treated like a carnival freak show.

    I felt very very angry about the imagery being shown after the ambush of the Sappers, the BW ambush at Dogwood, and the aftermath of the RMP last stand.

    Conversely, images of dead suicide bombers I feel need to be shown, not for celebration, but for any deterrent value they may have. I have no qualms either , about imagery of dead terrorists being shown , for the same reason.
  4. Part of the reason HMG and the Bush Administration have been able to sustain their jolly japes so long is because of a very successful policy of isolating the general public from the 'realities' of their wars. FFS, most of the public are completely unaware of the total death toll and blithely say we've only lost 3,000 (US) or 150 (UK). And how many can even get within a million of those that have been 'ethnically cleansed' ( - ooops displaced!!!) in Iraq?

    If some grotesque war pornography was on the 10 o'clock news every night, I suspect our interventions in both Iraq and Afghanistan would have ended some time ago.
  5. Deterrent to who? Plenty of said images available on the net with the express intent of attracting new martyrs to the cause.
  6. I'll believe there are good journalistic reasons for doing this when the media start publishing pictures of civilians killed in car accidents.

    I see no good reason for treating service personnel differently.
  7. Spot on.

    Is there any real need to show our own images. If our enemies decide to do it then so be it. Such is life.

    However for our own press to Breach the privacy of the families would be quite sad. I don't think there are many mums out there who want to see their sons lying dead in the desert.

    We have a say over our own, and I say we should respect our dead. However their dead should be shown for all to see for the reasons PTP mentioned.

    I may be two faced but they are my thoughts.
  8. I don't know. My immediate reaction was that this was unacceptable. But then I got to thinking about it. There are at least 4 angles that make me think we might need to consider it as a valid bit of journalism that we should respect.

    I think the answer to that is that no one has deliberately, as a matter of political purpose, killed civilians in car crashes. These dead - on all sides - are dead because of foreign policy decisions, and it is arguably fair enough to make people realise exactly what their cheering gung-ho support for 'our boys', or 'Blair's wars' can mean...

    Can we really claim this as 'fair does'. I hate seeing our dead - that first picture is what got me thinking about all this, it upset me so much. But - I'm inclined to think if I'm very happy to see bits of terrorist in the media, I can't logically object to such pics of our people - it's both or neither, surely?

    3. Historic precedent. There are several iconic photos out there that no-one calls 'foul' on that show this sort of thing. The NYT article above makes this point with some classic Vietnam shots of marines casevaccing wounded/dead comrades.

    As an example, this is pretty raw to those of us with experience out there:
    But it reminded me of something I'd seen before: A famous shot by Robert Capa of a dead US soldier, shot on the last day of the war in Europe - I think it's an almost spooky parallel:

    4. The photographer's right to publish a shot he's 'earned'. Less justifiable, maybe, but the guy's out there, sharing the risks to some extent. Most of the comments on the site have been praising Michael Yon, because he's 'on message' - just because this guy shows some unpleasant truths, should we seek to censor him, when he's put himself at risk to secure this picture?

    I think my main objection is that - as pointed out by whitecity - this sort of thing can damage the national 'will to war'. Whilst part of me says 'good - let's force our politicians to really justify why we're there', part of me remembers that this sort of open access was instrumental in changing the US public's attitude to Vietnam, with results we all know.

    But perhaps that's precisely why we should allow it? If we believe in the cause (think back to the Capa photo), the nation will accept the reality. If the cause is flawed or poorly thought through, is it really a tragedy if such pictures 'get the boys home'?? I still hate seeing 'our dead', but I suspect that's an emotional gut level reaction that I can't logically support.
  9. However it is dangerous to sensitize the population to such an extent that we as a nation actually become unable to deploy troops anywhere to meet a threat.

    A fine balance.
  10. Agreed whitecity. There is very much an out of sight, out of mind view. In the wider public this leads to ignorance of the situation.

    For the families of those killed, it is an all too graphic underlining, of how their loved one has lost his life and therefore understandable that many would not wish to see such images published.

    This dilemma for broadcasters, will become more pronounced. The ease with which an image can be recorded, and uploaded without censorship, will lead (IMHO) to many more hard news sites on the internet. Examples on this thread already of the type of imagery, that would be unlikely to be published by the UK media.

    PTP raises the issue of showing dead suicide bombers / terrorists, as reasonable, but in certain parts of the ME, these images do garner support for terrorist movements and their recruitment. Agreed re the footage in the aftermath of the incidents quoted.

    Censorship in the name of the bereaved families (more often self-imposed)or to fit with the overall clean war picture, that our governments are so keen to espouse?
  11. old_fat_and_hairy

    old_fat_and_hairy LE Book Reviewer Reviews Editor

    A very interesting post, and some valuable points made.
    Sadly, the populace, in general, have become desensitised to images of dead and dismembered, thanks in part to gory video games, films and such like. A great many people find it hard to relate the real images to reality, as opposed to the special effects that are so often used in entertainment.
    A common criticism or argument used about the violence so prevalent in society is this de-sensitisation, and the fact that young people have difficulty in distinguishing between what is real and what is not.

    A mention was made of the war in Vietnam, and this also illustrates a counter argument for showing these images. The intrusion by the nightly news into the comfortable life of Americans and the regular film of body bags, wounded and dying soldiers was credited with eroding the will of the people, and congress over the war.
    This was, in effect, the first war fought in the full glare of the media spotlight, thanks to the modernisation of broadcasting techniques and technical advancements, and the images in full colour and sound had the effect of destroying the myths that had previously surrounded the forces fighting abilities.

    No doubt at all, it is a double edged sword. On the one hand, it is to the benefit of the coalition to show their successes, but detrimental to show the dead and wounded from our own side.
  12. Its not nice but war isn't nice, perhaps if there was a greater exposure to the grim realities of conflict areas people would be less inclined to let politicians lead us to war.................................well thats one argument

    Gore is just bad and to some degree professional photographers "Artyfie" (yes not a word) it with the composition of phots

    You know what I don't know

    What about, just exposing all politicians to sh+t loads of it as an on going concern. Sir, here are the daily photos of every single injured or killed soldier this week from the field hospitals. Then perhaps a weekend round robin of the bereaved families
  13. Looking at the phots on the link I don't find them that gory or unsettling infact barely a blip, what that says about me I don't know

    I presume american generals don't like too much war photography as it looses the situation public backing and inevietably reductions in numbers on the ground as politicians pander to the public and down play involvement .........................BUT still the job has to be done :x

    Less support = less bodies= harder job= potentially more friendly body bags
  14. old_fat_and_hairy

    old_fat_and_hairy LE Book Reviewer Reviews Editor

    My bold.

    A wonderful idea, but that presupposes that politicians care, have a conscience, are bothered by what the voters think, or have any concerns or compassion for the families.
    adly, I doubt they do. When you look at these people, and their past records, you realise that they hold the general population in total contempt. We are regarded as sheep, or cash cows, not humans. Would you imagine someone like Mandeleson to have a conscience? To care about anyone who cannot advance his career or provide more money for him?

    The other harsh truth is that the general population themselves don't care that much. I work on a military base, and most of the civilian staff , whilst being quite compassionate when it's someone the may know, in real terms are not that interested.
    Imagine how the average family are, when their prime concern is paying the mortgage, hoping their savings are safe, trying to make sure their kids are looked after and all the other concerns of Mr and Mrs Average. They may tut about the war, will nod their head and feel sad that another young man or woman has died, or been seriously injured, but it is not their prime concern, and when shocking or disturbing images are shown, will quickly change the channel.

    Be honest, if the boot was on the other foot, would most of us care about the travails of a civilian family we didn't know?
  15. Some very fair points. However I think you missed the point about Vietnam. It was the sight of atrocities carried out by friendly Vietnamese troops on suspected Viet Cong, such as the summary execution of a bound man which not only turned Middle America against the war but also turned them against their own troops. Few of those old enough to have seen images of US Troops getting booed and spat on by US civilians on their return from Vietnam will ever forget it. I cannot imagine how they must truly have felt but if I had been one of those returning soldiers after 12 months of action and seeing my comrades dieing off one by one my disdain for my country would have been total. Perhaps that is why so many Vietnam vets turned to crime and violence when the returned home.

    The fact that 3 US soldiers died in the reported incident is enough, why does everyone have to see every gory detail? One of the great lies we always try to tell family is that their grandson/son/brother/husband died almost instantly and in no pain. It is worrying enough that families have to worry about an 'abstract' death or injury without graphically spelling it out for them. I believe that for the same reasons pictures of dead Iraqis should also not be shown as showing their injuries will show what soldiers daily face themselves.

    I think most civilians can probably empathise with our troops and understand that they don't have it easy without such graphic imagery. Let our children maintain their innocence. There is such a common bond of experience amongst the Army, soldiers help each other to deal with what they witness and have the infrastructure in place to deal with those that just need camaraderie to recover. How the psychiatric services cope (through external Governmental interference not the skill or dedication of the practitioners) is open to debate.