] It's time to put up or shut up. Last week I wrote a column
] saying that CBS should have thought twice before showing
] the photos from Abu Ghraib prison. The response from
] readers and even some journalists was like I'd proposed
] banning the printing press. Numerous e-mailers said I'm
] no different than a Holocaust-denier who'd ban photos
] from Auschwitz.
] Well, now we have the horrible news that Nick Berg, an
] American contractor, was beheaded by an
] al-Qaeda-affiliated group explicitly in response to the
] release of the Abu Ghraib photos.
There has been an ongoing discussion on MemeStreams for over a year about the ethics of publishing raw war footage. Here is an right wing view. I think it sheds some light on the subject. Be sure to follow the link through to the column he references and read it as well.
Despite rambling off into crypto racist commentary about the literacy rate in Iraq, this article does make a valid observation. Why do we show pictures of prison abuses but we don't show the beheading video? Because the press uses its position to exhert greater pressure on those in power to be responsible then it does on those who are already assumed to be monsters. In general, there is no problem there. The abuse photos have certainly cost us a lot of ground in Iraq, and an arguement can be made that they should have been supressed, but honestly, if our political institutions are as strong as we beleive they are they ought to be able to weather such scrutiny, and communicate effectively about how we're handling it with the Arab public.
The issue at hand is that clearly the press does not make choices about what footage to air and what footage not to air on the basis of the nature of the footage alone. The press makes these decisions on a political basis. While this author's reference to footage of "partial birth abortions" is partisan and oversimplified, the general point must be considered. The press makes political decisions about what to air. In that sense they cannot be seen as objective. Once we've reached that conclusion we must ask what the political motives of the press actually are, and whether we feel like those motives are in line with our interests.
Jonah Goldberg on Abu Ghraib on National Review Online