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Ignoring the enemy, because, well, he's not newsworthy.

Apropos the discussion we've been having on the photo of Lance Corporal Bernard.  Wrapped up in the response to the publication of that picture are several issues, which are often conflated, and which make a coherent discussion of the picture difficult, as those issues strike at some very basic values.

Below is a post from MaryAnn at Soldier's Angels Germany, and posted her with permission.
 

 
Anti-Afghan Forces detonate a rocket on a convoy in Afghanistan with children in the immediate area. The 951st EN Sapper Co, attached to Task Force Spartan, treat Afghan children wounded when they are conducting a routine patrol near Charkh Afghanistan and their convoy is struck by a rocket. Spc Chris Baker of Task Force Spartan, 10th Mountain Division, reports.

This horrific act was captured on video by a camera mounted on a coalition vehicle. Eyewitnesses report the triggerman had full line of sight to the child standing just several feet away from the hidden rocket - but he detonated it anyway. You can see the child stagger out of the dust cloud resulting from the explosion. (Not shown: His injuries were treated by US soldiers on the scene and he was brought to a US medical facility for further treatment.)

Not the first time this has happened, but a shocking reminder of the nature of the enemy. This is why we fight, and why we must prevail.

Exit question: Has anyone seen this story covered in the media?
In our conversation on the subject, prompted by Sanger's essay on the subject of photojournalism, I made the following comment:

"In the New York Times, a discussion by a photo journalist, David Kennerly, who objected to the editorial usage of one of his photographs, that cuts to part of what Sanger is after.

I find it interesting that Mr. Kennerly cites his icons...
We photojournalists have a long and storied tradition of striving for objectivity. Many of my colleagues have died flying that banner. I consider myself as much historian as photographer, having spent a 40-year career endeavoring to make photographs that inform, not misinform. My heroes are the likes of Joe Rosenthal, who photographed the Marines raising the flag over Iwo Jima; Eddie Adams, whose photo of a South Vietnamese police officer shooting a Viet Cong suspect changed the course of a war; and countless others who have hung their lives out to capture the facts through the lens of a camera. Their photos have provided a raw and unflinching view of the world and have contributed to a free society’s understanding of sometimes harsh reality.
 
 "Their photos have provided a raw and unflinching view of the world and have contributed to a free society’s understanding of sometimes harsh reality."

Yes, indeed. But not always an objective or accurate one, as the photograph lives in exactly the moment it was taken, not the hours that led up to it, nor those that followed.

In the case of the Eddie Adams photograph, a single moment catches a particularly brutal aspect of war, and in so doing is used to condemn utterly the cause, irrespective of the overall context of that photograph, where the police officer's son had been killed by the Viet Cong earlier (not that particular one, IIRC) and Mr. Adams caught no iconic images of South Vietnamese, hands tied behind their backs, faces blown out from bullets to the back of the head.  Which isn't to say he didn't try, mind you, simply that if he did, those pictures didn't resonate like the live execution shot did.  Again, no context.  One side bad, the other side, good, when the truth was a far different thing.

On the flip side, the government loved the Rosenthal shot, as did millions of patriotic Americans tiring of a long war with long casualty lists.

The issue, it seems to me, revolves around that dichotomy, the power of images, and the dangers of context."


Another issue that colors this debate is the role of media, and their perceptions of themselves and our perception of them - and the sometimes very different interpretation all sides put to it.  There are those in the journalism field today who would decry Rosenthal's picture as being too jingoistic, and virtually a propaganda photograph (certainly a major use the US government put it to) while the picture of the Saigon police chief is just "news" and fully worthy of publication.  There are others who would recognize Rosenthal's picture for just what it is - iconic in and of itself, regardless of the subsequent uses to which it was put.  All wrapped up in the context we, as individuals, bring to the photo.

Part of the problem as I see it is that there is a large segment of the population who no longer feel that the journalistic class is reporting "just the facts" but is instead not broadly representative of society at large and is in fact abusing their position to beat us over the head with their agenda.  Of course, when the journo in question is beating the other guy over the head with our agenda, we tend to find that unbiased, reality-based reporting.

There is the tension between the news as a business and the news as a profession, as well.  And news as a business gives us the dichotomy of low expectations.  In MaryAnn's piece, she asks the question,
Has anyone seen this story covered in the media?
And the answer is... not much.  Why?  Because, we expect the Taliban/Al Qaeda to be barbarians, therefore... it isn't news.

We don't see ourselves (well, most of us don't) as the bad guys, so when we do something, usually accidentally (and G-d help us with the media on those rare occasions something is done on purpose) and innocents are killed and injured - that's news.

Which means, in the context of hearts and minds, what we see most often, and retain, is the bad stuff about ourselves, which we get analyzed to distraction (see Abu Ghraib) and the events like murdering children almost as policy... well, that's what we expect from those romantic men who speak truth to power and want to resist western imperialism.

We forget the flies in amber, and fail to understand our enemy, even as we over-analyze ourselves.

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9 Comments

The enemy is only newsworthy when killing US soldiers... or if the "enemy" is a US soldier who kills suspected non-combatants.  The media likes to ignore the many reasons WHY the enemy is the enemy- including indiscriminate bombings of civilians like the child in that video.
 
Their photos have provided a raw and unflinching view of the world and have contributed to a free society’s understanding of sometimes harsh reality.

An all too often *one-sided* view of the world.
 
Er, wasn't that "Viet Cong suspect" a known intelligence officer for the VC, and wasn't he executed because he was in civilian clothes at the time, thus violating the laws of war?
 
BG Loan was interviewed by Tom Buckley, and said, “His name was Nguyen Tan Dat, alias Han Son,” and that he was a VC combatant, not an intel officer. Left unstated was that Nguyen had just finished killing the entire family of one of Loan's officers.

Mr. Adams caught no iconic images of South Vietnamese, hands tied behind their backs, faces blown out from bullets to the back of the head. Which isn't to say he didn't try, mind you, simply that if he did, those pictures didn't resonate like the live execution shot did.

Intellectuals of the "Progressive Persuasion", i.e., moonbats, initially denied and continue to deny that the VC executed almost 3,000 citizens of Hue -- doctors, teachers, priests, government employees, shopkeepers, college students -- and captured US and ARVN troops.

 
Well done.  As I look at this, the question that comes to my mind is this, "Is this picture editorial, expressing an opinion or showing a perceived fact?" Note, neither of these views are totally objective facts, but are perceptions. What is an objective fact? They don't change, an example would be 1 + 1 = 2 on a base 10 scale or hex.

Question, are perceptions bad? As long as we know they are perceptions, with imperfections, flaws and any other distortions of view, we're safe. This is one area you must be honest with yourself and others. This is the very place, where we as humans do the most important of things, grow and mature.
 
As I continue to look at this very complex matrix of issues, I find myself going back to an earlier concept, "Words Matter". For example, John "permits" me to comment on the site, but I have "no right" to comment. Therefore, I must submit to the Site's "Rulez". There is much the same kind of relationship between the photographers and the Military in the Battle Space. The discussion should be the privileges, right and responsibilities of the photographer relative to his time in the Battle Space. Do yourself a favor, if you haven't already done it, go back to 18 SEP 2009 and read, "The now-famous  photo of Lance Corporal Bernard...". Read Sanger M's essay and all 44 comments. It was my honor.

V/R Grumpy
 
Bill, thanks for refreshing my memory. I was fairly certain he was a VC out of uniform. I think most liberals would either become very confused, or stop listening, if you told them that execution was performed in accordance with the Geneva Conventions.

John had the right of it when he emphasized the "tension between the news as a business and the news as a profession." Me, I would characterize modern news as entertainment. Once the MSM converted their news divisions from loss-leaders to for-profit entities nearly thirty years ago, the result was inevitable: the tabloidization of the news. If it bleeds, it ledes, and scandal always sells. Just to beat the idea to death; dog bites man isn't news, while man bites dog is.

In this case, part of the mosiac is that American warfighters doing the best they can to help the locals while killing the bad guys, even to the point of taking casualties is now "dog bites man." To use an expression from author Terry Pratchett, that's "olds," not news. For the modern media. reporting that our men & women in Afghanistan are holding clinics, creating safe water supplies, and building schools is like reporting the local city police are arresting criminals. {*yawn*}

What catches the eye (and raises ratings) are the bad cops, the scandals, and the psycho-crazy killer soldiers. Why? First, because it's news, not "olds," and second, because modern for-profit news organizations operate on ratings, and ratings are based on copies sold, or Nielsen ratings, or market share. Liberal bias comes in a distant third.

I've also noticed that modern "journalists" have an odd notion of objective reporting. Apparently regularly reporting on American warfighters in positive way, and/or regarding said warfighters as "our" troops is not "objective." So, these "journalists" go out of their way to find some sort of moral equivalence so that they might be seen as favoring US troops over their opponents. Only that way might they be truly "objective."

Bill, I suppose if I tried to raise the point that dead American soldiers were dug up in Hue with their hands tied behind their backs, then buried alive, or others who had obviously been shot in the back of the head before being shoved into a mass grave, I would be met with incredulity today. I'm lucky enough to have some of the right authors, including Dave R. Palmer's Summons Of The Trumpet, which includes a relatively short (but informative) discussion of Tet '68.



 
I had a few run-ins with members of the "Ho, Ho, Ho Chi Minh! NLF is gonna win!" crowd after I got back. I can only believe they held their opinions due to their ignorance of VC atrocities, which I found interesting, since there were still newspapers on the streets which *did* report them.

Several of the VC apologists tried to convince me that I'd only imagined the things that I'd seen (because I was obviously psychically traumatized by the Sheer Inhumanity of Merely Being In A War Zone), a couple tried to convince me that *I* had done them and had projected my actions on the VC, and one or two tried to physically chastize me for daring to have opposed their heroes.

Those last encounters resulted in an epiphany for the initiators -- they discovered they really *weren't* superhero material...
 
John, et al.,

Though prolly, not missed, I have been trying to finish the below since Tuesday, and things like a small leak in the back porch, a travelling spouse, the end of the fiscal year, and other minor distracters have kept me from even being able to do more than just scan the news. Such has been life these past couple of years.... Yeah, so what, eh?

Anyway, I have also been trying to get done at least one of the follow-up essays I've been writing, but you actually beat me to the punch on at least two issues related to the way the people perceive the fourth estate and their relationship to it, and its value to themselves and to our society. You are dead on, to my way of thinking when you say that "there is a large segment of the population who no longer feel that the journalistic class is reporting 'just the facts' but is instead not broadly representative of society at large and is in fact abusing their position to beat us over the head with their agenda."

I would argue that this has been true for centuries, at least as far as the 'pushing the agenda' is concerned, but I think the difference now is that most people who are paying attention see the media as far more beholden to. aligned with, and/or lackey to the liberal wealthy, without even a modicum of balancing viewpoint, and very little real integrity. And Fox doesn't count because its so-called fair and balanced just means not quite as biased as everyone else, at least not in the same direction. Even Fox plays to its intended audience without regard to things like objectivity and bare truth.

When I was a boy in Philly, it was fairly well known that the morning Enquirer was the liberal-biased paper and the evening Bulletin was the conservative biased paper, at least editorially. Even so, the news was pretty much the news, and I don't recall ever hearing from anyone that the newspapers were not trustworthy. Now I don't think I know anyone who believes any mainstream media new source can be trusted even as much as they used to be. The general sense--in my opinion at least--is that the revenue-whoring big media organizations will lie both to support their causes and to damage their opponents' (which is covered by your comment about beating the other guy over the head) because bias reporting draws an audience, and news without opinion isn't good enough for most people anymore.

Which is not to say people are more ignorant or less educated than they were in the past. It's just different, and with the overwhelming storm of information input, a 'point of view' has become as crucial to understanding events as the content. There's more to that than I can cover here, but really, POV is considered a revenue generating commodity in today's economy (think Limbaugh, et al), and as might be expected, the more extreme or biased, the more of a constituency it seems to pull. That's part of the reason so many news orgs have evolved into opinioneers as well as reporters. It's business.

Which leads to what you said about there being "tension between the news as a business and the news as a profession." I agree completely, however, I think it also cuts across a lot of class, societal, cultural, and generational lines, and is even more confused by the increasing lack of distinction between the content provider and the content producer. In the past, editors and publishers were seen as the protectors of the sacred trust of objectivity, and it was their job to validate sources, provide oversight, and otherwise ensure the content was as true and valid as possible. Because of this, it didn't matter what the source was or whether it was internal to the organization or freelance, the public relied on the gatekeeper to provide balance, integrity, credibility, etc. That's one reason Hearst will always be considered a tainted publisher--he was not careful enough to hide his biases and so his papers were seen as nothing more than forums for his ideals. Now, it seems the roles are reversed to some extent, or at the very least that the publishers have abandoned their posts as the gatekeepers, taking a caveat emptor approach to the news, whether in print, on the radio, or on TV. Because of this, you have people like Dan Rather getting air-time while the public is left to do watchdog duty. Fortunately, the so-called Fifth Estate (cyber culture & blogs, the so-called 'pajama-media') has been more than up to the challenge. And interestingly, although the mainstream has tried to denigrate the value and power of the 5thE, it is being challenged by the same--and hard over too, at least as far as the perception of truthful reporting is concerned.

As to the business aspect of it, now there's a sticky ball. Publishers can't sell news, so they have to fund their activities somehow, typically through advertising. Unfortunately, advertising trends are way, way askew, and the biggest reason for the demise of papers is not the lack of readership, but the lack of advertising revenue. Seems the internet is taking that away from papers, but even televised commercials are losing favor with venders because an increasing number of viewers just DVR right through them. I will NOT watch a 'live' show. I can wait an hour or a day so that I can watch a show in 40 minutes instead of an hour and not have to put up with the advertising. Ziiiiiip. No one in my house watches commercials anymore except my daughter when she is channel surfing. I just asked, she says she doesn't watch them when watching a DVR'd show, only when she's bored and is flipping channels, and she mostly only watches movie ads and other interesting things. So much for that revenue stream.

All of which means the publishers have to find other ways to satisfy stockholders, and of course, as with any business, stockholder revenue is what drives the train. Consequently, if marketers (who should be considered a criminal class) tell the CEO that slanting news sells and straight-up news doesn't, you can bet the CEO will tell the editors-in-chief to slant the news or find other work. Of course, slanting news seems to be ok with most folks nowadays, as long as they get to slant it their way, which is why we have news channels like MSNBC & CNN on the one side and Fox on the other.  And all of us, stuck inthe middle, having to rely on one another for news instead of the folks who are getting paid for it.

And I still think it's been that way for longer than we like to admit....

Anyway, it's time for work, so I need to stop here. Hopefully, I'll be able to add more to this later today or over the weekend.

VR