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In a grainy video posted today on a militant Islamic Web site, Nick Berg -- an American businessman from outside Philadelphia -- is shown sitting on the floor in orange prison garb with five masked men behind him. After reading a statement saying they want to avenge the suffering of Iraqi prisoners at the hands of U.S. soldiers, the men behead Berg.I think the CBS broadcast of the pictures of Abu Ghraib was likely a convenient and timely excuse for the terrorists to do what they always intended, but such speculation is academic. The bombardment of gruesome images last May (and earlier - recall the photos of the mob victims in Fallujah) certainly marked a turning point in the media coverage of the war in Iraq.
Why show such images at all? The cynical answer is to sell newspapers, but I'm ever mindful of this quote from the LA Times regarding the display of graphic images of murdered contractors in Fallujah:
"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.The Abu Ghraib photos were still to come. But by the time of the murder of Nick Berg apparently the attitude of the media had shifted, and viewers were spared the gruesome footage.
"They'll be there in November when people go to vote."
Regardless of motivation the presentation of imagery from the Iraq war often has unexpected results. Here's another quote from the LA Times piece above (an archived version of the story is available here):
During the height of the war, few pictures of slain American soldiers were shown and news photographers were not allowed at places where they could shoot images of coffins being shipped home.Though apparently saner heads prevailed to end the quest for American corpse photos, the thirst for images of flag-draped cakets proved unquenchable for certain segments of society. A year-long search was launched. But oddly enough the photos of flag-draped coffins failed to have the desired result. If anything, support for the troops (and by extension, their mission) grew with each photo published - perhaps re-affirming the reality of the sacrifice they made.
For whatever reasons, by early last November the demand for flag-draped casket photos was fading fast, so much so, in fact, that a few days ago when the Pentagon released hundreds of them it was hardly news at all.
But all is not lost for collectors of war-porn. Abu Ghraib is back - if it ever went away - and the trial of the last of the accused soldiers is about to begin. The all-too famous pictures will be on front pages once again, and who knows what the "insurgents" might provide by way of response this year.
Perhaps then we should recall some even earlier images, seldom seen.
I believe in WW II photos of US war dead were not allowed to be shown until 43 or 44 - and only then to remind Americans the war wasn't over already and it was real.Posted by Aaron at May 12, 2005 08:57 AM Hide Comments | Show/Add Comments in Popup Window(1) | (Note: You must refresh main page to view newly posted comments here)