Monday, August 04, 2008

Images of Fallen Americans in the Media

A bit off topic, but certainly worth mentioning: Kip, from abu muqawama, offers his insight on the media using images of dead American Servicemen as well as the average citizen's perspective of war.
We, that is the military, have indeed gone a long way toward sanitizing war for the average American. All that is asked of him or her is to stand with hand over the heart at the playing of the national anthem at a myriad of events and places. He is not asked to sacrifice for the war, neither from his blood nor from his pocketbook; he has, in effect, passed on the latter burden to his children. He neither understands the war nor the enemy that will continue to confront him.

Confronted with images of death, Americans will be forced to ask the question of what they ought be doing for the effort and who should be held accountable for mistakes. Faced with those images at the beginning of the war, they would be, Kip believes, more determined (not less) to win the long war.

OYE Comment: Please read the entire article as well as the many perceptive comments.

43 Comments:

At 05 August, 2008 22:56, Blogger Icarus said...

bull fucking shit.

showing images of dead American servicemen will embolden our enemies.

Conservative journalists don't seem to have a problem understanding this principle.

It is the largely liberal media who day after day report nothing but the horrors of war and say "see? we are losing." They want to show photographs of dead Americans for their own agendas.

 
At 05 August, 2008 23:58, Blogger Icarus said...

This is not to say that I disagree with the stated objective of this group which is to encourage people to serve their country but posting pictures of dead American kids is propaganda for the enemy, pure and simple.

 
At 06 August, 2008 00:53, Anonymous Mike said...

Icarus, the bullshit is emanating from your neck of the woods.

"Our enemies" include those who send US troops to war unnecessarily and on lies. These will not be emboldened by viewing their handiwork – they may not be shamed (many are shameless) but they should be, and one can dream.

If there were mainstream "liberal media," perhaps they would in fact report the horrors of war. We don't have such, though, and they don't. We have Establishment media that report nothing close to the horror of our current wars.

At a minimum, those in Congress who authorized and fund the wars, those in the Executive Branch who initiated and operate the wars and the supporters of the wars who for whatever reason can't manage to be on the line should be required to watch at least an hour per day of true war footage - blood, guts and kids screaming for their mothers. The least they could do, really.

 
At 06 August, 2008 11:10, Blogger Icarus said...

"'Our enemies' include those who send US troops to war unnecessarily and on lies. These will not be emboldened by viewing their handiwork – they may not be shamed (many are shameless) but they should be, and one can dream."

That's the first sign of a deranged mind. Honestly, if you want to see dead bodies, go play Grand Theft Auto and watch with glee as you kill people. Leave our soldiers and Marines alone.

 
At 06 August, 2008 12:31, Anonymous Mike said...

It's "deranged" to hold that people who treat US troops as pawns, and their lives as something to be squandered, should have to confront the consequences of their actions? If that's derangement, Christ save me from your brand of sanity.

Not that your riposte is very coherent, but I have no interest in seeing any more dead bodies than I have to. I've seen enough. That's why I don't support wars that are unnecessary.

Incidentally, you don't see dead bodies in GTA. You see animations. There's a difference between gaming and reality. If you don't comprehend the difference, perhaps that explains why you are making such a fuss about images of dead soldiers without showing much concern for the reality that real, flesh-and-bone soldiers and Marines are being killed in wars we shouldn't be fighting.

 
At 06 August, 2008 14:23, Blogger Icarus said...

Mike, thank you for demonstrating the mindset of the average liberal. You clearly have no interest in helping America or galvanizing its citizens to supporting our troops. You real purpose is to bash the government. Go protest outside the Capitol. Or start a petition.

 
At 06 August, 2008 14:37, Anonymous Mike said...

"Mike, thank you for demonstrating the mindset of the average liberal."

Anytime, Icarus. I welcome the opportunity to demonstrate what thoughtful concern for the nation and its troops looks like. So many of our fellow citizens would rather rely on cheap words, hollow slogans and lapel pins – while staying safely out of harm's way, of course. It's refreshing to find an environment in which it is recognized that "supporting the troops" means, first and foremost, not squandering their lives for dubious reasons.

 
At 06 August, 2008 15:46, Blogger Icarus said...

God forbid should your entire family get slaughtered, I at least hope that there's a photographer there who will post pictures of their corpses so that people can be notified of the horror caused by a gunmen.

Come to think of it, that could be part of a gun control ad.

 
At 06 August, 2008 20:39, Anonymous Mike said...

Well, that's not exactly an instance of Godwin's Law, but it's close enough for me to leave the nursery to those better equipped.

 
At 06 August, 2008 21:49, Blogger Icarus said...

Just a hypothetical. What if the dead American were your brother? And some "journalist" with a political aim uses his picture for or against the war in Iraq, any administration, etc?

 
At 07 August, 2008 14:35, Anonymous Greyghost99 said...

I'm reminded of the American Civil War here.

There were very few Confederate photographers covering the war, for various reasons that do not need to be discussed here. There were many Union ones (Mathew B Brady being just one.) The North SAW the results of the Civil war.

the New york Times wrote: (20th October, 1862)

Mr. Brady has done something to bring home to us the terrible reality and earnestness of war. If he has not brought bodies and laid them on our dooryard and along the streets, he has done something very like it. It seems somewhat singular that the same sun that looked down on the faces of the slain, blistering them, blotting out from the bodies all the semblance to humanity, and hastening corruption, should have thus caught their features upon canvas, and given them perpetuity for ever.

And yet, the Union won that war. The photographs helped people understand that this was not a game, or a play, but a real desperate struggle. In the 1860's, sex was the forbidden topic, and Death the discussed, understood and acknowledged reality. In the 2000's sex is commonplace, and Death the forbidden, frightening, superstition laden topic.

 
At 07 August, 2008 15:01, Blogger Icarus said...

greyghost99, that's a great historical example and I thank you for reminding us.

But the Civil War I think was more complicated than that. Indeed you may remember that there was an anti-war faction in the USA too. The 1864 Democratic Presidential Candidate wanted to negotiate with the South. Can you imagine a Confederate States today? Pictures of dead Union soldiers both hurt and helped morale in the North. I don't think people needed pictures to remind them of the horrors of that war. Indeed, the casualty reports from battlefields like Shiloh, Antietam, and Gettysburg were sufficient enough to do the job. And let's not forget that often whole regiments were lost in a single battle, decimating an entire town's young men.

And pictures of dead GIs were taken during World War Two as well. America was galvanized into defeating the Japanese as well as the Germans during World War Two. I doubt anyone needed photographs to remind them why victory was important.

 
At 08 August, 2008 00:13, Anonymous Mike said...

greyghost, I realize that you are responding to the canard that photojournalism (among other endeavors) emboldens "the enemy" and demoralizes "our" troops and civilians. The Civil War is indeed a critical reference – especially considering that it was the first major war "documented" by photography. (I qualify the word to account for the critique of photography as representation and the fact that Brady and others staged some of their photographs.)

Of course, it is difficult to determine what effect war photographs, in general, and the specific photographs that made the rounds had on public and sub-group morale. One critical factor would seem to be the viewer's understanding and acceptance of the reasons for the war, as well as his or her appreciation and understanding of Death (as you well put it) and war's other fruits. The more solidly the viewer understood and accepted the rationale for war and its costs, it is more likely that difficult photographs (such as of friendly, enemy or civilan dead) would strengthen his or her conviction that the war should continue. Conversely, the less the viewer understood or accepted the war's rationale and costs, it is more likely that difficult images would weaken his or her conviction that the war should continue.

Within this limited analysis, therefore, the effect of war photographs would seem to be driven less by the content of the images than by the context supplied by the viewer, except where the images destabilize the viewer's understanding of reality. It would follow that only those who had maintained fantasies about war would be shaken – e.g., Northerners who imagined that the South would roll over or that death and damage could be confined to the battlefield and combatants.

Nevertheless, this all begs the larger and (I think) more important question whether photojournalism should be a tool of the war effort or, instead, an independent conduit of information – whether the journalist's role is to support morale or report what he or she understands to be the truth. (We keep in mind, of course, the strong critique of photography and journalism as representational.)

The morale canard is premised on the notion that the photographer is absolutely and only to support the war effort, that he or she is but a propagandist (embedded or otherwise). The great danger of this is that wars will not be exposed to the illumination necessary for the nations and peoples who wage them to accurately assess if they are worth the price.

The morale of nations and people waging unnecessary and immoral wars should be shaken. The effort should falter and the war be ended, in ignominy if required. In contrast, wars that are necessary and worthwhile will be exposed, for all their earnest desperation, as necessary. The national and public resolve will only be strengthened.

 
At 08 August, 2008 09:56, Blogger Icarus said...

"The morale of nations and people waging unnecessary and immoral wars should be shaken. The effort should falter and the war be ended, in ignominy if required. In contrast, wars that are necessary and worthwhile will be exposed, for all their earnest desperation, as necessary. The national and public resolve will only be strengthened."

HA. Boy, you're a riot. I'm not saying it to be glib but you must really be from the Berkeley sphere of influence to be able to say something like that. You're living in the clouds, Mike. Come back down to earth.

 
At 08 August, 2008 12:23, Blogger Icarus said...

In my opinion, there is no such thing as a moral or immoral war. There's war. And when nations such as the United States go to war there are only two options: to win, or to go home.

I applaud the people behind OYE in their efforts to drive up recruitment. I think both Democrats and Republicans should serve their country and leave their political beliefs at home when they put on the uniform.

 
At 08 August, 2008 23:36, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The arab media (you know the media our enemies watch) already show dead bodies of US soldiers. So icarus, if our enemy have already seen the pictures, then who exactly are we protecting here?

 
At 08 August, 2008 23:58, Blogger Icarus said...

Throughout much of the war, the American media has broadcast nothing but negative news from Iraq and that has had an effect on America's morale. Al Jazeera and the rest of the Arab media are not seen by Americans for the most part. They don't have the same impact as they would if it were an American network.

 
At 09 August, 2008 03:01, Anonymous Mike said...

The morale of nations and people waging unnecessary and immoral wars should be shaken. The effort should falter and the war be ended...

HA... you must really be from the Berkeley sphere of influence... You're living in the clouds... Come back down to earth.


So, uh, no war should ever be ended, no nation's morale ever shaken? All wars should be unceasing?

Among the reasons I'm proud to be a Berkeley alumnus is that the education helps to avoid advocating such notions.

In my opinion, there is no such thing as a moral or immoral war...

This is why they say what they say about opinions.

...when nations such as the United States go to war...

What, precisely, is a nation "such as the United States"? What characteristic are you ascribing to the United States, as opposed to other nations or classes of nations?

...there are only two options: to win, or to go home.

Well, in the reality-based world (not the cloud-land I think you mentioned), there are third and fourth options.They're called (1) "a draw" (or a negotiated peace) and (2) "losing." For recent examples, see the First and Second Indo-China wars (Korea and Viet Nam), respectively.

Regardless, looking at the current wars in which the U.S. is involved, I'll take "go home." Speaking of which, and despite the fact that I want you to go home, too, I am curious in what branch and unit of the service you are currently attached (to the extent that you can report, obviously, respecting OpSec concerns).

I don't think your reply adequately responds to Anonymous's point. Your initial claim was that "showing images of dead American servicemen will embolden our enemies." Anonymous pointed out that, whether true or not, the point is moot, because "our enemies" can and already have seen such images on Arab media.

Then, you switched tacks, claiming instead that the issue is the effect on American morale. Quite apart from my points, your claim undervalues the actual deaths of American troops. It is also inconsistent with your claims in response to greyghost's comments on the Civil War.

First, it seems to me that the primary injury to American morale (and, specifically, since you've made a crude point of it, the morale of each dead American's family) is the death of American troops (and mercenaries and civilians). If Americans and their morale can handle the deaths, seeing photographs should be a cakewalk. If Americans can't handle the photographs, they certainly can't handle the deaths, and we shouldn't be in the war. Of course, the fact that we remain in the war means that they can handle the deaths – and, a fortiori, the photographs.

Second, in response to greyghost you claimed that Americans did not need "pictures to remind them of the horrors of... war." You claimed that "casualty reports... were sufficient..." You doubted that "anyone needed photographs to remind them why victory was important." If Americans are truly so capable of absorbing the horrors of war and remaining resolute from verbal reports and innate fortitude, I doubt they can be shaken by mere pictures.

Of course, this at once sensitive and stoic characterization works only with wars with regard to which the public is deeply convinced of and committed to the rationale and the costs. That is, it works only with wars in which the public knows the truth of wars in general and the specific war at issue.

Thus, your concern with photographs seems to be fear that the public does not know the truth about our current wars – and may learn it. The fear is that the public will rebel at the costs and either demand withdrawal or more passively withhold support. It is certainly a legitimate fear for the current wars, in which the public was both sold and built up for itself the twin fantasies of legitimate rationale and victory on the cheap. In essence, the fear is that the public will get wise.

This strikes me as an incredibly aristocratic – indeed, "elite" – attitude to take toward the American people. It is also profoundly un-democratic. I would have thought that great patriots would trust the American people to never lose faith, never be shaken, never flag or fail in a war that they truly believed was worthwhile and truly was worthwhile. Indeed, I believe this is one bulwark democracy and republicanism provide against improper use of the military – that the public, fully and accurately informed, will sustain the morale to wage only wars that are absolutely necessary.

 
At 09 August, 2008 03:04, Anonymous Leigh Wolf - SFSU CRs said...

Wek, do you do birthday parties? If so, how much and can you make balloon animals?

 
At 09 August, 2008 12:54, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So, the arab media can't watch CNN because.... oh who are we kidding.

The reason why the government doesn't want dead bodies shown is due to the fact that if Americans saw the injured and dead, they'd probably impeach George Bush and send Dick Cheney to Leavenworth. Condi Rice would be at some women's prison in upstate NY.

 
At 09 August, 2008 15:35, Blogger Icarus said...

too bad for you but great for America and the military; the American people believe we are winning the war in Iraq and the War on Terrorism. Thanks to General Petraeus' leadership.

 
At 10 August, 2008 01:12, Blogger Icarus said...

Anonymous, that is the dumbest thing I've ever read. Dead bodies would get Bush impeached? No, Bush didn't order those men to Iraq without Congress' approval. The majority of the American people supported the Iraq invasion. And let's not forget that the ENEMY killed our soldiers and Marines.

 
At 10 August, 2008 02:15, Blogger robash141 said...

Leigh Wolf - SFSU CRs said...
Wek, do you do birthday parties? If so, how much and can you make balloon animals?

Welcome back Leigh.
How was boot camp?

 
At 10 August, 2008 22:52, Blogger Wek said...

icarus- it's great to know you still check out OYE. Really appreciate your thoughts on this (as well as the others that expressed their opinions).

leigh- dude, you're in college! Date girls that are past the balloon animal stage of life.

 
At 10 August, 2008 23:14, Blogger Icarus said...

Thanks for posting this Wek.

Speaking as a brother of an active duty Marine bound for war, if something were to happen to him and an embedded journalist were to snap his picture I'd hunt him down and make him suffer before he died.

 
At 11 August, 2008 02:09, Blogger robash141 said...

Wow!
Icarus, I detect some pretty hostility towards the free press.

Unfortunately for you , a free press is one of the Constitutional principles that you, me your brother on his way to Iraq and everyone else who served in the US Military swore an oath to uphold and defend.

I can understand your concern for your brother and all the service people and their families They all should be accorded proper respect.

I believe the families wishes should be the most important.


I don't believe that the American people should be shielded from viewing the consequences weather they are positive or negative of the war that we are being forced to pay for.

All these restrictions that the Pentagon is putting on the families are ridiculous.

Once a service member is dead their obligation to the Pentagon is obviously over,

so it should be up to that deceased persons next of kin as to whether pictures are released not the Pentagon.

Barring, of course, some obvious tactical reason. like giving away troop movements

Saying it "emboldens the enemy: is much too vague thats just Orwellian
doublespeak by of and for the benefit of the politicians not the soldiers

 
At 11 August, 2008 16:23, Blogger Doppelganger said...

What emboldens our enemies is knowing that the leadership of their foe is incompetnet and more concerned with propping up a failed ideology - and lining their pockets - than they are with adopting a legitimate, sensible foreign policy.

As for Congress authorizing the invasion of Iraq - well, when you are fed false 'intelligence' and told that failure to act will result in confirmation in the form of a 'mushroom cloud', your options are severely limited.

I find it a disgrace that our government is hiding the bodies of our fallen service men and women. It is as if they are ashamed of them.

 
At 11 August, 2008 16:24, Blogger Doppelganger said...

As far as conservative 'journalists' understanding, well, anything, recall that these are people who, like the Rovians in the white house, are more interested in furthering an agenda than doing anything tainted with honesty and comeptence.

 
At 11 August, 2008 17:45, Blogger robash141 said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 11 August, 2008 17:48, Blogger robash141 said...

Verily verily,
The only thing a lot of "conservative" commentators appear to understand is how to slavishly kiss GOP ass.

 
At 12 August, 2008 00:45, Blogger CartoonCoyote said...

Speaking as a brother of an active duty Marine bound for war, if something were to happen to him and an embedded journalist were to snap his picture I'd hunt him down and make him suffer before he died.

Why not sign up and go with your brother so you can maybe watch his back, O Krazy Keyboard Kommando?

The likelihood of you actually doing that is the same as that of you actually carrying out your threat. Writing a million-dollar check with your mouth when your ass account is overdrawn--PFFFFT!

Semper Fi, tough guy!

 
At 12 August, 2008 02:13, Blogger Icarus said...

CartoonCoyote, I appreciate your concern. As it happened I already served in Iraq. I'm honorably discharged from the Corps and at the moment attending college. But I intend on reenlisting as soon as I get my degree. So all journalists beware. HA.

Oh and Cartoon, go to hell.

 
At 12 August, 2008 15:42, Blogger Groenhagen said...

This debate is far from new.

"In Washington's new Pentagon building, officers studied the pictures of dead Marines on Tarawa, debating whether to release them to the press. They decided to do it; it was time, they felt, to shock the home front into understanding the red harvest of combat. The published photographs touched off an uproar. Nimitz received sacks of mail from grieving relatives--a mother wrote, 'You killed my son'--and editorials demanded a congressional investigation." - From William Manchester's "Goodbye, Darkness"

The Clinton administration apparently had this in mind when it decided not to share the government's footage of the aftermath of the "Blackhawk Down" incident with the media.

 
At 12 August, 2008 18:24, Blogger robash141 said...

Cartoon Coyote, whatever postion you are purporting to espouse is not helped by insulting someone's honorable service.

I think Icarus is seriously misguided in his attitudes towards the press.
I might question his judgement but I would not question either his courage or his patriotism.

 
At 12 August, 2008 22:38, Blogger Icarus said...

Thanks for your compliment, robash141, but how exactly am I misguided in my attitudes towards the press?

 
At 13 August, 2008 00:10, Anonymous cartooncoyote said...

As it happened I already served in Iraq. I'm honorably discharged from the Corps and at the moment attending college.

Yeah, and I'm Donald Rumsfeld.

Kiss my ass, li'l fella. HOO-hah!

 
At 13 August, 2008 00:25, Blogger Icarus said...

Coyote, do you really think I'd impersonate a member of the United States military? Do you know how dishonorable that is? Impersonating a member of the military is a felony, mind you.

That's your modus operandi, isn't it. To accuse people of being a chicken hawk and then when it turns out they''ve actually served you deny it. You can't have it both ways, motherfucker.

 
At 13 August, 2008 18:47, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Coyote, do you really think I'd impersonate a member of the United States military?"

I do.

"Do you know how dishonorable that is?"

Yes, do you?

 
At 13 August, 2008 19:24, Blogger Icarus said...

Tell me, Anonymous, are you a veteran? What branch?

I really can't tell through the internet whether someone is or is not a veteran/serviceman.

How are you so sure I'm not?

 
At 13 August, 2008 23:57, Blogger Wek said...

Anon @ 18:47 and Coyote- thank you both for your great contribution to OYE. We sure couldn't do it here without folks like you! We're always really impressed with those that level baseless accusations at a Veteran. Particularly when it's done behind a computer monitor!

...now go troll somewhere else.

 
At 14 August, 2008 00:31, Blogger robash141 said...

Icarus, you should ask those trolls if they are willing to write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper accusing you by name, of lying about your military service.

You might even want to helpfully provide them with the link

They would have to use their real names when they write these slanders of course.

cause Whatever happens after that is on them.

This tactic usually shuts down even the most obnoxious troll even Groenhagen.

See, the free press isn't so bad after all.

 
At 14 August, 2008 10:39, Blogger Icarus said...

Thanks for the advice, robash141.

The attack of faceless and anonymous cynics don't phase me a whole lot.

The can email a GS11 (Marine Corps civilian official) to confirm my service. All they have to do is say the word and I will give my email address and the name of that official so they can find out.

 
At 14 August, 2008 18:29, Blogger robash141 said...

Well maybe it doesn't bug you but it annoys and offends the shit out of me.

I think the newspaper route is better because I think a little public humiliation is in order for these kinds of transgressions, rather than some dry exchange of emails.

 

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