Monday, September 12, 2005

Photos of bodies

Look, I won't argue that the press should necessarily be showing bodies on television or in print. I also don't think that you can make the blanket argument that they shouldn't. I think there is a time and a place for photos like that and it's up to the editor to make that decision. Sometimes he's right and sometimes he's wrong, but it's a subjective choice either way.

What pisses me off in the recent scuffle over whether FEMA should block the printing of photos of the Katrina dead is, once again, the cognitive dissonance of so-called intelligent members of the Republican party. So many of the same people who argue full-throated for the Second Amendment and argue against a strong federal government are acting as if the press is mad when its members decry what amounts to a suspension of the First Amendment and censorship by the feds. If these fuckers believed in anything other than making political points, they would be screaming themselves hoarse over this.

Ironically, these are the same kind of dipshits who've been complaining for weeks that there should be a "press shield law" and that Judith Miller should be let out of jail (before she cracks, apparently, and gives up the Bushies). It's also interesting that conservatives seem to believe that people do have a right to privacy...but only after they're dead.

But, the question remains as to whether it's ever appropriate to publish photos of dead bodies. Of course it is. Look at this collection of casualty photos from the Los Angeles Times website and tell me that you don't learn something more (or, at least, different) from those photos than you would from all the writing done about the wars they depict.

When Life Magazine published the famous photo of three dead Americans at Buna Beach below, they asked and answered a question their readers might have been asking.

"Why print this picture, anyway, of three American boys dead upon an alien shore? Is it to hurt people? To be morbid?

"Those are not the reasons. The reason is that words are never enough."

Glenn Reynolds writes that the press "will see its reputation and influence shrink again before this is over." Fair enough. That could happen, but it's not up to Reynolds or Bush or any other conservative idiots to choose what the press gets to publish. If the American people choose not to read a certain paper or watch a certain television show because of that show's editorial choices, that's their prerogative. They should at least be trusted with that decision.

Am I the only one, though, who thinks that, if Reynolds truly thought photos of the Katrina dead would diminish the influence of the press, he would probably rent a bus and drive the entire stable of Getty Images photographers down to New Orleans himself?

The real problem for Glenn and his ilk is that he's worried photos of the dead in New Orleans and Mississippi will show people the truth that, as Steve Gilliard put it, "small government kills." After they see that, it's a lot harder to buy the Republican tax-cut bullshit.

Update: On dead guys.

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