Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Witnessing the Violence of Iraq from the Homefront

War is never two things: pretty, or cheap.

Americans have been relatively shielded from the horrors of the war. After those fabulous "shock and awe" fireworks and desert-cam images we were treated to at the beginning of the war, ostensibly to convince us that was going to be a cake walk. From where I'm sitting the TV news media has relatively shielded from most graphic and viseral horrors of the war, and its true costs -- both human and financial.

Yes, its understatably sad to see people crying after a bomb has shredded their children to ribbons. Those images tear at our hearts for a moment before the most civilized of us must put them out of minds. To enter the world of sadness of the crying parent would be just terrible for most of us -- its our worst nightmare, and TV gives us just enough distance from the situation so that part of our psyche can pretend that the problem goes away along with the images.

The aftermath is what the media typically capture, because its hard to impossible to catch the news happening in real time, especially in war. There are no press releases issued prior to a bombing or a secret raid. That means that the most shocking images must come to us from the participants in the wars rather than the media.

American troops themselves are purported to have traded digital pictures of mutilated insurgents for access to pornography. And who could forget those aweful pictures from Abu Ghraib.

For their part, the insurgency and terrorists have also shown us incredibly cruel video and photographs of beheadings, mutilations and roadside detonations.

Increasingly, the U.S. media's role in covering the violence of the Iraq war seems to be that of editor: reporting on the existence of these terrible images, and sometimes taking us right up to the most violent moment without showing us the most graphic.

The internet is increasingly disintermediating the editor, but in times of war an editor is exactly what I want. I want to be protected from the violence, the pain, destruction and the suffering. I want to know just enough about what's going on, but not everything. Because if I were exposed fully to the true horrors of Iraq without filtering it through an editor, I am certain that I couldn't handle the truth.

No comments: