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May 21, 2005
The "Bloodless" War?By Greyhawk
Many photographers and editors believe they are delivering Americans an incomplete portrait of the violence that has killed 1,797 U.S. service members and their Western allies and wounded 12,516 Americans.Translation: American's are stupid, don't read, and need pictures. The story includes a score card revealing which papers support this view:
The New York Times and Los Angeles Times printed the most shots of wounded in the war zone during that time ? with 10 each, an average of one every 2 1/2 weeks. The other six publications ran a total of 24 pictures of American wounded.A narrated flashplayer slideshow accompanying the online version of the story includes several examples of gruesome wartime corpse photos through history, and also the bloodiest images thus far from Iraq. Don't think for a minute such images are easy to obtain - the Times explains the tremendous efforts their photographers must employ to get usable-quality corpse photos:
Tyler Hicks of the New York Times and Carolyn Cole of the Los Angeles Times accompanied the Army in August during the dangerous assault on the insurgent stronghold of Najaf. They weathered several life-threatening episodes with the troops. But much of the respect they gained disappeared when the two tried to take pictures of wounded and dead soldiers being rushed to a field hospital.It likely never occurred to the fellow platoon members of the wounded soldiers that their actions were "preventing Cole from doing her job" (or, if you prefer, "making a buck").
Of course, there might be other things for a photographer to do while Americans bleed to death. This description of the actions of one in Mosul during last December's chow hall bombing is especially troubling:
Blasted to the ground, Hoffmeyer pulled himself up and into the chaos of the deadliest attack of the war on any U.S. base. A young man bleeding to death beside him would be one of 22 to die that day.We can only hope there was someone administering first aid to the subject of Hoffmeyer's photos, the story doesn't include that detail. But "his hand pressed over a neck wound streaming with blood" troubles me deeply.
One wonders if amid rapidly falling circulation numbers the editors of some papers aren't looking back with nostalgia to the slight bump in sales that accompanied their publication of photos of contractor corpses in Fallujah in April 2004. The LA Times quickly defended the display of those graphic images at the time of their publication: "While showing the images could erode support for the war, not showing them could have an opposite effect.". And as with this year's version they also provided expert quotes from outside sources:
"These are the kinds of pictures that will linger," said John Schulz, dean of Boston University's College of Communications and a former faculty member at the National War College.
Posted by Greyhawk / May 21, 2005 6:40 PM | Permalink
Greyhawk has an excellent post about the journalists and newspapers trying (and at times succeeding) in photographing the deaths of... Read More
Update: Susanna's post was inspired by this post by Greyhawk, which is a must-read. Susanna Cornette - an early read here at AWS - goes deep on some of the ethical issues of photographing death and dying. I wouldn't say that all or even most of new... Read More
November 26, 2010
I think anyone who's ever pondered the "comment" option - once only available on blogs and bulletin boards, now ubiquitous on almost any web site - will appreciate this:
The so-called faculty of writing is not so much a faculty of writing as it is a faculty of thinking. When a man says, "I have an idea but I can't express it"; that man hasn't an idea but merely a vague feeling. If a man has a feeling of that kind, and will sit down for a half an hour and persistently try to put into writing what he feels, the probabilities are at least 90 percent that he will either be able to record it, or else realize that he has no idea at all. In either case, he will do himself a benefit.
That's wisdom from the past, captured for posterity at the US Naval Institute, shared via the web on the institute's 137th anniversary.
From their about page:
"The Naval Institute has three core activities," among them, History and Preservation:
The Naval Institute also has recently introduced Americans at War, a living history of Americans at war in their own words and from their own experiences. These 90-second vignettes convey powerful stories of inspiration, pride, and patriotism.
Take a look at the collection, and you'll see it's not limited to accounts from those who served on ships at sea, members of the other branches are well-represented.
I'm fortunate to have met USNI's Mary Ripley, she's responsible for the institute's oral history program (and she's the daughter of the late John Ripley, whose story is told here). She also deserves much credit for their blog. ("We're not the Navy nor any government agency. Blog and comment freely.") We met at a milblog conference - Mary knew (and I would come to realize) that milbloggers are the 21st-century version of exactly what the US Naval Institute is all about. Once that light bulb came on in my head, I mentioned a vague idea for a project to her - milblogs as the 21st century oral history that they are.
"Put that in writing," she said (of course - see first paragraph above!) - and here's part of the result.
Shortly after the first tent was pitched by the American military in Iraq a wire was connected to a computer therein, and the internet was available to a generation of Americans at war - many of whom had grown up online. From that point on, at any given moment, somewhere in Iraq a Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine was at a keyboard sharing the events of his or her day with the folks back home. While most would simply fire off an email, others took advantage of the (then) relatively new online blogging platforms to post their thoughts and experiences for the entire world to see. The milblog was born - and from that moment to this stories detailing everything from the most mundane aspects of camp life to intense combat action (often described within hours of the event) have been available on the web...
And et cetera - but since you're reading this on a milblog, you probably knew that. And you know that milblogs aren't just blogs written by troops at war, that many friends, family members, and supporters likewise documented their story of America at war online in near-real time, as those stories developed.
The diversity in membership of that group is broad, the one thing we all have in common is the impulse to make sense of the seemingly senseless, and communicate the tale - for each of us that impulse was strong enough to overcome whatever barriers prevent the vast majority of people from doing the same. Everyone at some point has some vague idea they believe should be shared - we were the people who, from some combination of internal and external urging, found and spent those many half hours persistently trying to write it down.
But where will all that be in another 137 years? Or five or ten, for that matter. That's something I've asked myself since at least 2004 - when I wrote this:
Membership in the ghost battalion has grown in the years since, and an ever growing majority of those abandoned-but-still-standing sites are vanishing. Have you checked out Lt Smash's site lately? How about Sgt Hook's? If you're a long-time milblog reader you know the first widely-read milblog from Operation Iraq Freedom and the first widely-read milblog from Afghanistan are both gone from the web. If you're a relative newcomer to this world you may never even have heard of them - or the dozens upon dozens of others who carried forth the standard they set down.
If you have a vague notion that something should be done about that, (a notion I've heard expressed more than once...) then you and I and the good folks at the US Naval Institute are in agreement. Preserving the history documented by the milbloggers is just one of the goals of the milblog project, the once-vague idea that we're now making real.
And it's a big idea, if I say so myself - too big to explain in one simple blog post, so stand by for more. Likewise, it's too big a task to be accomplished by just one person. So if you're a milblogger (and exactly what is a milblogger? is a topic for much further discussion on its own) I'm asking for your help. All I'll really need is just a little bit (maybe just one or two of those half hours...) of your time, and your willingness to tell the tale.
We've already made history, it's time to save it.
(More to follow...)
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