May 13, 2004

"TV Images Driving Public Discourse on War."

AP draws attention to the important subject of how photographs affect public opinion:
CNN Pentagon reporter Barbara Starr, who reported on the alleged abuse at least four times before the pictures came out, said they illustrated a breakdown in military discipline that hadn't been seen in generations. The U.S. military was cast in the unfamiliar public role of bad guys.

The episode should be a lesson for the news media, Starr said.

"It's very clear that potentially terrible abuses were taking place," she said, "and it didn't become a big story until people could see these virtually pornographic images."

The pictures themselves depict human beings seemingly descending to an animal level. In a less lurid way, the public's instinctive response to the pictures and lack response to the words, also reveal the animal side of human nature. Yet, at least the response to the pictures has been disgust, horror, and desire to end the abuse, rather than bloodthirst and sexual excitement. It seems that our animal side is part of what moves us toward the good.

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