Friday, August 18, 2006

It's not bad enough?

I'm not going to weigh in on who's right or wrong, or whose side I take, or what is just, justified, or justifiable, other than to say that, to me, terrorism must be considered the lowest, meanest, most reprehensible form of aggression and political 'voice.' And, as it is based on a level of unparalleled fanaticism and irrationality, it is also, as we have seen time and time again, the most difficult tactic to defeat. To paraphrase Tim Rutten from last week's Los Angeles Times: one side views death as a tragedy and the other — the terrorist organization — sees it as an opportunity. And how do you fight that?

There is nothing good about people being killed, buses bombed, homes and neighborhoods destroyed. Just to be clear, when I say "nothing good" I am talking specifically about the loss of life and devastation of lives. I am NOT, N-O-T, talking about the political, military or strategic gains that warfare may or may not accomplish. Not in this blog anyway.

Much of what I know about the horror of the current Middle East conflict I have learned from reading the paper and looking at the photos published along with the articles. So reading Rutten's article regarding doctored photos of Lebanon provided by war photographers to be published by Reuters and other news organizations was eye-opening and crushing. The reality and brutality of what is happening in the area is beyond words - photographs have an impact and resonance that communicate the horror in a way words never can.

But, and this is what slays me, what is actually happening is bad enough. Photographers staging photos to enhance their "dramatic effect" is a betrayal of the truth, and a further commentary, not that one is really needed, on the graphic saturation of the general public. I suppose that to compete with pictures of Shiloh, and Jennifer/Vince, and Suri (oh right, that one hasn't been taken yet) the pressure is on to create dramatic and compelling images. But, you just can't do that with war, with real life, because then it no longer is real life. It might be art, it might be fiction, but it is no longer photo-journalism.

There is supposed to be a responsibility honored by news purveyors (photographers, journalists, editors, publishers, et al.) to recognize their role to report and inform, and not to "create" the news. A responsiblity to uphold the unwritten contract between news organizations and their readers. Toward the end of his piece, Rutten points out that the American media is by and large ignoring this story, and that too is a betrayal of the trust placed in these outlets by us, their readers.

It is ironic that just yesterday, Jennifer Aniston finally made a statement exclusively to People Magazine regarding her non-engaged status, stating "When it starts to travel over into the 'Today' show and CNN and supposedly reliable and accurate news programs, then you just go, 'This is insane. People are getting fed a lot of bull.' The American people need to believe (the news). Please. Get it together!"

And she's right, the American people do need to be able to believe the news, and the images in the news.

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