Does the edited and sanitized coverage of news by American media give us a warped view of war? Would Americans react differently if we saw “graphic and horrific pictures,” not only in Lebanon, but in Iraq? The U.S. government won’t even show pictures of the caskets of the soldiers who died for their country.
Imagine if we had to face a daily barrage of death and destruction. Would Americans become immune or would they begin to realize the horrors of war?
In 2003, I think to a lot of people war was like a video game. As one wag put it in the first Gulf War, “I love the war. It’s my favorite TV show.” Michael Moore was criticized for putting real and disturbing (if de-contextualized) war footage in Fahrenheit 9/11.
We need to see those images. Otherwise it’s just too easy to rationalize war into a series of metaphors and maps and slogans and tools. In war, human beings are burned, pierced, crushed, and dismembered. No one wants to think about that
This is the central role of war journalism: to show the people involved as people. The question of desensitization (or indeed of fomenting even greater blood-lust) is real, but to my mind the risk of shielding us from the physical reality of war is even greater. In a democracy, one can’t expect the public to make informed decisions when such basic, fundamental human experience is hidden.